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Panama Papers: NZ is a tax haven

Written By: - Date published: 7:01 am, April 5th, 2016 - 29 comments
Categories: accountability, capitalism, class war, International, john key, tax - Tags: , , , ,

The tax collectors go after you and me, and paperboys, and weekend cashies. They aren’t nearly as interested in the $2bn cost of illegal tax avoidance (part of the total up to $9.4bn of “economic crime”). And they certainly aren’t interested in the offshore accounts hosted in NZ as a tax haven:

What are the Panama Papers? A guide to the biggest data leak in history

The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC.

What do they reveal?

The documents show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens. …

See also this summary, and live coverage of the world reaction. As we now know, NZ features in this story:

The Panama papers: NZ – the quiet tax haven achiever

Both countries [Malta and NZ] are quiet achievers in the ranks of global tax havens, and both are determined to keep it that way.

While Malta has been fiercely resisting pressure to close tax avoidance loopholes used by foreign companies, including Australian firms, to move profits out of the European Union, New Zealand has fought just as hard to protect its laws that make foreign profits tax-free and invisible for beneficiaries of its offshore trusts.

But what Key didn’t know, as he and Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull mingled with Muscat at CHOGM, was how deep those links really ran. …

While there are some legitimate uses, tax havens can be used as part of the tax avoidance that denies governments income (and therefore denies we the people of services and support). At their worst they can be used to hide dirty money. Despite the fact that the Panama Papers clearly identify us as a tax haven, Key is trying to deny it:

Prime Minister John Key has mounted a defence of New Zealand’s tax system, rejecting any suggestion it acts as an international tax haven.

“Tax havens are where there is non-disclosure of information – New Zealand has full disclosure of information, and so all you’ve got is New Zealand’s taken a different view from a lot of different jurisdictions and that’s because the way we tax is we tax a settler.

See the guest post from Deborah Russell on the loophole in this “full disclosure” claim.

“In other words, it’s all about making sure New Zealanders pay their fair share of tax, what we’ve got is quite a legitimate regime.”

No that’s what you want it to be about. It’s about NZ being used to dodge tax obligations or park dirty money. It’s about our international reputation.

“New Zealand has had the same tax laws when it comes to trusts since 1988;

Which is meaningless if the laws aren’t doing their job. (Update: see comment below on a law change in 2011.)

New Zealand also had a review undertaken by the OECD in 2013 and they gave New Zealand a ‘clean bill of health’.

Looks like the OECD wasn’t in full possession of the facts. (Update: As it turns out in fact, this was just a lie.)

“We also have an extensive disclosure regime, we’re a signatory to a network of different treaties and we’ve been strengthening those laws over time.

See above on disclosure and ineffective laws. In short, Key’s denials don’t hold up. This particularly so in the light of at least two three prior warnings that his government received.

The first warning (update) was back in 2010 from the Law Society, as discussed here.

The second warning was in 2012 in the form of a 60 Minutes item and a followup piece by Chris Barton in The Herald:

Craig Elliffe, professor of Taxation Law and Policy at Auckland University Business School, says this country’s foreign trust structure effectively provides a vehicle for foreigners not to pay tax and therefore, in a broad sense, we are a tax haven.

See also the interesting range of marketing material advertising our “clean” haven status:

The tax haven that isn’t called a tax haven. A rose by any other name.

The third warning in 2013 came from none other than the IRD, as summarised yesterday by Vernon Small:

However, in a 2013 report IRD warned that “our foreign trust rules continue to attract criticism, including claims that New Zealand is now a tax haven in respect of trusts”.

IRD said this was largely because “the mismatch between our rules and those of other countries may result in income not being taxed either in New Zealand or offshore”. “To protect our international reputation, it may be necessary to strengthen our regulatory framework for disclosure and record-keeping.” “This, in turn, raises the question of whether our foreign trust rules are sustainable.”

So it’s been clear for a while that NZ is operating as a tax haven. Key, Dunne, Woodhouse and others have tried to deny it. Now with the release of the Panama Papers it is impossible to deny, and hopefully (see Small’s Calls mount for tighter rules on foreign trusts as Key denies NZ a ‘tax haven’) it will be impossible to ignore.


Via Tautoko Mangō Mata on Open mike yesterday:

29 comments on “Panama Papers: NZ is a tax haven ”

  1. TC 1

    Search all documents for ‘ john philip key’ and ‘whitechapel trust’ along with a few others like joyce, judith etc as a first step.

  2. Incognito 2

    John Key on trusts, any trusts:

    ”If you have something to hide, then you have nothing to fear, in NZ”

    Key will be rummaging through that top drawer of his like mad.

  3. fustercluck 3

    Why has NZ, beginning with Rogernomics, so closely followed the neo-liberal agenda?

    Why has NZ been so deeply integrated into Five Eyes and other “intelligence” frameworks?

    Why has NZ been so open to overseas buy ups of land and other assets?

    The answer is again revealed in the Panama Papers. At so many levels, our small, beautiful nation has been carefully integrated into the fabric of political and economic oppression that keeps the 0.0001% firmly in charge.

    I hope the fallout from this extends beyond the obvious targets in the right wing and helps to remove the equally duplicitous hacks occupying the mislabeled “centre-left.” The party waving red flags is as responsible for sucking up to the 0.0001% as the blue.

  4. pat 4

    NEWS FLASH

    NZ PM LIES
    ….now theres a surprise!

    • AmaKiwi 4.1

      Key made this tax loophole. The law was changed effective September 2011 under NATIONAL.

      “Foreign investors in a New Zealand fund with only foreign investments will now bear no New Zealand tax on their income, whether or not the fund distributes that income. The tax change, which came into force in September 2011, should make New Zealand managed funds an attractive alternative to funds resident in Luxembourg, Ireland or the Caymans.”

      “September 2011,” almost 3 years into National’s first term. NATIONAL created the loopholes.

      http://www.chapmantripp.com/publications/Pages/New-Zealand-now-an-attractive-tax-location.aspx

      (Thanks to “pat” for this link.)

      Key yesterday, “New Zealand has had the same tax laws when it comes to trusts since 1988.” No we have NOT. NATIONAL made the tax haven loopholes.

      http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/300644/nz's-'world-class'-tax-system-defended

      • TC 4.1.1

        Yes but dont hold your breath expecting nationals media to point this out.

        They knew exactly what they were doing as its all part of key wanting to make us that financial powerhouse of the pacific i.e. Another switzerland

        • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1

          They did know what they were doing and it’s all to do with helping the rich steal from everybody else. Those rich people probably include themselves.

          • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1.1

            I wondered where News Corp and Fairfax are domiciled, for tax purposes.

      • Andrew 4.1.2

        National did not create this loophole. It has been around for years:

        “Under New Zealand law, foreign income derived by non-residents is outside the New Zealand tax base, and rightly so. The government has no intention of changing that. Because they are not taxed here, foreign trusts that are set up here do not have to file New Zealand income tax returns or keep records if they receive only foreign-sourced income” – Revenue Minister Michael Cullen

        Link – Scoop

  5. saveNZ 5

    First foreign tax evaders use NZ to hide the money and pay zero tax on it, then they buy up NZ and make Kiwis tenants in our own country! No wonder tourism and immigration is booming under Key!

    Remember NZ is actually ‘competing’ to be a tax haven and ‘safe bolt hole’ according to Key.

    And don’t forget Key is the King of the ‘blind’ trust himself. Remember the rail shares Key ‘forgot’ to declare when he sold it off.

    And so many people buying property here with over $10m to burn apparently…

    ‘I never dreamed there were so many $10m buyers out there’: Home sold within days”
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/property/news/article.cfm?c_id=8&objectid=11615933

  6. Stuart Munro 6

    It was the only way National could survive – NZ isn’t producing enough rich people to support a cryptofascist party. They need to import them.

  7. Bearded Git 7

    The Herald puts the boot into the government over NZ being used for secret overseas trusts here:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11616790

    In particular:

    “According to the firm’s documents, the 12,000 or more offshore trusts in New Zealand pay no tax here, their beneficiaries are not registered and their accounts not filed with any public body…..[the government] has no good reason not to take unilateral action against the use of our law to set up tax-avoidance trusts here. If an effective response would simply send that business to the usual havens, so be it. New Zealand is getting nothing except accountancy fees from trusts set up by foreigners for the purpose of not paying tax anywhere. We are running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.

    It is time to put ourselves unequivocally on the side of the hounds. New Zealand should require all trusts to name their beneficiaries and file accounts that show where and how much tax has been paid on wealth generated by the trustees’ assets, if it does not do so already. And it should be sharing the data with other jurisdictions in which the trustees operate.”

    Key is looking like a fool on this issue as he spins his usual tissue of lies. (Well done the Herald for telling it as it is).

  8. NZJester 8

    Among those so called legitimate tax avoiders Key seams to think are entitled to hide their money are those who need to hide their money because of how it was made. The papers apparently show these tax havens are being used by child sex slave traffickers and those breaking trade embargoes by selling goods to governments using them to committing war crimes. The company at the centre of all this apparently knew that they had pedophiles and black market goods sellers as customers and ignored it.
    These tax haven laws the National Government loves is helping the worst of the worst hide and launder money!
    Key tried to claim Labour supported pedophiles in Australian Detention camps when it was not true, but it looks like this proves the ones actually supporting the pedophiles is his National Party!

    • TC 8.1

      Money first, second and whatever other places you want to fill.

      Nothing shows keys real motives for being PM better than this, deals for the wealthy and who cares about morality or ordinary kiwis and their businesses paying tax.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      These tax haven laws the National Government loves is helping the worst of the worst hide and launder money!

      Whatever gave you the idea that National really cares how people got rich?

      • NZJester 8.2.1

        Yep National the party of the worship f Money and no morals.
        National used the supporting Rapists and Pedophiles attack line against Labour when it was not true, but that line can now be used against them as the paperwork shows what they are doing has been supporting rapists and pedophiles.
        Helping dictators steal assets from their countries is no big deal to Key as he has been doing a form of that here with privatization and asset sales.

  9. TC 9

    Also gift duties were abolished by this govt which allows the immediate transfer of wealth into trusts for no duty or tax.

    Are we getting the picture yet my fellow tax paying kiwis?

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      Are we getting the picture yet my fellow tax paying kiwis?

      QFT

    • Richard McGrath 9.2

      You seem to imply only the very wealthy have trusts – not so. Many middle class families use trusts to protect their assets. Abolishing gift duties helps these families.

  10. papa tuanuku 10

    this creates a great environment for a Sanders type voice in the NZ setting.

    System is rigged?

    Yes.

    Rich polls ripping the rest of us off?

    Yes.

    • NZJester 10.1

      The standard has become our News Paper telling us the news that a lot of the corporate owned NZ papers tend to censor.
      Look at what internet news shows like TYT on YouTube are helping do in the US. They are giving Sanders airtime and informing the internet savvy US voters, while CNN a donator to Hillary Clinton’s campaign is censoring the Bernie news and talking up Hillary.
      TYT is also getting Americans to support the Wolf Pac group by sending them to wolf-pac.com to get the corporate money out of politics and get themselves a true and fair democracy back.
      We need to get the corporate money out of politics here to and get our democracy back also, ban things like cabinet club that allow corporations to hide a lot of their donations to National through that big loophole in our anonymous donations laws.

  11. David Craig 11

    New York Times this morning:

    “Juan Armando Hinojosa, who has been described as the “favorite contractor” of the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, was also mentioned in the leaked documents, which the consortium said showed that he had created “a complex offshore network” spread across nine corporate entities in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to hold roughly $100 million”. New York Times 4 April

  12. whateva next? 12

    Mr.Dunne, apartheid and the holocaust were LEGAL.
    Apart from that, just watched Bernie predict the Panama Papers scandal, in 2011
    https://t.co/3ylU8kF0OC, confirming what we all know, he should be President, wise man with integrity.

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