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GST hike boon for tax cheats

Written By: - Date published: 10:42 pm, March 2nd, 2010 - 34 comments
Categories: gst, tax - Tags: ,

Thinking about Phil Heatley slapping those two bottles of wine on the taxpayers’ credit card reminded me of something.

I was at dinner with my partner, a family friend of hers, his wife, and a couple of others. At the end, my the friend was very insistent that he pay the bill on his credit card and we repay him later, rather than just splitting the bill there and then.

‘Why does he want to do it that way?’ I asked my partner.

‘He always does it’ she explained ‘He gets the receipts and claims it as a business expense. He gets to write it off against his profits and claim the GST back on the meals. He does it so much he ends up getting a GST refund from IRD’

Dodgy right? Well, not only dodgy but unethical and illegal too. I understand it’s common practice among some contractors and others who own a small company and are registered for GST.

They claim all kinds of personal expenses as business expenses for the purposes of claiming back the GST. Buy the kids a computer, business expense. Buy a second car, business expense. And so on.

You can claim so much GST back that your GST claims outweigh your liabilities and you get a GST refund payment from IRD.

The IRD website is replete with examples of people who were caught having ripped off IRD (and ultimately us) for tens of thousands of dollars of GST refunds doing just that with GST claims for fictious or non-business expenses. And you know it’s just the dumb tip of the iceberg of tax cheats – the ones that got caught.

What does a hike in GST to 15% mean for a GST cheat who’s getting GST refunds? An extra $220 cash for every $10,000 of GST ‘business’ expenses they claim. Quite a tidy packet.

The higher GST is the more unscrupulous people can rip off honest taxpayers like you and me with this GST rort.

The Right’s excuse for dropping the top tax bracket from 38% to 33% is that tax cheats, wealthy bludgers, are spending money to avoid the top bracket anyway, so we may as well let them do it for free. Now, we see that the GST hike will benefit tax cheats as well.

Just another reason to axe Key’s tax package.

(Oh, and we paid our bill ourselves.)

34 comments on “GST hike boon for tax cheats ”

  1. SPC 1

    But surely, if the expense is claimed as a business cost, there is even more money being made in reducing taxable income by transferring personal costs onto the business. The GST refund is just the tip of the iceberg.

    There is obvious merit in a rather large investment in IRD capability.

    For various reasons (are we not the business people concerned), National may be slow to make the investment.

    • Marty G 1.1

      yeah, they get to write the expenses off against profits and reduce their corporate tax but the increase the gst is what i’m concerned with because the increase actually puts more money in cheats’ pockets.

  2. tsmithfield 2

    I don’t agree with this sort of practice. But I can understand why.

    Businesses are unpaid servants of the state for collecting revenue for the state. I am sure that there are some businesses that view this sort of practice as a means of recovering some of their costs that they didn’t ask for in the first place.

    • Pete G 2.1

      I understand why – greed for easy money without caring about it’s impact on other people. “Recovering costs” is just an excuse for dishonesty.

      The Heatley practice could also be viewed as “just recovering costs”. Doesn’t make it acceptable.

    • Marty G 2.2

      “Businesses are unpaid servants of the state for collecting revenue for the state”

      no businesses pay tax because tax is the price of civilised society. Tax pays for the highways, the legal framework etc that businesses use. it pays for the police that enforce their property rights. it pays for the education system that produces an educated workforce and the health system that keeps them healthy.

      only an idiot wouldn’t think that business (and the capitalist elite) get tremendous value out of the tax they pay

    • Clarke 2.3

      Businesses are unpaid servants of the state for collecting revenue for the state.

      Wow, what a blast from the past – I haven’t heard anyone use that phrase in a non-ironic way since the hard-right revolution spluttered to a halt in the late 1980s.

      For the record, you’re not an “unpaid servant of the state” or any similar nonsense. The administrative effort you put into the tax system is your part of the social contract that exists between government, businesses and citizens. This provides the rule of law under which you operate your company, amongst other things.

      However if you’re unhappy about paying for the rule of law of any of the other trappings of civilisation, you’re welcome to up sticks and head to Afghanistan, Somalia or any other failed state where these “constraints” don’t apply.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.4

      Justifying stealing again I see.

  3. Pete G 3

    As you say this practice is one way some people rip off us taxpayers. We have to have taxes. And rorting will always happen. But it is not a good reason to not adjust tax rates.

    There are more reasons to lining up the top tax rates than reducing the incentive to avoid tax through arranging ones financial affairs.

    If, as they should, they introduce a tax free bottom tier, or at least reduce the bottom tax rate or increase it’s threshold, that provides more “incentive” for people to split income with partners or family members. That is also not a good reason to not touch the bottom rate/threshold.

    • Mr Magoo 3.1

      You would have a point but you missed the bit where their MAIN REASON for these tax cuts is given as tax avoidance.

      The rest of this very weak argument has absolutely no basis in reality and has no economic evidence to back it up.

      In fact there is a large amount of evidence to suggest that this is not a good idea.

  4. Jenny 4

    There are so many exemptions available for business and the well off. It is about time GST was removed from food.

    When it comes to GST, the less well off are are charged GST on closer to 100% of their outgoings than the rich.

    Recent history seems to show that tax cuts that benefit the well off, are the only tax cuts Labour National and ACT are able to implement.

  5. RedLogix 5

    Any business that claims more GST than it pays is an automatic red flag to IRD. They will get audited. Tax law is always subject to a degree of interpretation, and individuals can choose to either apply a conservative safe path through, or sail close to the wind.

    Most cheats think they’re being smart, but inevitably they get caught.

  6. vto 6

    If you are suggesting that GST should not increase because the crooks will benefit then you are providing overly ample evidence of one of the problems of left thinking. Reflected in the ridiculously excessive number of academics and teachers in Labour’s ranks.

    That is exactly the same as not letting the school class out early because of the two naughty kids in the back row. It is school teacher thinking run riot. Personally, that sort of thinking makes me spew.

    completely expected though…

    • Marty G 6.1

      I’m saying it’s another reason increasing GST is bad.

      Oh and isn’t the logic behind aligning the top tax rates that it will stop tax avoidance? Hmm, rewarding all rich people because some of them are tax cheats… school teacher thinking? No, teachers are smarter than that.

    • Clarke 6.2

      Marty’s point is entirely logical, as it dovetails nicely with the right-wing “we need to lower taxes to improve compliance” meme that is being used to justify lower top tax rates.

      If you increase the rate of GST, you also increase the incentive for non-compliance and gaming the system. What’s so hard to understand about that? And if it applies to the top tax rates, why doesn’t it apply to GST?

      • vto 6.2.1

        Ok then, keep the GST rate at 12.5%. I’m all for that. As long as income tax rates still come down. Anything to keep the people’s money in the people’s wallets and out of the hands of Wellington fools.

        Re incentivising non-compliance by increasing rates – this is EXACTLY what Clark and Cullen were warned about when they carried out their biggest envy act in 1999 when top tax rates were raised. They were warned the system would be gamed. And it was. Oh, except for the poor schumcks on salaries who had no ability to game the system. Clark knew that would happen too – talk about a deceptive she-devil …

        • Draco T Bastard 6.2.1.1

          It was already being gamed vto. Increasing the top tax rate didn’t change that and it won’t change that when it’s dropped again.

  7. 1. you can only claim so many business dinners before it looks dodgy and you get investigated
    2. the GST adjustment would be 2/5ths of F.All
    3. this already happens
    4. the difference in claim ripoffs would amount to (15%-12.5%) * (2/5) of F.all
    5. what was the point again
    6. were you drinking chardonnay at the dinner?

  8. Anthony Karinski 8

    NZ should get rid of the silly trust arrangements that currently operate to benefit an individual and his or her immediate family. Trusts should be a way for a benefactor to provide external third parties i.e. society or a section of society with an ongoing contribution or service (like a museum if you’re that wealthy or perhaps small grants that nursing students, community groups, or whatever else the giver cares for, can apply for). It shouldn’t be a vehicle for people to hide their assets from the tax man solely for their own benefit.

    • vto 8.1

      Anthony, trusts have been around for centuries. They are perfectly legitimate. They are also very useful – for many many many reasons. Occasionally some circumstance will arise, such as tax changes, or death duties a few years ago, or means-testing for superann, when trusts coincidentally have a benefit. And there is the usual ignorant clamour about trusts.

      You will not see a govt attack the basis of trusts. For very good reasons.

      Sheesh, maybe Brash was right the other day …

      • Pascal's bookie 8.1.1

        So what are all these reasons?

        readily acknowledge ‘protecting orphaned kiddies assets from dickensian uncles’, but what else?

        Won’t acknowledge ‘protecting ‘my’ assets from my soon to be former spouse’ (on the grounds that i) marriage is a contract, and ii) prenups, you know, exist.)

        • vto 8.1.1.1

          A person requests another person to hold various assets etc on behalf and for the benefit of yet another person or persons. It is for the protection, and other, of those assets etc for those who will benefit.

          Now you can go and dump countless scenarios in there. And people do. For marriage reasons. For tax reasons thanks to Clark and Cullen. For simple risk protection reasons – a person wants to undertake some risky venture and wants to makes sure that others continue to be looked after if the risk eventuates. For long term family reasons. For protection of cats reasons. For arms lenght charity reasons. It goes on.

          Clearly, rogues will sometimes try to take advantage of this. But the fundamental system of trusts is sound. How is not sound? Won’t acknowledge the school teacherish.. naughty boys do it so nobody can.

          • Pascal's bookie 8.1.1.1.1

            For marriage reasons

            Unless it’s something other than what I mentioned, then I’ve already said I don’t see why that’s legit..

            For tax reasons thanks to Clark and Cullen

            You sort of implied before that such benefits were coincidental.

            For simple risk protection reasons a person wants to undertake some risky venture and wants to makes sure that others continue to be looked after if the risk eventuates.

            Sounds laudable, but are the others also ‘protected’ from the benefits of success from the venture? Looks like the person is just passing the risks of failure on to his/her creditors. Not sure why that should be legit.

            Charities and cats, to me, seem analogous to orphaned kiddies, so I’m happy with that.

            Point being, why can’t we look at the system and see if it can’t be better set up so that it is most often used for the good reasons and not the rogueish ones?

            I’m not saying that’s not the case now, but how do we know?

            As the system has been around for so long, it’s legitimate purpose may well have been forgotten. Why not kick the tires and have a wee look under the bonnet, and other such metaphors?

            • vto 8.1.1.1.1.1

              P’s b, there is screeds of info available on trusts. But briefly in answer;

              1. Re marriage reasons. Perfectly legit. Law is clear here. Both parties go in with eyes open (unless rogues at play – see earlier non applicability).

              2. Re risk protection reasons. Perfectly legit. You may want to research the philosophy etc behind the limited liability company for comparison.

              3. Re passing risk onto creditors. This is the most oft quoted shrill cry of unfariness, but that is simply ignorant. Both parties go into things with eyes open (unless rogue play). All creditors etc have the ability to check out cred of contracting party if they wish. If they do not then they should look to themselves. See 2 above.

              4. More than welcome to lift the bonnet and check under the hood but trust me (no pun intended) the courts have been doing this for centuries and all forms of illegitimate trust works have been considered and judged. It is all well settled.

        • Armchair Critic 8.1.1.2

          “So what are all these reasons?”
          There is a list on that most authoritative source of information, wikipedia.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust_(law)
          There are some good reasons, and some very poor reasons for having a trust.

          • Pascal's bookie 8.1.1.2.1

            Thanks 🙂

            3, 4, and 6; I’m happy with.

            2,5,7 and 13 need looking at.

            The rest are fucking rorts designed to exempt things from contracts or legal obligations.

  9. tsmithfield 9

    Clarke “Wow, what a blast from the past I haven’t heard anyone use that phrase in a non-ironic way since the hard-right revolution spluttered to a halt in the late 1980s.

    For the record, you’re not an “unpaid servant of the state’ or any similar nonsense. The administrative effort you put into the tax system is your part of the social contract that exists between government, businesses and citizens. This provides the rule of law under which you operate your company, amongst other things.”

    How many of you would enjoy having to pay to do work rather than getting paid to do it?

    I realize the work has to be done. I just think that businesses should be compensated fully for the financial cost of doing the governments collection work. As a small business we are spending over 20k per year on compliance, tax collection etc. In other words we are having to pay to do work for the government rather than getting paid to do it.

    As a solution, I think that the reasonable cost of this (perhaps a figure worked out on number of employees or such) should be fully deductible from the bottom line tax figure.The benefit of this is that governments would need to think carefully about how much compliance costs they placed on business on a marginal return basis. This should make the whole system much more efficient and businesses more profitable and able to employ more people.

    • Lanthanide 9.1

      “I just think that businesses should be compensated fully for the financial cost of doing the governments collection work.”

      It is. You get roads and police and all those other good things. Duh.

    • Clarke 9.2

      How many of you would enjoy having to pay to do work rather than getting paid to do it?

      This may be news to you, but every member of society ends up doing things for which they don’t get paid. Taking care of an elderly relative, walking your kids to school or registering your car are all “compliance costs” on individual citizens, and you can make the same zero-sum argument that “the state” should pay them for their efforts.

      However it’s an entirely specious argument that stems from the misunderstanding that money is the only thing that holds society together – when plainly this isn’t the case. Your business is therefore not a special case that deserves compensation simply because it’s engaged in generating a profit.

      As a solution, I think that the reasonable cost of this (perhaps a figure worked out on number of employees or such) should be fully deductible from the bottom line tax figure.

      This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of basic accounting. If your employees are the ones engaged in these allegedly onerous compliance costs, then the expense you are incurring for having them spend time doing this stuff is already deductible from your bottom line profit – check this with your accountant if you’re not sure. And just for the record, if the government were to pay you for doing your basic civic duty, then you would need to declare the revenue as income into the business and pay tax on the resulting increased profit …

      No-one disagrees that “overnments would need to think carefully about how much compliance costs they placed on business on a marginal return basis” – but New Zealand’s record in this area is the best in the OECD. There is always room for improvement, but it’s a complete misnomer to pretend that there is some massive problem that needs solving.

  10. tsmithfield 10

    Clarke “This may be news to you, but every member of society ends up doing things for which they don’t get paid.”

    Agreed. But there is a big difference in doing the work for free compared with having to actually pay for the “priveledge” of doing the work. I am only advocating doing the work for free (getting the costs fully repaid by the government). So by your own analogy you agree with me. Thanks.

    Clarke “This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of basic accounting. If your employees are the ones engaged in these allegedly onerous compliance costs, then the expense you are incurring for having them spend time doing this stuff is already deductible from your bottom line profit”

    No. You didn’t read what I said. I said fully deductable from the bottom line tax bill, not the profit. And I was talking about our accountancy expenses, not employees of our firm.

    • Clarke 10.1

      You’re still not getting to the essential point: why should your business (or any business) be exempted from its obligations to pay for the social goods (such as the rule of law) and the infrastructure you benefit from? Why should you get the benefits of our social structures but pay none of the costs?

      You didn’t read what I said. I said fully deductable from the bottom line tax bill, not the profit.

      Oh, you want a subsidy. Why didn’t you just come out and say so!

  11. Draco T Bastard 11

    As I’ve said, aligning the top tax rates doesn’t address tax minimisation. It will affect it and probably reduce it somewhat but most of it is done through other means.

  12. Pascal's bookie 12

    Hey Smitty, one way around it would be for the Revenue to send a auditer round to do all the onerous work for you. You could then be given a tax bill, which you would of course have the right to dispute.

  13. wittering and unintelligible all the way guys

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