Taxenophobia

Written By: - Date published: 4:51 pm, August 20th, 2014 - 22 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

Tim Hunter aka “Chalkie” has a fascinating article in today’s DomPost on why foreigners are so keen to buy New Zealand assets – tax. He discusses Wellington Electricity Network and Lochinver to make the point that “the real appeal of investing in New Zealand is how easily foreign companies manage to avoid paying tax” – anywhere.

“There are huge tax advantages available to overseas investors that simply cannot be accessed by locals. They crank up the returns available to foreign buyers and make New Zealand assets worth more to overseas owners than to New Zealand residents.”

He looks Wellington Electricity Network as an example, and also Lochinver. Read it and weep – or get mad.

WED was bought by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings  for $785million. It makes a loss, not because of its cashflow but because of its debt – 80% of its asset value. The debt is to a CKI company registered in the British Virgin Islands at a premium rate 12.5%. It pays no tax in New Zealand becuase of the loss and pays no tax anywhere else because it is owned in the Bahamas “where , like BVI, the tax system is a warm bath for companies to float in the dark and listen to the sound of money – no company tax, no withholding tax, no captial gains tax, nothing.”

Chalike discusses the Lochinver sale as well.

Chalkie reckons we should welcome foreign investment, but not so much that we meet it at the airport with the tax equivalent of a red carpet on the tarmac, a chauffeur-driven limousine, free accommodation at Kauri Cliffs and an invite to John Key’s house for drinkies every Friday night. Whatever the benefits of overseas ownership – and there will be some – Chalkie reckons we should also take account of the costs.

The issue is the same whether the assets are companies or farmland. The would-be buyer of Lochinver Station near Taupo has been named as Pure 100 Farm, described by the Overseas Investment Office as “a wholly owned subsidiary of Shanghai Pengxin Group”.

It may be, but its immediate parent is Milk New Zealand Holding, owner of the former Crafar and Synlait farms in Waikato and Canterbury. Milk New Zealand Holding is wholly owned not by Shanghai Pengxin, but by Milk New Zealand Investment, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The ownership was disclosed to the Companies Office on August 13.

Chalkie reckons owning New Zealand farms through a Caribbean tax haven may have tax advantages – or is that xenophobic?

The ownership was disclosed on August 13. On August 2 Farrar’s Kiwiblog (repeated in National Business Review) carried this post in support of Steven Joyce’s “xenophobia” attack on Labour’s Grant Robertson on TV3’s The Nation.

Interestingly, a couple of the commenters on Kiwiblog were awake to the murky ownership of the Lochinver would-be  buyers. However I think Chalkie is right – we should pay attention to the costs of foreign investment, and we need tot alk about that rec carpet rollout.

Joyce’s thoughtless bullying exemplifying National’s thoughtless  “soundbite” approach leaves New Zealand wide open. At least Labour will keep New Zealand for New Zealanders and will also close the tax loopholes available to multinational corporates.

Time for a change.

P.S. For more on Wellington Electricity Network’s history and the stupidity of asset sales to foreigners, see this Fabian Society paper comparing outcomes for water and electricity networks in Wellington.

 

 

 

22 comments on “Taxenophobia”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    Milk NZ Holdings were only able to buy the former Crafar farms because the National government stepped in to require the taxpayers milk the cows for them.

    Thats right they worked out a deal for Landcorp to become sharemilkers on someone elses land. Its crazy and not why we have a SOE involved in agriculture. I know that some people have long term leases on landcorp farms and some sharemilkers are on landcorp dairy farms.
    But the other way around ???

  2. hoom 2

    In the beginnings of the USA the citizens had the issue of Taxation without Representation.

    The world currently has the reverse problem of Rich & Corporates who have excessive Representation and no Taxation.

  3. ghostwhowalksnz 3

    As an aside I thought we had strict ‘thin capitalization’ rules to knock out most of this borrowing the lot off shore

    Seems as though there is looholes
    http://taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz/publications/2013-commentary-arearm/thin-capitalisation-rules

  4. alwyn 4

    I notice that you did a fairly selective edit of the article.
    The main organisation he talks about was Wellington Network which Chalkie says was bought in 2008 when, guess who (hint starts with an L) were the Government. He also says that, under a National Government the IRD are going to tighten up on the rules.
    Yes the rules are wrong but at least the current Government plan to do something about it.

    • infused 4.1

      Yeah, Labour flogged that one off… on the quiet too.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      The main organisation he talks about was Wellington Network which Chalkie says was bought in 2008 when, guess who (hint starts with an L) were the Government.

      And a lot of us were saying at the time that it should have come under the Strategic Assets legislation that the Labour led government had just passed.

      Yes the rules are wrong but at least the current Government plan to do something about it.

      So do the next government. Thing is, we’ve known about these tax loopholes for years and National haven’t actually done anything about them. Instead they’ve been passing laws that damage working peoples rights, engaging in beneficiary bashing and giving state subsidies to WB, Rio Tinto and SkyCity.

      And, yes, I’ll agree that a government can’t do everything at once but these should have been a priority in 2008 or earlier.

  5. disturbed 5

    Can we get someone to compile an up to date list of foreign companies take overs as this as Farrar “taxpayers Union” or Government has yet to do.

    List of foreign taxpayers rip-off”s of the N.Z. taxpayer.

    1/ Lochinvar Station. to Shanghai Pengxin Group”.
    2/ 49% sale of Mighty river power, ?
    3/ Crafer Farms, to Milk NZ Holdings – British Virgin Islands
    4/ Wellington Electricity Ltd – Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings
    5/ Genesis Energy, to ?
    6/ Meridian Energy, ?

    Add to anyone.

    • Gareth 5.1

      ASB, ANZ, BNZ, National, Westpac

      • TheContrarian 5.1.1

        Westpac has always been an Aussie bank and ASB was, from memory, never owned by the govt. Same goes with ANZ too actually – was never a govt owned banking outfit.

        • felix 5.1.1.1

          I think the australian-owned westpac bought and subsumed the locally-owned trustbank, hence westpactrust.

          • TheContrarian 5.1.1.1.1

            True they did (like ANZ acquiring National bank) but Westpac and ANZ were always foreign owned and ASB has never been publicly owned.

            All three, however, have consumed and assimilated NZ owned enterprises. Except for maybe ASB

    • disturbed 5.2

      Updated any further?

      Can we get someone to compile an up to date list of foreign companies take overs as this as Farrar “taxpayers Union” or Government has yet to do.
      List of foreign taxpayers rip-off”s of the N.Z. taxpayer.

      1/ Lochinvar Station. to Shanghai Pengxin Group”.
      2/ 49% sale of Mighty river power, ?
      3/ Crafer Farms, to Milk NZ Holdings – British Virgin Islands
      4/ Wellington Electricity Ltd – Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings
      5/ Genesis Energy, to ?
      6/ Meridian Energy, ?
      7/BNZ
      8/Partial sale of Air NZ.
      9/Wairakei geothermal Power Station, to Contact/Origin Energy
      10/ Works Infrastructure ex (M.O.W). to Downer (Aust’)

  6. mikesh 6

    It’s about time interest was declared non deductible. It’s not really a business expense in any case.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    If that article is right, and I have no reason to doubt it, and Labour et al do close the tax loopholes (which I also have no reason to doubt) then you can start counting the time until foreign investors start running for the hills as their tax exempt status gets shut off.

  8. ianmac 8

    Who could ask if Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings paid any tax in NZ?
    Mr Key is very well informed and open and transparent.

  9. Alistair Connor 9

    The important point is that the various “free trade” treaties NZ has signed, or is negotiating, make it obligatory that the country be open to foreign investment.

    This is sold with “level playing field” arguments. But the playing field will never be level between local companies and multinational firms — or perhaps we should call them “non-national firms”, because they might as well be domiciled on the moon if they escape all tax jurisdictions.

    The case of Wellington’s electricity distribution is a blatant example. The story of the 12% interest rate paid to a letterbox in the Virgin Islands cries out for a law change — it would surely be legitimate to tax at, say 50%, interest paid to related parties at above market rates?

    I am opposed to all further opening of trade — in particular, the Pacific treaty under negotiation — until such time as a satisfactory international tax treaty has been established (which is likely never…)

  10. Rolf 11

    This is a trick used all over the world now, not only concerning New Zeeland. The investor put his money in a bank in, for instance UAE. He takes a loan from a bank or financial institution in BVI or Singapore, the UAE bank balance is the security. The loan interest and cost from BVI or Singapore is set high, and pay for the other costs many times over. The cost of money, interest to the BVI or Singapore is of course deductible as a commercial expense, hence no or little tax in the end. All the high tax nations are exposed to this, the real investor may even live in the same country, in this case, he lives in New Zealand, but is hidden from view through the system. This way the costs are high, and he does not have to pay tax. The only remedy is to cut the tax.

  11. Rich 12

    Cutting the tax rate? That won’t do anything, quite obviously the preffered tax rate is 0%.

    But as someone said elsewhere cut the tax claim on interest, and you will defeat this. Sure it will get a few legitimate businesses a bit antsy at first but then if your gearing is reasonable, you will be able to handle it. Well run debt evasive companies and businesses will do well.

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    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    2 weeks ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    2 weeks ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago

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