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Only way to deal with tax evasion

Written By: - Date published: 7:38 am, April 16th, 2016 - 78 comments
Categories: accountability, class war, tax - Tags: , , , , ,

In continuing fallout from the Panama Papers:

UK and European allies plan to deal ‘hammer blow’ to tax evasion

Britain and its European allies have announced new rules designed to be a “hammer blow” against tax evasion in direct response to the Panama Papers leak that exposed how the world’s richest and most powerful people hide their wealth from tax authorities.

George Osborne announced on Thursday, in partnership with his counterparts from France, Germany, Spain and Italy, regulations that will lead to the automatic sharing of information about the true owners of complex shell companies and overseas trusts.

The chancellor said the rules, agreed this week, were “a hammer blow against those that would illegally evade taxes and hide their wealth in the dark corners of the financial system. …

Taken at face value this is excellent news. But a cynic might wonder whether this proposal is just a sop to public anger, a distraction that will never be implemented effectively.

Here’s one suggestion that seems to me the only way to be sure about eliminating tax evasion (an excellent piece by Martin Van Beynen):

Let’s open our tax returns for all to see

With the wave of tax scandals still cresting – thank you leakers and journalists – momentum is gathering for a tax revolution around the world. No more hiding assets, no more tax shelters, no more secreting profits in the Bahamas, no more foreign trusts is the increasingly strident cry.

One measure that needs to be seriously looked at is making every taxpayer’s return publicly searchable. … It sounds revolutionary. New Zealand has inherited an English coyness about talking about income or how much tax people pay. Money is vulgar and a gentle woman or man does not discuss anything as down to earth as salaries and tax.

Income is regarded as an intensely private matter because of the strong feeling that it’s no-one else’s business. But this is clearly wrong. It is very much our business what other people earn and pay in tax.

Madness? It would never work?

It’s not as bizarre as it seems. In Scandinavia tax returns have been public for over a century. In Sweden, the returns of middle to high income earners are searchable. The Finnish tax administration publishes tax returns online, with searches costing about a dollar. Norway goes a step further by publishing every single taxpayer’s income, tax payment and net worth.

I have a friend in Norway who finds nothing to worry about in having his details publicly searchable. I’d be happy to sign up for it in NZ.

Such transparency would be a great weapon against tax evasion. … The greatest advantage of an open tax system is that it would change the culture of secrecy. If every income earner’s tax return was available for scrutiny, business would have to bend to the pressure of releasing their own tax payments. If neighbour’s could search each other’s returns they would expect to be able to do the same to a big corporation or the local garage business.

With better compliance would come greater tax income for the state, a fairer tax system and perhaps a reduced tax burden on all of us.

Serious about cracking down on tax evasion? This is the way to go.

78 comments on “Only way to deal with tax evasion ”

  1. bm2 1

    key god sees nothing wrong with tax evasion i guess that is what comes with his divine right to rule

    • Mosa 1.1

      Unfortunately this wont get air time
      MSM haven’t got the guts
      Let off again

      • alwyn 1.1.1

        The article by Van Beynman was in both The Press and the DomPost.
        If they are not MSM what on earth are they?
        The MSM is more than TV channels surely.

  2. ianmac 2

    A farmer I know was proud of the fact that he had paid no income tax for 5 years. Yet he and his family lived reasonable lives. His accountant made sure that his income was outweighed by his “costs.” I was on a salary and could do nothing.
    The other farmers tried to shut Richard up which seemed to suggest that none of them paid income tax either.
    I support open transparency of tax though mine is very small.

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Yeah … one farmer who owned a massive station was well known for presenting a Community Services card at the local medical centre.

      While it may be true he could have been very cash flow poor, it went down like the proverbial cup of cold sick with a few people I knew.

    • Richard McGrath 2.2

      That may have been perfectly legal. However sooner or later that farmer would have had to make a profit, and pay tax on it. IRD would also have taken close interest in someone who paid no tax for 5 years.

      • Foreign waka 2.2.1

        Obviously not, in the provinces where everybody literally knows everybody its a power game. All you need to do is to have some “acquisition” on the books. It does essentially has its origin the same underlying character tread as a person taking the social welfare system for a ride. But alas, the latter will be hold over coals whereas the former….

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.2

        IRD would also have taken close interest.

        That's your world, the "this would happen, and that would happen" level of "argument". Where. Show me where it happens. Get your bullshit off the well-thumbed page and onto the planet.

        Why are you cuddling up to money laundering crims and terrorists? It's because your Daddy does it?

  3. Jester 3

    Good idea.

    We could start with the Unions.

    • ianmac 3.1

      OK. Unions are for the people and would be happy to oblige. Would you Jester?

    • Wainwright 3.2

      Don’t be stupid. Unions are incorporated societies who have to fill audited accounts with the Companies Office every year. Far more transparent than your mate John Key.

      • Jester 3.2.1

        so if that’s the case Wainright why are so many Unions either not filing accounts on time, not officially audited but in a excel spreadsheet format completed In-house or in the case of the MWU not at all.

        If we are all for transparency, which seems a sensible idea then why do we accept the MWU hiding their income and assets by trying to claim that members do not belong to the incorporated MWU Union but belong to the unincorporated Individual branches of the MWU Union. Which are not required to present audited accounts to the society.

        Seems non transparent to me.

        I’ll ignore your Key comment as it offers nothing to the discussion and shows you may lack maturity to debate sensibly.

  4. Jester 4

    Of course I would Ian. As a reasonably large employer I believe I not only pay what I am legally obliged to do but also what is also a fair reflection of my obligations to society in general.

    I only mention Unions because from what I have seen is that Unions are less than financially transparent considering they exist for the workers.

    • TopHat 4.1

      Do you pay your employees a living wage?

      • Jester 4.1.1

        All my employees rates are well in excess of that proposed as a living wage. Although it wouldn’t matter in terms of this discussion if I did or didn’t.

    • Nick 4.2

      I agree with Jester and ianmac , who I think are actually agreeing for better tax transparency for whoever….Union, Boss, farmer, worker, …. Although the ‘legally obliged’ is not an ideal measuring stick, but ‘fair obligation’ was spot on.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.3

      …what is also a fair reflection of my obligations to society in general.

      That isn’t for you to decide but society. After looking at your books they’ll probably decide differently.

      • OneTrack 4.3.1

        Which is an excellent reason for keeping people’s and companies tax details private.

        • Draco T Bastard

          No, that’s actually the reason why they need to be public. So that the people can make an informed decision about taxes.

      • Jester 4.3.2

        Society has decided bastard, it’s enshrined in law.

        • Draco T Bastard

          No, the politicians, at the behest of the lobbyists, have decided.

          The people, given the necessary information, may decided differently. This being a democracy means that the politicians should therefore make those changes.

          • Foreign waka

            Are you trying to convince us that the policies of envy are desirable?
            Lets see, if everybody’s tax contribution is transparent than so should be the drawing of taxpayer funds, whether as a benefit or pension. In other words, if the books are opened than both sides of the ledger need to be shown to make 100% sure that a fair and balanced view is maintained in terms of contributions and drawings. Just showing companies profit loss statements is meaningless.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Are you trying to convince us that the policies of envy are desirable?

              No, that would be the RWNJs.

              I advocate for people to have all the information that they need to make rational decisions about their economy.

              Lets see, if everybody’s tax contribution is transparent than so should be the drawing of taxpayer funds, whether as a benefit or pension.

              What makes you think that they wouldn’t be?

              And as I’ve constantly said. The public would only see the agglomerated information and not the personal stuff.

            • gristle

              FW are you not aware that different government departments have data sharing protocols and that includes IRD and Social Welfare. So people getting a benefit are crosschecked against what earnings they have at IRD.

              Your condition is already being meet. Does this mean you now support opening the books?

            • Matthew Whitehead

              I love how any discussion that actively involves any mention of class warfare, no matter how subtle, is called “politics of envy.”

              There’s envy in New Zealand, alright, but it’s top-down, wanting to take ever more out of natural resources and the wider population. Most people lower on the totem pole just want to earn a secure and decent living, and they want people doing better than them to pay equal or higher amounts of tax. That’s not too much to ask, especially as some of the examples given of tax evasion internal to NZ are also industries that get a lot of government assistance through friendly regulation or the public supplying some of their expenses for free.

              Tax law, like corruption, can be disinfected with sunlight.

    • sabine 4.4

      do you have a link to support your claim re the Unions”?

      • Henry Filth 4.4.1

        WhaleOil talks about it all the time. . .

        • Stuart Munro

          There was one that ran late. Although they are required to file returns, like any business, filing IRD returns is not their principle concern. Many small businesses falter on IRD deadlines from time to time, unions may too. No big deal unless, as RWNJ always are, you’re trying to make rules more restrictive for unions than for other concerns.

      • Jester 4.4.2

        Sure have, which would you like:

        The companies office page that shows the EMPU doesn’t provide audited accounts but on in house excel sheets. Funny enough the companies office only recommends audited accounts whereas the Union constitution requires it.
        The companies office page that shows the MWU doesn’t declare income or assets and the subsequent news page where the union goes onto claim that they don’t receive income or own anything as is dealt with at branch level. (Squirrelling away income for nefarious reasons no doubt)
        iRD papers showing the contractor of the Unite Union ( also being the director of the same Union) default on tax payments, direct employee tax to activities other than what they were collected for and most likely judging from the p&l statement, trading while insolvent.

        This isn’t a debate on whose got the biggest cock guys….if you want complete transparency (I do believe it’s a good idea btw) you need to accept it across the board. Not just those who don’t meet your own political persuasion.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Bring it on: we’ll all see who’s paying their taxes and who’s cuddling up to crims and terrorists, and then the proceeds of crime act can be brought to bear.

          Bring it on.

        • sabine

          any which one. c’mon just link to the documents that will support your statement.

        • Craig H

          You must be looking somewhere else, because the Societies register has fully audited financial accounts for E Tu (formerly EPMU).

  5. Keith 5

    NZ had a near spotless reputation prior to Key and his government. So it was very useful for the wealthy to exploit because no one would suspect us to be involved in this kind of filth.

    Setting up an unofficial tax haven, that is for all intent a bonafide tax haven, is one of Keys boxes he had to tick whilst masquerading as a PM. Hence he’s not going to change anything, further confirmed by the pre ordained whitewash headed by a man whose professional life has been dedicated to minimising/eliminating tax for the wealthy.

    Add the TPP, vastly ncreasing spying on citizens and a number of other Key non negotiables during his tenure, some of which we’re probably unaware of because we haven’t had a Panama type info leak and you start to get a picture of why this guy and his millions and his wealthy connections appeared from nowhere and even bothered getting involved in NZs politics. It sure as shit isn’t the given reason of the boy who wanted to be PM!

  6. Mosa 6

    Its simple if Key has nothing to hide he should release his tax figures
    He promised high standards in 2008 and transperency so he should put his sizeable fortune where his mouth is
    If this had been Clark the shrill would be relentless and seeing that perception is everything would have complied a lot sooner

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    Serious about cracking down on tax evasion? This is the way to go.

    Yep, time to go cashless.

    • OneTrack 7.1

      File format not supported. HTML might be a better format.

    • reason 7.2

      yes the gcsb and other types into total surveillance would like that…..

      No doubt it would cost the poor more ………….. unless they got the V.U.P ( very unimportant person ) free Govt chip implanted………. The Government could even offer free compulsory GPS tracking ……. to help them if they should ever become lost.

      Myself, I’d prefer to keep hard cash as legal tender and instead strip tax haven users of all their New Zealand assets and also their citizenship…… then deport them.

      Of course NZ would miss out on their stashed loot ………. But we were never going to get it anyway as greedy rich men like the now dead national party supporter John Spencer ( he was once New Zealands richest man), devote a large part of their existence to paying as little as they can. ………. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/8515361/Money-trail-leads-home-to-New-Zealand

      Tax Havens are ‘legal’ places where the criminal rich commit theft against normal society and nations.

      It was no ‘accident’ John Key and the Nats made New Zealand a member of the shitty low morals Tax Haven ‘club’ ………..

      Being right wingers who believe in “smaller government” they also got the added bonus of helping other governments shrink theirs, privatise their assets and bring austerity for the citizens ……………by starving them of funding.

      Milton Friedman would approve http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the_shock_doctrine_2009/

      • Draco T Bastard 7.2.1

        yes the gcsb and other types into total surveillance would like that…..

        Peivacy assured, secrecy abolished

        No doubt it would cost the poor more

        Why would it cost them more?

        Myself, I’d prefer to keep hard cash as legal tender and instead strip tax haven users of all their New Zealand assets and also their citizenship…… then deport them.

        And how are you going to find them? You don’t know who they are, you don’t know anything about their finances or the assets that they own and you don’t know where they are?

        Your prescription helps the criminals. Murder, theft, corruption and fraud would all flourish – as they do now.

        • reason

          Do you believe that its the number of unlocked cars in an area which determines the volume of theft? …………. or the number of car thieves?.

          How much of the 22 trillion odd or whatever staggering amount the rich stole was flown to the tax havens ….. seems like a lot of Planes

          Cash is quite legit and I’ve used it numerous times in areas with no cellphone, landlines or ‘grid’ electricity ………….. it never ‘crashes’ at christmas time either….. or leaves an electronic trail of your movements and intimate details of lifestyle
          (” explain this large purchase from the sex shop” …. “um I heard they were good for throwing”).

          And How would you pay for your $50 bag of pot ?

          A cashless society sounds like it would be to easy to hijack and morph it into a total assimilation of everybody into the financial industry where none shall escape their shakedowns ……. I’m also sure a national government would privatize it or contract it out to neva-pay or serco 😉 .

          As others have repeatedly said here the problem is the way the money is created in the hands of the banks.

          The Government should create money and pay the teachers ,
          nurses and all public servants.

          Things like clean water and a functioning eco system which sustain life but have no value or are even an obstacle to the type of wealth John Key worships should be restored to health.

          Modern eco housing should be Govt policy with Govt mortages and the sham economic growth of property speculation banned …..

          It will never be done though as there s a cartel of neolibs running the developed world.

          • Draco T Bastard

            How much of the 22 trillion odd or whatever staggering amount the rich stole was flown to the tax havens ….. seems like a lot of Planes

            The problem is that the ‘money’ is held in private banks and no one gets to see where it goes. That’s the whole point of the post. The problem of secrecy.

            A cashless society sounds like it would be to easy to hijack and morph it into a total assimilation of everybody into the financial industry where none shall escape their shakedowns

            Not if we do it right. And cash has always been the preferred method of payment for crime.

            I’m also sure a national government would privatize it or contract it out to neva-pay or serco

            Which is why we have a law that says if they try it they lose everything (all houses, businesses, trusts, etc) and spend the next 50 years in jail for treason.

            And How would you pay for your $50 bag of pot ?

            With a cash card because we’re going to be smart and legalise recreational drugs other than just alcohol.

            It will never be done though as there s a cartel of neolibs running the developed world.

            Or, you know, we could get together and put in place a new system against the wishes of the capitalists.

            You’re certainly not anything close to your handle.

            • The lost sheep

              Or, you know, we could get together and put in place a new system against the wishes of the capitalists.

              But you can’t do it against the wishes of the people Draco, and at the moment virtually none of them support your proposed system.

              Maybe that’s because you can’t even explain the details of how your system would work, let alone convince a rational adult to sacrifice their current situation in order to create it.

              • Draco T Bastard

                But you can’t do it against the wishes of the people Draco, and at the moment virtually none of them support your proposed system.

                But more and more of them are coming to oppose capitalism.

                And you should probably see my reply to you:

                * Policies are set by the people rather than by government. In fact, I see ‘government’ being removed from use. The people govern
                * Parliaments role would be to bring issues and the research to the people and then the people would decide. They would be responsible for the day to day running of the country and set out the wording of the policies and changes to the wording of existing policies. If the people don’t like a change that parliament does then it can be taken to referendum
                * Voting would be compulsory. Voting is a duty, not a right
                * Constitution to become supreme law but one that can be changed by the people but even they wouldn’t be able to change the constitution to trample over human or environmental rights
                * Cities and regions would have their own form of this

                • The lost sheep

                  And you should probably see my reply to you:

                  I replied to that Draco. I thought you’d pulled out of the discussion because you had no further answer.

    • Henry Filth 7.3

      Read cashless on the plane the other day.

      You’re actually serious, aren’t you.

  8. Ralf Crown 8

    Tax evasion, maybe we should call it by its right name, let’s take a step further and implement true Soviet communism philosophy, all money earned must be regarded as common property and available to pay others bills. It is an unnecessary long way around to confiscate people’s earnings by calling it tax. The resulting problem that all people simply stop earning and live off others is easy to address. Just implement work camps, public shaming, public whipping for dissidents, and close the borders so the productive people can not escape to other places as tax havens. That 40% of qualified Kiwis are already gone can be solved partly by canceling their passport so they must return. Lets not beat around the bush.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      all money earned must be regarded as common property and available to pay others bills.

      That’s not communist but capitalist as the money earned by the poor goes to paying the bills of the rich.

      It is an unnecessary long way around to confiscate people’s earnings by calling it tax.

      It’s not confiscation you moron but payment for services rendered. Would you run a business where the services you provided weren’t paid for by those who used them?

      The resulting problem that all people simply stop earning and live off others is easy to address.

      The only people who do that happen to be the rich:

      “Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things. One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities, the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains.

      You know, the people who aren’t paying their fair share

  9. Tom 9

    How would that stop people doing cash in Hand jobs, or working cash in hand while claiming the benefit?

  10. ianmac 10

    The trouble is that the rich are the powerful and will block corrections.
    The Guardian: “Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems
    Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?”….
    “Inequality is recast as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.”…
    “The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it.”

    • joe90 10.1

      Ladder pullers united.

      According to the Pew Research Center, people in higher income brackets are much more likely than those with lower incomes to say that individuals get rich primarily because they work hard. Other surveys bear this out: Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than to factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.


      A recent study by the political scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright found that the top 1 percent of U.S. wealth-holders are “extremely active politically” and are much more likely than the rest of the American public to resist taxation, regulation, and government spending. Given that the wealthiest Americans believe their prosperity is due, above all else, to their own talent and hard work, is this any wonder? Surely it’s a short hop from overlooking luck’s role in success to feeling entitled to keep the lion’s share of your income—and to being reluctant to sustain the public investments that let you succeed in the first place.


  11. greywarshark 11

    Ay Carumba!

    Martin van Beynen says – thanks to such dedicated journalist/s –

    In Scandinavia tax returns have been public for over a century. In Sweden, the returns of middle to high income earners are searchable. The Finnish tax administration publishes tax returns online, with searches costing about a dollar. Norway goes a step further by publishing every single taxpayer’s income, tax payment and net worth.

    We can’t do that. We are still fixing our systems with No.8 fencing wire. Or copying those from the USA.

    Quote from USA Today. Excerpt from practicing tax attorney:
    ‘Two sets of books’
    ‘Financial statements for SEC and investors’
    ‘another set of rules for Internal Revenue Code for tax returns’
    ‘All perfectly legal’
    ‘It’s a stupid system’

  12. RedLogix 12

    Actually it already is possible to take measureable action on business ethics. These guys have been at it for a while, and are taken very seriously by some very big corporate names:


    I’ve no doubt the definition of ‘ethical’ is something to be debated, but the point is they have created a benchmark and they are measuring the outcomes. So it is possible.

  13. Henry Filth 13

    The knee-jerk reactions are starting.

  14. Chooky 14

    …the Ozzies show up both the New Zealand media and the jonkey New Zealand government…

  15. Incognito 16

    Norway goes a step further by publishing every single taxpayer’s income, tax payment and net worth.

    Norway is not immune to tax evasion either.

    Tax evasion has consequences, of course, but it is itself a symptom (i.e. consequence) rather than a root cause.

    Blanket prescriptions and use of antibiotics have led to so-called super-bugs.

    Because there are very few (about 40) people who are potential threat to our national security our spy agencies must get more extensive powers to be able to spy on all of us.

    Because there are very few (!) potential shoe bombers we now have to take off our shoes when going through airport security.

    One shoe does not fit all sizes. [no pun]

    If you do not understand the problem well enough then IMO you should proceed with caution. If you have not identified your target then you should not pull the trigger or resort to carpet/cluster bombing.

  16. The Other Mike 17

    British chancellor called on world leaders at the IMF to create a list of jurisdictions still allowing rich and powerful to avoid paying fair share of tax

    George Osborne has called for the creation of an international blacklist of tax havens and for the global community to deploy clear sanctions against any country – including British overseas territories and crown dependencies – that continue to facilitate tax evasion.

    The chancellor on Friday called on other world leaders at the International Monetary Fund’s spring meeting in Washington to join Britain in creating a globally recognised list of jurisdictions that are still allowing the rich and powerful to avoid paying their fair share of tax.

    He said the creation of the blacklist, which was inspired by the release of the Panama Papers detailing the tax avoidance of the world’s rich and powerful, would be a “clear threat” with “clear sanctions” to countries that continue to fail to comply with international tax rules.

    “We could develop an international blacklist of tax havens and once you have that internationally agreed list – that would be the first time in our history as a world that you had an internationally agreed blacklist – then all sorts of countermeasures could be deployed against noncompliant regimes tax havens that are on that blacklist,” he said on the sidelines of the IMF meetings on Friday. “I think all that can start now.”


  17. Ad 18

    It’s a bracing and democratic idea, but few would agree to it.
    Employers and employees have the right to set terms and conditions through negotiations with their staff, and both would have to agree to release their right to privacy.

    In fact it would have to be installed world-wide, simultaneously. It would be a most massive exposure of injustice in gender and race terms.

    But I’m queasy with enabling the global scrutiny of my life’s affairs to my neighbours, enemies, competitors, the media and its intense hounding, colleagues, ex-partners, etc.

    I think i have a right to a life beyond the eye of Sauron.

    • ianmac 18.1

      In my daughter’s workplace they are each on individual contracts, and they are forbidden to compare wages. (But they do compare and there are variables for the same job done by different people.) Transparency?

  18. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 19

    I agree. Everyone’s tax records should be searchable. And we should all be allowed to listen to everyone else’s phone calls. And read everyone’s emails. Sunlight is the best disinfectant after all.

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