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A taxing question or two

Written By: - Date published: 8:35 am, March 24th, 2017 - 46 comments
Categories: tax - Tags: ,

Apple pay no tax in NZ, on $4.2 billion of sales over the last decade.  $0.

They have several dozen employees here, to go with their lots of sales, but what little tax they do pay ($34 million over the decade – less than 1% of turnover), they pay to Australia in a parent company.  Intriguingly they pay 30% tax in Australia rather than the 28% they would here – so much for our marginally lower rates attracting business!

Judith is too busy to talk to the Herald or the Guardian, but does have something on the table that, if not watered down, might make some difference against internet firms.  But maybe not Apple, we’re not sure.

But Australia has brought in a much toothier law, and claim the Google and Facebook are now paying full tax.  Their Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law and profit-diverting tax is trying to make sure the big companies pay their share.

I look forward to Judith’s new law hitting the books, but can we do better?  That’s better health and education for us if Google/Facebook/Apple etc actually pay what they should.

And as we look at tax rates and ‘paying what they should’, there’s an intriguing poll from Britain where it turns out the public don’t want tax cuts – in fact 77% would back a return of the 50% top tax rate (on those earning >150,000).  Corporate tax there’s strong support for it to go from the 20 to 25% – the UK Conservative government are planning on cutting it to 17%.  Even increasing all rates of income tax by 1% only caused and even split, although increasing VAT (aka GST here) was very unpopular.

And that was without the framing of “to fund better health / education etc”, just a bald tax rise – tax is always more palatable when you’re told you’ll get something for it!

Might be worth a poll here?  How much do we want Bill’s “sugar shot”?

46 comments on “A taxing question or two ”

  1. BM 1

    Why do you need a poll?

    If this is what the Labour/Greens believe to be the best option then campaign on it.

    Labour?Greens no tax cut

    National tax cut

    Let the voter decide, that’s what democracy is all about.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      Let the voter decide, that’s what democracy is all about.

      But you’re actively preventing the voters decide. Just like the voters decided that we didn’t want to sell off our assets but National sold them any way.

      Having a poll on it would actually tell us what the voters think on the idea of raising taxes. Rather than guessing and then following the failed ideology of National.

      • BM 1.1.2

        The election is the poll.

        Labour/Greens no tax cuts
        National tax cuts

        Don’t think it could be any more straight forward than that?

        • Draco T Bastard

          The election is the poll.

          No it’s not.

          Don’t think it could be any more straight forward than that?

          It’s never that straight forward. Voters may like some Labour policies, some Green policies and some National policies. What you’re saying is that the voters shouldn’t have a say in which policies get enacted. Just which party gets into power and then that party does as it likes – just as National did when it sold off our assets against our will.

          And that is most definitely not democratic. In fact, it’s a dictatorship.

          • inspider

            Participation rates in citizen initiated referenda tells us the public are far less interested in direct involvement in specific issues. Less than 50% voted in the electricity ones.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Participation rates in citizen initiated referenda tells us the public are far less interested in direct involvement in specific issues.

              It doesn’t tell us that at all. It tells us that voting by mail is a bad idea.

              That said, I’m an advocate for compulsory voting.

              • inspider

                Ever the democrat eh Draco? I have visions of two apparatchiks accompanying every voter in DTBland, just to make sure they not only vote , but they vote the right way…

                If postal is a relatively bad option how do you explain the recent by election numbers in Mt Albert and Northland?

                • Incognito

                  It is fascinating that to some people any form of compulsion appears to create a perception of being undemocratic, potentially harmful to individuals and their rights and personal development, and thus unfair and unjust. In other words, any perceived or real curtailing of personal freedom is wrong by definition.

            • The Chairman

              @ inspider

              As referendum outcomes are generally non-binding, one could argue participation rates in citizen initiated referenda indicates the public are far less interested in direct involvement in specific issues when they know the results are non-binding.  

    • Ben Clark 1.2

      An election doesn’t answer every question, just “who would you like to govern?”
      cf 2011 & asset sales. The sales were clearly unpopular with a large majority of the public, but that didn’t stop them voting National in.
      Polls can overturn prevailing “wisdom” on particular issues – hence would be good to know the answer to this one.

      But the real reason you don’t want a poll, is because it’ll probably turn out you’d have to admit your position is a minority one…

      • BM 1.2.1

        How about Labour or the Greens create a bill that allows people to easily forfeit any tax cuts they may receive.

        Run it through inland revenue where you log on tick a box and then you get a list of options where you can choose where you want your tax cut to go, eg: back into government funds or some charitable organisation.

        That way people who need that tax cut get to keep it, those who don’t need it can choose to give it up.

        • Molly

          Because the most generous are often those that have the least.

          Those who have seen loved ones and friends suffer from underfunded health, support services and badly maintained infrastructure will see the necessity of increasing funding.

          Those who have practiced tax minimisation will be habituated into dropping their tax further. As I expect you would choose, given the facetious nature of your suggestion.

          • BM

            So you’re saying the close to 900,000 people who voted Labour?Greens at the last election wouldn’t give up a tax cut if offered?

            I wasn’t been facetious either there should be an option within inland revenue where you can decide how much extra tax you want to pay.

            The Americans do it, be a good idea to give New Zealanders that option.

            • Molly

              “Americans do it, be a good idea to give New Zealanders that option.
              America is a very inequal country, with a vast amount of taxes going in support of lobbyists and companies rather than the people.

              Not a system that merits copying – surely?

        • Because people want tax raises when they know everyone’s paying them, they don’t want to opt in for extra taxes. If we want to give extra money ourselves we usually do it through NGOs, and kiwis aren’t terrible at giving to charity.

          If some people actually need a tax cut, we should target spending to the reasons why they need a tax cut, because for most taxpayers that’s more effective than simply refunding the money. And where there isn’t any spending left that’s less effective than a targetted tax cut, then yes, we should do a targetted one, which usually means it goes to people on low incomes, which National hate.

          If people just voted on tax policy, National would never win.

    • inspider 1.3

      I bought a $500 iPad recently, direct from Apple NZ. It came by mail direct from Sydney. I suspect Apple Sales NZ – and the name says it all about how the company operates in NZ – probably paid $400-$450 to “Apple Somewhere else” for that iPad to sell to me (retailers have next to no room to move on apple pricing – usually 5%). They may have paid the postage too. That means ASNZ income could be as low $50 on that sale. Which is alot different than $500.

      Mickeysavage is an author here who runs his own business. He might be able to advise if he pays tax based on his billings to clients or on what’s left over after costs.

      So the real question is, what is an reasonable appropriate import price for the technology and IP and brand value (none of which is sourced or created in NZ) that fits within the iPad box?

      I suspect no one here has any real idea than a finger in the wind guess. Apple’s brand value alone is huge compared to its competitors – that’s why it can charge $1000 for a phone that others can only charge $750 for. Why should nz gain tax on income earned from a brand owned and built offshore? Our contribution to that brand would be tiny.

      In comparison How much income tax do nzgameshop (based in London) and amazon (based in us) pay in tax here on internet purchases I make? I suspect none, yet the transaction is fundamentally the same as my iPad one; At least gst is collected on that.

      Solving these issues is really hard and stamping and pouting isn’t going to do it.

    • Incognito 1.4

      Are you suggesting that once every three years we decide on who might get (to form a coalition) to represent us but that in between we have no say in how we are represented? That’s not representative democracy in my books.

  2. Ad 2

    +100 Ben.
    Would be far better if we just adopted that Australian law, and gave this kind of corporation a real kick. That would make a proper Australasian jurisdiction instead of us being the weaker, easier island target for huge corporations.

    • Johan 2.1

      Ad: We, as a country appear to be very weak, as shown under our previous prime minister Shonkey. The ponytail pulling pervert out of Helensville, should go down as, our most popular do-nothing prime minister while at the same time gutting New Zealand’s infrastructure. Will the double -dipper Bill English follow in Shonkey’s mold or will he be pushed further to the right by his Tory financiers?

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        Will the double -dipper Bill English follow in Shonkey’s mold or will he be pushed further to the right by his Tory financiers?

        He won’t be pushed – he’ll be leading them. And the only reason why Jonkey needed to be pushed was that he realised, just like John Banks did, that National’s policies would actually prevent them from being voted in – ever.

  3. Antoine 3

    We just had a post on the Apple thing.

    On the tax rate, my guess is that any change that would actually result in substantially more tax being collected would be very unpopular, but hey, go ahead and do the polling…


    • Ben Clark 3.1

      we’re a collective – we’ll each post about the issues we want to, separately, and with our own take (and when we get the chance – so many missed issues…). Sometimes there’ll be some crossover between posts. You’ll live.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      Polling would be a good way to actually find out what the people want but I think it would need to be a 10,000 person poll rather than the 800 that we normally get and which indicate a high level of rogue results. A referendum would be better.

  4. Adrian Thornton 4

    Why on earth would a average working person and regular tax payer feel ok about paying more tax, when we all know that any person, business or corporation in NZ who has the inclination and the money for the right lawyer don’t pay their fair share as it stands today…if anything at all in some cases.

    This was the most disappointing thing in the Little speech I watched a couple of weeks back, when asked about the massive inequity mushrooming out of control, and what Labour was going to do about it, his answer was pathetic.

    Not once did he talk about extra taxes on the wealthy…no instead he actually said that we need to push up wages from below (or something like that) and look at productivity!

    WTF! when I got to have a chat afterwards I asked Little what the fuck he meant “look at productivity” ? because (as I explained) he knows as well as anyone Labour productivity is NOT the problem in income inequality…it has of course been increasing every year for 25 years…
    But like all good politicians he ( like a really good boxer) put in some lightening fast blocks…slipped to the side, and I was left with no answer, though I hope my attempered left body shot might have at least grazed him, I doubt it.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 4.1


      Yep, neither labour or nacts seem willing to do anything significant about inequality (and of course we don’t expect nact to care). Sadly labour remains locked to neoliberal TINA in this respect, leaving them only to tinker at the edges

      Focus on worker productivity etc is part of the lie that is crushing the poor in this country. We are a very wealthy country already – that isn’t the problem.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      Not once did he talk about extra taxes on the wealthy…no instead he actually said that we need to push up wages from below (or something like that) and look at productivity!

      That sounds like someone who doesn’t understand economics. Increased productivity results in lower wages – unless the higher productivity results in higher diversification in the economy and not just making more of the same stuff.

      WTF! when I got to have a chat afterwards I asked Little what the fuck he meant “look at productivity” ? because (as I explained) he knows as well as anyone Labour productivity is NOT the problem in income inequality…it has of course been increasing every year for 25 years…

      Yep, the problem is that we’ve now got policies designed to make rich people richer at everyone else’s expense.

      • Adrian Thornton 4.2.1

        The sad thing is Little does understand economics, so one can, unfortunately, only come to the conclusion that Labour as it stands today, is happy to further entrench an economic system that is openly conducting class war against workers and the poor.
        But I guess the most depressing thing for me, is that Little came across as a pretty sincere and genuine person, but it would seem he lacks the courage, or the fight, to face down the neo liberal element within Labour NZ ( which is, as we can all plainly see, destroying it)

    • One Two 4.3

      Little, like all politicians is part of the system for which its owners are killing to protect

      Impotent scared and less so, ignorant politicians are the enemy of humanity

      It’s as simple as that…

  5. One Two 5

    The continued attempts to control monetary and fiscal narritives are a tedious mockery from a by gone era

    The debt system is a decaying corpse which is still poisoning increasingly large chunks of liviving systems and spieces

    How about addressing a root cause instead of the symptom for a change

    Ben, perhaps ask Andrew why he won’t speak about it..

    Or do you already understand the ‘constraints’ ?

  6. saveNZ 6

    It is appalling that Apple and many other corporations can legitimately not pay tax here. That worked before globalism but now NZ and other countries need to change their laws to make sure that tax is fair and you can earn enough taxes to run the country by charging local taxes on local profits.

    It’s about time that we taxed on local profits independent on where the company or individual choses to domicile and reside. At the same time end false losses by payments to other linked companies for IP, ‘extra payments’ or what have you.

    Otherwise it means those locally here have to pick up the slack, while at the same time make it harder for companies who do pay tax in NZ with massive global non tax paying competition.

    No 2, I think the left will never get a majority with the idea of increasing income taxes for local tax payers.

    Firstly because no body trusts politicians to use the money wisely. We have Scenic hotels, Clinton foundation, Sky City, Saudi business men, offshore water companies and so forth all receiving public money… previously Labour being for Rogernomics and free trade which was anything but free, so I’m not sure middle NZ wants to pay more unless all the corporate welfare is stopped first and then there is the trust issue….

    Secondly we have massive immigration here, with elderly migrant parents able to get benefits after a few years of residency… migrants on very low wages being pushed in as fast as possible and non resident property investors, so the government policy is actively making massive holes in the tax take for future generations… then asking for more money from local tax payers to pay for the folly – funny enough I don’t think it will be popular.

    Profits are now NZ biggest exports. Think about that. More than Dairy and Forestry combined, is profits going off shore!

    It’s disgusting!

    In short I don’t think the left has a hope in hell of selling more taxes to more than 50% of the population of NZ and winning the election , their only hope is that people hate National so much they will vote for someone else to change the government.

    In the UK, Corbyn could win, if he thought a bit more about his conflicting messages. One thing is the left is not winning with the bland Conservative Lite and pro war, pro free trade, Pro neoliberalism, pro immigration, messages.

    There’s a place for all, but not the way it’s been played out.

  7. Barfly 7

    Apple pay no tax here? How about Samsung? If Samsung plays fair with the New Zealand system how about a 20% surcharge on all Apple products sold here.

    Big message easily sent – screw with our tax system and your actions give your competitors an enormous advantage.

    • saveNZ 7.1

      Bet ya Samsung is paying no taxes here either…

      Now under Nationals war on locals, profits are now one of our biggest exports – apparently the banks are a large part of it the profits being taken offshore, the obvious solution is a financial transaction tax…

      There are so many ways that NZ should be taxing for the 21st century – but nope – all we hear from politicians are ways to tinker with PAYE or capital gains which again big money and multi domiciled people can just avoid if they even declare it.

      If you have a tax, at least make it fair so that everyone has to pay it. Not big business is exempt, non resident businesses are exempt and the super rich taxable earnings are nil which is great when you make that capital gain!! If only normal people had hoards of lawyers and accountants to make sure that they not only do they not pay a dime but they somehow often qualify for corporate welfare because our government and councils are so desperate to keep them here! Pleeeze…

    • saveNZ 8.1

      I’m sure they will. But that is what has to change. If government’s want globalism to work – it has to be fair.

      It’s not fair.

      • The Chairman 8.1.1

        Indeed. Regardless of whether or not avoidance or tax minimisation is taking place, the first thing that needs correcting in this regard is our tax treaty with Australia, which apparently prevents a company being taxed in both jurisdictions.

        • saveNZ

          I think the docile jurisdictions need to be looked at world wide. It’s happening around the world as companies and individuals clammer to be taxed at their most convenient point and can legally pay not taxes on massive turnovers.

          Maybe this taxation choice, used to work before globalism and individuals working all around the world. Now it’s turning out that there are more loop holes than swiss cheese, companies including US companies are all flocking to low tax havens and western governments are not getting the taxes they should. Many politicians don’t seem to mind as generous ‘donations’ seem to be there to keep the generous loopholes going.

          Would also work for the UK post EU, because the UK businesses might just leave and change their head offices to the EU so a lot of taxes lost. Likewise EU would benefit because a lot of their countries have high taxation that companies and individuals want to avoid.

          Around the world the system needs to switch to local taxation rules. You have to now pay where you profit and maybe a minimum tax take on turn over. That would rule out companies that turn over 100million but pay nothing in taxes such as many tech companies and global services companies that seem to exist only to lower wages and conditions.

          aka Almost 600 major corporations did not pay tax in 2013-14 financial year, Australian Taxation Office says


          • The Chairman

            What’s interesting in this case is the tax rate Apple are paying in Australia is apparently higher. But I agree companies and individuals seeking lower tax jurisdictions is a global problem when it comes to collecting tax.

            I also agree with the need to address tax loopholes. However, I disagree with the notion of taxing turnover. Taxing when income hasn’t necessarily been made is unfair. Which would result in forcing some into debt or out of business.

            The Government shouldn’t have to act immorally to correct or counter loopholes that allow avoiders too. But they are required to act.

            • saveNZ

              If someone earns 4 billion but somehow fails to make a profit – it’s a rout! Nope they need to start taxing turnover if it is over a certain amount such as over 10 million turnover.

              If you turn over 10 million and somehow ‘fail’ to make a profit, something is wrong there…

              In NZ 10m + turnover probably takes out most small and medium businesses who are paying local taxes!

              And Apple is not even paying 1% tax in Australia on turnover..

              “Technology giant Apple had total income of about $6.1 billion, but only $247 million of that was taxable income.

              The company’s tax payment was the largest of the multinational tech giants at just over $74 million, but that only equates to around 1 per cent of its total income in the 2013-14 financial year.

              How much tax major corporations pay in Australia in 2013 -14

              “The ATO has identified the major firms that paid no income tax in the 2013-14 financial year. See who’s paying what.
              Apple’s competitor Microsoft had taxable income close to $104 million, less than a fifth of its total revenue of $568 million. Its tax bill was about $31 million — just 5 per cent of its income.

              Google’s total income was about $358 million, but only a quarter of that was taxable. Google’s tax bill was $9 million.

              All three gave evidence to a Senate Inquiry about their tax affairs earlier this year.

              Cleaning company Spotless Group, which has been accused of underpaying its staff working at department store Myer, made about $2.2 billion, but paid no tax.”

              • saveNZ

                If you have a look at a company like Spotless which I think has just won some contracts in NZ hospitals and God knows where else.

                Their business model is to cut staff and pay minimum wages. The extra profits go offshore somewhere else. They didn’t pay any taxes in Australia in 2013 on their earnings of 2.2 billion.

                So governments are better off from a tax point of view, in just hiring the workers themselves and paying them more and having the money circulating in our own economy… instead taxpayers subsidise firms like Spotless, we subsidies the workers who stay with them as they don’t earn enough to live on, we subsidies those unemployed that lost their jobs when Spotless got the contract, we subsidise the sick that don’t get better because the food is so bad.

                And believe me, I tasted spotless food first hand at Perth zoo a few years ago. If you can call microwaved fried rice with a shelf life of 100 years, a hot chocolate with powered tasting milk and 1/2 teaspoon cocoa all run on a converter belt style empty cafe with 1 pimpled 15 year old staff member. It was an unreal experience of the worst food I have ever tasted in my life. Wrecked the zoo experience having such a disgusting cafe plying their shoddy offerings at normal cafe prices of course.

                And that’s probably Spotless luxury food…

              • The Chairman

                If someone makes a massive amount of money in turnover it doesn’t necessarily mean they made a massive amount in income from that turnover.

                Nevertheless, sure, in some cases they may have minimised their tax obligation. However, that highlights it’s the minimisation process that needs addressing, hence it’s not an excuse for an underhanded attack on total returns.

                • saveNZ

                  Disagree, if you are handling multi millions in turnover – they need to pay their share of tax. They clearly are not – because if you look at the figures the tax take of multinationals as a percentage is pathetic. It’s getting worse.

                  They spend more on avoiding taxes than paying it!

                  Workers have to pay taxes, they can’t claim expenses to ‘make a 100% loss each year’.
                  Ratepayers have to pay taxes even if they earn zero income.
                  People who pay GST have to pay taxes even if they are poor.

                  Now companies with massive turnovers need to start paying minimum tax amounts to governments to justify why they should be allowed to trade here.

                  Pay up or ship out and good riddance to corporations that are parasites off the countries they trade in.

                  • The Chairman

                    A number of businesses have a large turnover but make little income due to overheads. Yet, if they are able to show this, you still want to hit their total turnover with a new tax? That’s clearly unfair, thus not something I can support.

                    Businesses also have to pay rates when they make little or no return, so what’s your point?

                    Workers generally have very little expenses, thus I have no problem allowing them to legitimately claim back on them.

                    • saveNZ

                      I doubt the businesses you are talking about are turning over multi millions… many of the IYI class seem happy to have the wool pulled over their eyes on this issue.. and funny enough the lefties seem keen to tax the middle class on PAYE further to make up for the loss of taxes… then they seem surprised when no body votes for them… and they drop in the polls..

                  • The Chairman

                    Regardless, it would be unfair on any business.

                    Look, I hear and largely agree with your sentiments, but it’s unfair to tax unearned income no matter the turnover. What we need to do is tighten up and address international treaties, loopholes and the minimisation process that allows avoidance.

  8. saveNZ 9

    Tax schemes cost NZ $700m a year – study


    That also does not put into account the businesses that did not start/ did not prosper in NZ because they were not able to compete with companies that pays zero taxes….. and workers that did not get jobs or higher wages because of this…

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