PM’s Department warns Inland Revenue off looking at a CGT

PM’s Department warns Inland Revenue off looking at a CGT

  • PM’s Department warns IRD off looking at a CGT
  • The IRD admits not having the data on non-compliance with fringe benefit tax
  • Residential property investment looks very undertaxed compared to other investments

Transcript

After the dramas of last week’s tax bill being introduced and then withdrawn within 24 hours, it’s been a calmer week in tax. On Thursday the tax bill was reintroduced without the offending provisions relating to GST on fund manager services. Interestingly, there has been some more measured discussion as to the merits of that proposal, and I do wonder whether a government might introduce an amended proposal at a later date, perhaps this time with any GST raised use to boost incentives for lower income Kiwi savers, such as the proposal made by the Tax Working Group.

Elsewhere this week, I got involved in some interesting debates over the question of whether the tax thresholds should be raised. My view is yes, but on the Today FM show, Max Rashbrooke made the alternative case for better targeting of low-middle income earners. I agree with host Tova O’Brien that tax is going to be a big issue in next year’s election. And like many of us she was looking forward to seeing what the tax policies of the various parties would be.

Whatever policies we’ll see next year will be they’re almost all certain to address the issue of raising productivity in New Zealand and what part tax and economic policy will play in achieving that goal. And that is the subject of an interesting paper released by Inland Revenue just a couple of weeks back. This is the first long-term insights briefing which public service agencies are required under the Public Service Act 2020 to publish at least once every three years. These briefings are designed to provide information on medium and long-term trends, risks and opportunities and provide, “impartial analysis on possible policy options”.

Inland Revenue’s chosen subject was Tax, foreign investment and productivity. A really meaty topic and the whole paper runs to 111 pages. As the briefing explains, it examines how New Zealand’s tax settings are likely to affect incentives for firms to invest into New Zealand and also benchmark our tax settings against those in other countries.

The initial evidence is that, compared with other OECD countries, we appear to have relatively high taxes on inbound investments. This then gets down to the question whether those tax settings are

likely to mean higher costs of capital (or hurdle rates of return) for investment into New Zealand than for investment into most other OECD countries. High taxes on inbound investment have the potential to reduce economic efficiency and be costly to New Zealanders by reducing New Zealand’s capital stock and labour productivity.”

I think economists would be looking at this paper with some great interest as well. Now, the OECD analysis that is often used for comparison purposes looks at company tax provisions. But this paper also notes that there are other broader tax issues that should be taken into consideration. And when you take a broader perspective, maybe New Zealand isn’t as much as an outlier as it first appears.

What the briefing is intended to do is, “initiate a process of discussion on these sorts of issues.” The briefing considers several possible tax changes, namely:

  • a cut in the company tax rate
  • accelerated depreciation provisions
  • inflation indexation of the tax base
  • a higher thin capitalisation rule safe harbour
  • an allowance for corporate equity
  • special industry-specific or firm-specific incentives, and
  • a dual income tax system.

These measures are all possible ways of lowering the costs of capital. And some of those can also promote tax neutrality. However, there is unlikely to be a single best option, and choices between the options will ultimately depend on what weightings are given to the possible objectives of reforms.  Of course, politics comes into play, for example, a lowering corporate company income tax rates for non-resident investors isn’t going to be terribly popular because that might mean higher tax rates for individuals. Therefore, there are these series of tradeoffs that have to be considered.

The briefing is accompanied by 45 pages of appendices. Some of the papers referenced are quite interesting. One in particular caught my eye, was prepared in 2016 by a couple of American economists relating to accelerated depreciation allowances, a measure that’s often promoted. As there’s a wealth of data available in America, these economists and analysed data for over 120,000 firms.

They presented three findings. First, accelerated depreciation raised investment in eligible capital relative to ineligible capital by 10.4% between 2001 and 2004 and then by 16.9% when it was reintroduced between 2008 and 2010. Their second finding was that small firms responded 95% more to that incentive for accelerated depreciation than larger firms. I think this is particularly important in the New Zealand context. Finally, firms responded strongly whether these policies of depreciation in generated immediate cash flows, but not necessarily when cash flows were in the future. In other words, firms were very interested in short term quick return investment. Now, given that I think our smaller firms are under-capitalised and we have lower productivity, obviously one of the points for future discussion from this briefing is about the role of accelerated depreciation.

Now, the object of the briefing isn’t to propose a single solution. It is, “…to start a conversation on what people see as the most important objectives for reform and whether particular reforms are worth considering further.”

When Inland Revenue initially put out an issues paper saying this was the proposed subject of its briefing it asked for responses. A few replied raising the issue of how the absence of a capital gains tax just reduces the coherence of the tax system, and there may be productivity concerns because of the light taxation of property. The briefing addressed these issues as follows:

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has advised that briefings should not focus on issues that have already been subject to considerable analysis. Capital gains tax was considered by the recent tax working group and the government decided against a general tax on capital gains. Therefore, we, the briefing, are not making a capital gains tax on property or a more general tax on capital gains a central focus because it has been the subject of recent debate and policy consideration.”

The problem with this approach is this is a meant to be a long-term insights briefing, and taking capital gains out of the picture immediately circumscribes its value. And by the by, in most cases, any foreign investors are subject to capital gains tax in their own country. Capital gains tax is a factor anyway for offshore investors and so maybe we should be factoring it in here.

To be fair, once you’ve gone through the paper and you understand what is driving it, the absence of commentary on capital gains tax although disappointing, shouldn’t be a distraction from what is a very interesting and valuable paper with plenty to digest. I do recommend reading this as it contains some very interesting issues, such as the idea of a dual income tax system which individually could be the subject of a podcast.

FBT reviewed

Moving on Inland Revenue has also released its 49-page Fringe Benefit Tax regulatory stewardship review. This is something else required under the Public Sector Act 2020 which requires regulatory stewardship reviews to ensure that policy and operational responsibilities are effective and operating as intended. Last week I mentioned how the new tax bill reintroduced this week gives an exemption from FBT for the provision of public transport. I noted the current treatment as an example where one set of tax policies probably doesn’t sit well with a wider set of objectives

FBT was chosen for review because it hasn’t been fully reviewed since some minor changes were made nearly 20 years ago. And as the review notes, over time, stakeholders have raised problems with the design and operation of FBT. The review is seen primarily as a diagnostic exercise investigating three questions:

  • Does the design of FBT meet the policy intent?
  • What is the employer and business experience of complying with FBT?
  • How does Inland Revenue administer FBT?

The review also considers whether FBT as in its current format is fit for the future, taking current workforce trends into account with more and more people working from home now.

The summary conclusions are that it does perform its primary task of ensuring that remuneration from employment is taxed, whether it’s paid in cash or provided by way of a non-cash benefit. FBT is one of those taxes which is as much designed to support the tax base by tackling anti avoidance behaviour as well as raise tax. But as the review then notes

However, it is not clear that FBT is a tax that functions well. Consistently, views expressed to the review team were that FBT is complex and that it imposes a high administrative and compliance burden relative to the tax at stake.”

There was also this interesting feedback “many interview participants felt that any intuitive connection with remuneration had been lost.”

FBT was introduced in 1985 to counter an avoidance of PAYE on salaries by providing people with non-cash benefits. Initially it had a very important role, particularly since back then tax the top tax rate was still 66%. However, a lot has changed in the last 37 years.

One of the main points that comes out of the report is that submitters feel FBT is not being complied with by all businesses and it’s not being enforced by Inland Revenue. This is seen as unfair by those who shoulder the compliance burden. The official response is “Inland Revenue is unable to comment on the amount of non-compliance with the FBT rules using existing data, although the use of START at its new computer will enable a more timely and targeted compliance approach.

That is a hell of an admission. The review then points out if non-compliance with FBT rules is perceived to be risk free, then that perception could undermine the integrity of the tax system as a whole. Therefore, this risk needs to be addressed.

The review then puts up a couple of proposals to do so. Firstly, which many might see as a bureaucratic answer, commission a policy project to act on the findings of the review. This would be to conduct an enquiry into fundamental reform, for example moving benefits-in-kind into the PAYE system. That was something not supported by interviewees. Secondly, “requiring operations to take steps to address the concerns raised about compliance and enforcement”, which might be more crudely and accurately expressed as “Do your damn job Inland Revenue”. And that is where I would begin.

We probably should have a review of fringe benefit tax and how it operates and whether the current system is fit for purpose. It definitely is compliance intensive. And there’s also this widespread perception of non-compliance, particularly in in in in regard to the definition of work-related vehicle and the rise of the twin-cab ute and whether such vehicles are genuine work-related vehicles. At the same time, I believe you have to enforce the current law because the perception might arise that the integrity of the tax system is being undermined. That’s actually in breach of official’s duties under the Tax Administration Act. I think it does no harm to show that compliance of the rules is required. Plus, it might raise a little bit of extra revenue.

There is some interesting commentary about how much revenue FBT does raise. For example, in the 2019/20 tax year, the Inland Revenue collected $592 million of FBT, which is 24% up on the $479 million collected in the 2009/10 tax year. However, back in the early 1990s FBT revenue was close to 5% of PAYE revenue and around 3% of direct income tax revenue. But now it’s closer to 1.6% of total PAYE revenue and about 0.9% of total direct income tax revenue.

FBT revenue rose steadily between its introduction and 1989 but then significantly reduced between 1990 and 1995. This decline may be the result of changes to the definition of benefits subject to FBT, but it may also reflect employers responding to its advent and switching to cash only salary packages. There may also have been some tax planning around trying to mitigate FBT.

FBT is paid by a relatively small number of taxpayers. Nearly 69% is paid by employers of 101 or more people. And in fact, that according to Inland Revenue data. Employees with 501 or more employees represent just 2% of all FBT filers, but 41.4% of all FBT paid for the year ended 31st March 2020.

For me the key takeaway here is that Inland Revenue really needs to begin to put some resources into management of FBT. I have heard commentary that it didn’t feel it was worthwhile, but there are spin-off effects. As noted, the perception of the integrity of the tax system is undermined. And also, there’s the wider policy objectives we mentioned. If FBT isn’t being monitored, how does that fit with the wish to reduce emissions? If it turns out people think, well, actually, work-related vehicles don’t pay FBT, then people might continue to use relatively inefficient vehicles. We’ve seen, by the way, with the green car discounts, how much an incentive in terms of cashback has made a difference with new registrations.  Moving FBT perhaps to an emissions-based charge such as they do in Ireland and the UK, might have some interesting implications and help drive down emissions.

One of the drivers behind the long-term inside’s briefing is that changes to the tax settings will drive foreign investment. It’s not a particularly revolutionary insight. There’s no doubt tax affects investment decisions.

Tax affects investment decisions

A very clear example of that, in my view, is when we consider the taxation of residential investment property, which I discussed with RNZ’s The Panel on Wednesday. This stemmed from an Official Information Act request I made to Inland Revenue asking for details of the number of taxpayers returning residential property investment income, how many reported net positive income, how many reported losses and what was the net income returned.

I shared my information with Geraden Cann of Stuff who ran the story.

In summary for the year ended 31st March 2019, 36% of all those filing individual tax returns and reporting rental income incurred a loss. For the year ended 31st March 2020 that proportion fell to 32%, and in the year ended 31st March 2021, it fell further to 27%. As you can see in the year ended 31st March 2021 about 240,000 people reported rental income with 173,500 in profit but 63,600 with losses amounting to $358 million. The net income rental income reported for the year was $1.428 billion. According to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s statistics, the valuation of residential investment property as of 31st March 2021 was $369 billion. That represents a pretty poor 0.4% return pre-tax.

So why are investors investing in residential property then? Because that return is not much better than you might have got if you put your money in the bank. The obvious answer to that is hoped-for tax-free capital gains plays a part in their decision-making. that. To be fair, that’s an understandable investment decision. If property prices are going to rise 20%, and you’re not being taxed on that 20% gain and you’re generating sufficient income to manage your costs, which is what two thirds of taxpayers seem to manage, then that’s not an unreasonable investment decision.

But at some point you have to realise that investment, which does beg the question which has been addressed in another academic paper, can you actually say that you did not purchase with an intent of sale. How otherwise does the investment makes sense without having to sell it?

I also asked for a breakdown of the number of residential properties held. Inland Revenue ‘doesn’t have comprehensive information’ so it responded

We do, however, hold partial information based on the IR3R calculation worksheets used by a subset of around 60,000 property owners who use this form as an input to their filing. Proportions calculated from this subgroup of taxpayers for the 2020-21 tax year are provided in Table 2.

The IR3R calculation worksheet tends to be used by unincorporated taxpayers (individuals or trusts) who are likely to have smaller investment portfolios. The supplied proportions are not necessarily representative of the wider picture incorporating all residential rental taxpayers and all entity structures.

As you might expect, 25% of all those holding between one and three properties report a loss. The proportion holding between 4 and 9 drops to 0.42%. Quite remarkably, among those with ten or more properties, 0.1% do report losses. One suspects that group are extremely heavily leveraged, and probably these positions are likely to change as interest limitation rules take effect.

Context

To put this in context, the Financial Markets Authority publishes a KiwiSaver Annual Report. This details the number of KiwiSaver schemes, the value of those schemes and actually the income reported and tax paid by all KiwiSaver schemes. The total value of KiwiSaver schemes was $81.6 billion and the total tax paid by KiwiSaver schemes was $474.6 million.

As I mentioned, the net pre-tax profit for the year ended 31st March 2021 for investment properties was $1.42 billion. Assuming a maximum 33% tax rate, that would equate to roughly $470 mln in tax. In fact, it’s almost certainly a lot lower because of not every taxpayer with investment property would be taxed at 33%.

When you look at the amount of capital invested in housing, $369 billion and the amount of capital invested in KiwiSaver, $81.6 billion, there’s approximately 4.5 times more capital invested in housing. But the taxable returns are so much lower that relatively speaking, they’re a quarter of KiwiSaver returns so the tax take ends up being broadly similar.

A really big question therefore arises around the efficiency and allocation of capital. That is why it is a bit disappointing Inland Revenue’s long-term insights briefing didn’t address that matter. But I understand that Treasury has been looking the housing issue and has come to the conclusion that tax settings have been a real driver of house price inflation. As I said on RNZ people have made rational decisions to invest in property but those also come with consequences.

And in my view, one of those consequences is inefficient allocation of capital. We also have rising inequality and essentially the arrival of a landed gentry, which means that if you do not have parents or family that can help you into housing, you’re likely to be unable to ever get on the property ladder. That’s not a particularly great scenario to have and coming back to the point Tova O’Brien made is something that next year we should be seeing the politicians talk about the sort of tax policies which address all these issues.

Revisiting 1952

And finally, our condolences to the Royal Family on the passing of the Queen. Just to put her 70-year reign in context, the population of New Zealand in 1952, when she became Queen, was just under 2 million. The Government’s total tax receipts for the year ended 31 March 1952 were just over £200 million or approximately 25% of GDP.

Some interesting taxes used to apply back then including an ‘Amusement tax’ which collected £308,000. The top tax rate was 60% and there was also Social Security in addition. Income tax represented 49% of all tax collections (it’s now nearly 67%). Incidentally, Land Tax, Death and Gift Duties, all now repealed, collected more than £9 million or 4.6% of the tax take. Taxes change over time. But it’s interesting to be coming back to the question of taxing capital. We didn’t have a capital gains tax in 1952, but we did tax capital. Maybe the pendulum is swinging back again.

Well, that’s all for this week.  I’m Terry Baucher and you can find this podcast on my website www.baucher.tax or wherever you get your podcasts.  Thank you for listening and please send me your feedback and tell your friends and clients.

Until next time kia pai te wiki, have a great week!

The unintended consequences of the interest limitation proposals

The unintended consequences of the interest limitation proposals

  • The unintended consequences of the interest limitation proposals
  • A coming clampdown on the fringe benefit tax rules around twin cab utes
  • Inland Revenue updates its advice on non-cash dividends

Transcript

Having pored over the 143-page discussion document on the interest limitation proposals for the last few weeks and discussed them with colleagues, the summary position I’ve reached is that the Government should be very mindful that there will be some unintended consequences, and it should therefore be prepared to fine tune its proposals.

In particular, two issues seem to be emerging. One is that the interest limitation rules and the proposals to allow an interest incurred in relation to new bills, may mean that the trend which was causing concern of first home buyers being squeezed out in favour of developers and investors with access to plenty of assets and therefore leverage, is probably going to accelerate.

Developers and investors are able to outbid first home buyers for vacant plots of land or buildings where a single home might exist now but has potential for it to be converted into two, three or more dwellings. Given that under the new build proposals, interest deductions will continue to be allowed for building additional dwellings the likelihood of first home buyers being able to buy vacant land, put a building on it and move in is likely to be diminished. They’re simply going to be outbid by those who have access to greater access to finance. And I think that trend will be accentuated by these proposals.

That probably is not an intended consequence, but as in taxes everywhere, unintended consequences are often in play and the housing market is probably one where the unintended consequences of decisions taken 30 or more years ago have now come home to roost with a vengeance.

And the other unintended consequence I believe is going to come about, is that the burden of these proposed changes will fall on a group that aren’t really its target. And they also happened to be the least equipped to manage the level of detail and compliance that will be expected. And this group here are the is the so-called mum and dad investors, people who have one, maybe two investment properties which represents their retirement fund.

This is a group of people who are not really in the Government’s target, they’re not the larger investors who are able to have been able to leverage up significantly and outbid first home buyers. These are people that have decided to purchase investment property for their retirement. Or it may be that a couple have formed a relationship and they’ve moved into one property and rented out the other property,

Whatever their circumstances, this is a group that’s going to face a significant amount of compliance going forward, and for very little reward for the Government I would add, either politically or in terms of actually improving the housing market.

It seems to me the Government ought to think seriously about an exemption for such a group. Maybe to say that holders of one investment property are exempt or the rules only apply above a threshold.

Currently, the average rental income in the country is about $25,500 dollars a year. Maybe if the gross rental income is, say, $30,000 dollars or less the rules won’t apply.

Alternatively, if the Government still wants to remove this tax anomaly of a full interest deduction for a partly untaxed return in the form of capital gains, it could then say only 50% per cent of the interest is deductible. By the way that was something a previous guest John Cantin suggested could be an option. It would be a more straightforward option.

The thing that has been interesting when dealing with the discussion document proposals is that although the concept of denying interest deductions seems straightforward in itself, what has been really revealing is the level of detail we’ve had to work through, particularly in relation to the new build exemption.

The complexity means tax agents like me, other advisers and individuals are now at a greater risk of getting their tax returns wrong – for example incorrectly calculating the proportion of interest that’s deductible.  Greater complexity means a greater likelihood of something happening and a client suing for negligence. It could be that professional indemnity insurance premium premiums rise as a consequence.

But anyway, both advisers and those affected by this would want to see the Government think hard about making the proposals less onerous from a compliance perspective.

Submissions close on Monday the 12th. As I have said previously, be constructive with your submissions. The Government isn’t going to listen to people moaning that these are terribly unfair. That’s a fact of life. These submissions will be considered by Inland Revenue, and we’ll know more in about four to six weeks when the final form of the proposals is released together with the draft legislation. It’s a tight timeline because all of this is meant to be in place by 1st October.

Fringe benefit tax

Moving on, the issue of twin-cab utes and FBT is back in the press with Minister of Revenue, David Parker, saying he was considering a clampdown on the fringe benefit tax rules. He has apparently received advice on how twin-cab utes were being taxed and he has confirmed that he was considering acting on it.

Inland Revenue advice was that there is no exemption to twin cabs, which I’ve previously discussed. And that’s correct, even though there’s a popular belief there was one. What Inland Revenue believes is that the existing rules aren’t being properly enforced, which is also my conclusion.

The astonishing thing, though, is that Inland Revenue went on to say it wasn’t so keen on chasing down this matter because it wouldn’t bring in much money. David Parker said, quote, “Inland Revenue advised me that it’s not as big an issue relative to other enforcement priorities. But we’re having a look at the issue because they are proliferating.”

There are two points to be made about this. Firstly, Inland Revenue has a duty under section 6 of the Tax Administration Act 1994 “to protect the integrity of the tax system.” including people’s perception of the integrity of the tax system.

So a public statement making it known that it really didn’t feel that this was a big issue sends completely the wrong message about enforcement for myself and other tax advisors and those conscientious taxpayers, the vast majority of which want to follow the rules. Inland Revenue basically saying,” Well, we’re not really bothered about this”. In the context of an $85-billion annual tax take saying an extra $100 million a year isn’t that significant may be true, but it does nothing for the integrity of the tax system to say so.

The other thing in here which David Parker has picked up on – he is also the Minister for the Environment – is that the climate change policies are undermined by not enforcing rules around twin-cab utes. These are high emitting vehicles and the Productivity Commission noted we are importing higher emission vehicles relative to what’s available in the rest of the world. In other words, New Zealand has become a bit of a dumping ground.

And so if we’re tackling emissions, reducing emissions is an ongoing job and in that context, not enforcing the FBT rules makes that job harder. Transport emissions are one area where New Zealand can make progress in reducing its emissions. Leaving aside the issues around reducing methane emissions from our agricultural sector, we can certainly do more in improving emissions from the transport sector.

So it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Inland Revenue I think will be upping the ante on this. Get any group of tax advisors together and we’ll all have stories about some of the abuses we’ve seen. Like Inland Revenue previously photographing or sending someone to watch popular boat ramps and boats being launched at the weekend, just to see whether a purported company vehicle was being used in a private capacity. Apparently one such boat launching ramp in Gisborne was opposite the Inland Revenue office and one company after a few weeks got a call from Inland Revenue asking if they were, in fact, correctly reporting FBT.

Transfers as ‘dividends’

Moving on, Inland Revenue has this week released a number of Interpretation Statements which give its view of how the law operates. One that people should pay particular attention to is Interpretation Statement 21/05 on non-cash dividends. Now, what this does is consider when a transfer of value from a company to a shareholder is treated as a dividend for tax purposes. These are sometimes also referred to as the deemed dividend rules.

The Interpretation Statement wisely, in my view, focuses on the type of non-cash transactions that are often entered into between small and medium companies and their shareholders. Now, sometimes FBT picks up some of these issues, but other times they don’t. A common example of a non-cash dividend would be a loan from a company to a shareholder.

So what the interpretation statement does is set out a number of examples of how these rules might work. For example, there’s a banana company which provides one of its shareholders with a large number of fresh bananas. That is a dividend. Another example would be the shareholder owes the company money and the company forgives the debt. That’s another as a dividend or a telecommunications company provides one of its shareholders with telecommunication services for free.

The interpretation statement works through various scenarios like this and clarifies which are dividends together with the rules for calculating the dividend and when the dividend is deemed to have been paid.

It’s actually a very valuable document.  It’s also quite astonishing to realise it is in fact an update of a previous item on deemed dividends which dates from March 1984. I know Inland Revenue has got a lot on its plate, but it is a bit of a surprise to see it taking 37 years to update this sort of matter.

Anyway, the interpretation statement is out there. So people should be more aware of this deemed dividend issue. It obviously indicates that this is one of the areas Inland Revenue is looking at. They have, in fact, been quite interested in the area of shareholder advances, that is loans from the company to shareholders for some time. So this Interpretation Statement should serve as a warning.

Well, that’s it for today. I’m Terry Baucher and you can find this podcast on my website www.baucher.tax or wherever you get your podcasts.  Thank you for listening and please send me your feedback and tell your friends and clients. Until next week ka kite āno!

A look at the G7’s agreement for a minimum corporate tax rate of 15%

A look at the G7’s agreement for a minimum corporate tax rate of 15%

  • A look at the G7’s agreement for a minimum corporate tax rate of 15%,
  • The role of tax in the Climate Change Commission’s final advice to the Government
  • FBT and what is a work related vehicle?

Transcript

Last weekend in Cornwall, England, the G7 Leaders meeting confirmed what had been agreed by the G7’s Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors over Queen’s Birthday weekend, that a minimum corporate tax rate of 15% would be introduced on a country-by-country basis.

What the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors have agreed to is what they describe as “an equitable solution on the allocation of taxing rights with market countries, a water taxing rights on at least 20 percent of a profit exceeding a 10 percent margin for the largest and most profitable multinational enterprises.”

Now, what’s also part of this deal and has been probably overlooked because of the commitment to the 15% rate, is that the G7 also agreed to “provide for appropriate coordination between the application of these new international tax rules and the removal of all Digital Services Taxes and other relevant similar measures on all companies.”

And that’s where it gets a little interesting, because when you look at the press conference held immediately afterwards by the US Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, it becomes apparent that this is a bit of a win for what we call the GAFA – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.  When she was questioned about how, for example, the French are targeting Amazon and Facebook, Secretary Yellen replied as follows,

“It is intended to replace an approach that focused on just a few US digital giants, and the agreement is that this new approach will replace an approach that we found objectionable, that targeted large, successful US digital firms. But most of these firms are likely to be included in this new scheme the Pillar One scheme.”

Pillar One and Pillar Two are part of this international framework being built to set up how we tax digital economy in the 21st century.

And it’s quite interesting because it comes back to discussions, as we mentioned previously, about the impact of the digital economy and, for example, how much tax Google pays here relative to how much it’s actually taking out of the economy. On the basis that New Zealand gets to tax 20% of the residual profit above a 10% margin, it’s possible that Google’s tax bill may triple to maybe $9 or $10 million. And that would be based on the assumption that about $200 million or so of its estimated $800 million that it takes out in advertising becomes taxable. Is that a big win for New Zealand? I’m not so sure.

The other point that I’ve noted about Secretary Yellen’s comments, is that the 15% rate is in the US view, a minimum, with 21% as the target. Questioned, “Well, how are you going to make this work?” Yellen also pointed out that the agreement under Pillar Two contains an enforcement mechanism that would come into play and apply to jurisdictions that decide, “No, we’re happy to be tax havens and we don’t want to sign up to this agreement”. This so-called “under tax payment rule” would essentially put pressure on those countries to abide by the corporate minimum tax, whatever is eventually agreed.

And so that’s basically calling time, as the G7 communique refers to it on this race to the bottom on corporate tax rates which has been going on for about 40 years now.

The next stage is that the agreement will be worked out through the G20/OECD inclusive framework. There is a July meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, which is hoped will get final agreement on this 15% minimum corporate tax rate and on the agreement on the Pillar One taxing rights.

I suspect as usual, politics will come into play here. And I do wonder how India is going to react to this, because it has made significant use of digital services taxes. But we’ll have to wait and see. It’s certainly a step forward in the right direction. And it is another step on the road towards ending tax havens, whose days, in my view, are numbered.

What was also interesting about the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors communique announcing the global minimum corporate tax rate, is that that particular announcement was just one paragraph of 20. It was actually number 16 because the first focus was on “building a strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive global economy”. And then the G7 Finance Ministers went on to talk about the transformative effort to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. And they spent a bit of time on this, as did the G7 leaders when they released their communique.

And of course, coincidentally, in the same week as the G7 Finance Ministers made their announcements, we had the Climate Change Commission releasing its final advice to the Government on how to move forward on climate change.

Climate change and tax

Now, the Climate Change Commission actually had little to say about specific tax measures. It did note, for example, that reducing oil and gas production in New Zealand would reduce the Government’s tax revenue. As is well known, the Emissions Trading Scheme would remain the main pricing tool.

The Commission did note that tax could be used to incentivise investments and choices, although it didn’t say much specifically on this. It talks about maybe using taxes for R&D incentives. We have an R&D tax credit incentive scheme. And you may recall that last year I spoke with John Lohrentz about an interesting idea using R&D tax incentives to reduce methane emissions.

The Commission did suggest that the tax system should be examined for ways to discourage the adoption of internal combustion engine vehicles and encourage low emission options. It noted that some submitters, and I was one of them, raised concerns about how fringe benefit tax is calculated for light vehicles and in particular the question of emissions from utes and trucks.

Most of that went by the by. But then last Sunday the Government announced its feebate proposal for electric vehicles and a debate kicked off on social media, over this question of twin cab utes and their “exemption” from FBT. So I thought today I would have a look at this widely held belief that utes are exempt from FBT under the work-related vehicle exemption

To go back to basics under Section CB 6 of the Income Tax Act 2007, a fringe benefit arises when a motor vehicle is made available to an employee for their private use. However, that provision does not apply when the vehicle is a work-related vehicle.

Now, Inland Revenue’s summary of this is that FBT will not apply to a vehicle if it meets all of the following conditions:

  • it is drawn or propelled by mechanical power (this includes trailers);
  • it has a gross laden weight of 3,500 kg or less;
  • the vehicle is mainly designed to carry goods or goods and passengers equally;
  • it has prominent company branding that cannot easily be removed;
  • you tell your employees in writing that the vehicle is not available for private use; except for travel between home and work, and for travel related to the business, such as stopping at the bank on the way home from work.

And then Inland Revenue say as part of this, you must give employees a separate letter explaining this restriction rather than mentioning it in their employment agreement.

Now the statutory definition of work-related vehicle is set out in Section CX 38 of the Income Tax Act. And as just recited, there’s restriction around the display of branding, for example. And on this, sticking the branding on say the spare tyre, which is on the back of the vehicle, is insufficient because that’s fairly easily removable. The sign writing has to be prominent.

The definition of a work-related vehicle in section CX 38 does not include a car. And then there is the bit that I think is causing all the issues around fringe benefit tax. Under section CX 38(3), the motor vehicle is not a work-related vehicle on any day on which the vehicle is available for the employee’s private use, except for private use, that is travel to and from their home, that is necessary in, and a condition of their employment or other travel in the course of their employment, during which the travel arises, incidentally, to the business use.

There are a couple things to note here, for example, that it is NOT a work-related vehicle on ANY day when it’s used privately. Then on the question of private use travel to and from their home is ok if “it is necessary in, and a condition of their employment.”

Now, in my view all of those conditions are where the gap, in FBT compliance, is happening. The home to work restriction is not being followed through. I would also question, in fact, whether as many companies have the separate letters in place that Inland Revenue expects.

This home office base of business is something Inland Revenue has looked at. Increasing numbers of businesses are working from home digitally whether it’s a trade or digital business.  So it’s reasonably clear that home is a place of work and therefore travel from there which is for business purposes is covered by the exemption.

But as I’ve noted beforehand, FBT does seem to be tracking behind in payments[1]. And there are perhaps apocryphal stories of Ministers of Revenue turning up to meetings in the South Island and being greeted “Welcome to the South Island where we don’t pay FBT.”

To get across this Inland Revenue will need to devote some resources to finding out exactly what is going on in this space, because as came out through the feebate debate, the twin cab ute has become one of the most popular and best-selling vehicles in New Zealand. And the question arises particularly when you see them in an urban environment, are these really work-related vehicles and what is Inland Revenue going to do about it?

And this comes on to my final point this week as to whether Inland Revenue, in fact, has the capability to investigate the issue. It should have. It has very extensive information gathering powers. I would have thought it was a straightforward matter to obtain details of all companies which own twin cab utes or similar vehicles and then cross-reference that information with FBT returns.

Maybe that is going on, and if so it would mean Inland Revenue has decided to keep quiet that it is actually working on such a project. Although Inland Revenue has a policy of proactive enforcement on issues by announcing “We are about to look at these areas”. It’s just done so about real estate agents. So saying it’s looking at FBT would actually be conducive for getting people to look and see if they’re actually compliant.

However, I have reservations about whether that’s happening and whether, in fact, Inland Revenue does have the capability to do so. I’ve just been informed that in another round of restructuring, 77 of 138 team leaders are to be made redundant. These are the exact people who have the experience and skills to lead such investigations. Now, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me laying off such a high proportion of your skilled labour.

Unexpected tax bills

And then there was a story this week about pensioners receiving large tax bills. Now, Inland Revenue subsequently issued a press release on this. But a common theme when I spoke to journalists about the story itself was that pensioners had tried to contact Inland Revenue to confirm what PAYE tax code they should be on.

And so the question arose as to whether, in fact, they had got the correct advice from the Inland Revenue call centre. And that leads back to what we discussed a couple of weeks ago about what’s going on with Inland Revenue’s use of contractors. Because if the contractors aren’t being trained properly, then Inland Revenue is giving incorrect advice and pensioners are left cleaning up the mess, owing tax bills of up to $2,000.

And that is not good for the tax system. Because the fear I have, if I and other tax agents are saying to our clients, “These are the rules, you must comply with them”, but clients have the sense that other people are not complying with the rules and Inland Revenue is not catching those other people, then the whole basis of voluntary compliance on which our tax system is built around is undermined. And that is something that I think we should all be concerned about.

Well, that’s it for today, I’m Terry Baucher and you can find this podcast on my website www.baucher.tax or wherever you get your podcasts.  Thank you for listening and please send me your feedback and tell your friends and clients. Until next week, ka kite āno.

Small Businesses and tax compliance, PAYE for employees of overseas companies

Small Businesses and tax compliance, PAYE for employees of overseas companies

  • Small Businesses and tax compliance, PAYE for employees of overseas companies
  • Managing fringe benefit tax
  • A global minimum corporate tax rate?

Transcript

Friday was Small Business Day. If you spent money with a participating small business and posted your interchange on social media, you and the business could have won a share of $200,000 dollars. Now, this is part of an initiative underlining the importance of small businesses in the New Zealand economy.

MBIE defines a small business as one with fewer than 20 employees. And according to Stats New Zealand, there are approximately 530,000 small businesses in New Zealand meeting that definition. They represent 97% of all firms, account for 28% of employment and just over a quarter of New Zealand’s GDP.

So they’re very important to the economy, but most importantly, also for the community. When small businesses move out, the community suffers. So this sort of initiative and the work we were doing during my time with the Small Business Council is important for the economy.

However, when it comes to the tax system there’s actually very few concessions for small businesses. That is part of a deliberate policy, which generally I and most tax experts support, of minimising special exemptions and in doing so, focusing on the basics. And by minimising removing special exemptions, you eliminate the opportunities for people to try and rort the system.

But that comes at a cost for small businesses of greater compliance costs. Compliance costs will always fall heavily on small businesses because they are generally quite under-resourced to deal with this matter.

Now as I said currently our tax system generally makes no concessions for small businesses. However, there is one such example which does apply, and that is the shareholder-employee regime. Under this regime a shareholder who is also an employee of a company can instead of having their salary taxed through pay as you earn, opt to pay provisional tax. Their taxable income can then be determined after the end of the tax year.

It’s a very flexible regime, but it doesn’t always fit well with the general scheme of the Income Tax Act. And I think Inland Revenue may be thinking in terms of such businesses should actually be in the look through company regime. The problem is these special regimes add complexity.

The tax loss carryback regime, which is temporarily in place for the 2020 and 2021 income years, proved unworkable for shareholder employees. They’d already taken profits out of the business by way of a salary. So if the company had a loss in either of those later years and tried carrying it back, it had no income to offset against the loss. So, it was of no use to shareholders employees.

When other tax practitioners and I were discussing a permanent iteration of the current loss carryback regime with Inland Revenue policy a huge stumbling block was the question of the treatment of shareholder employees. In fact, it proved unworkable in the end. And last month the Minister of Revenue revealed a permanent iteration of the scheme is not going to be implemented.

In my view one of the side effects of not having specific small business regimes, is that Inland Revenue policymakers don’t pay enough attention to what’s going on in the small business sector, and that means compliance costs creep up for the sector as issues are not addressed. And in the last week, we’ve had a couple of good examples of how this has played out.

Covid-19 has revealed, a number of things that should have been addressed in relation to employer employee relationships, but for whatever reason had been parked as there was always something more interesting to work on. These strains have started to come through recently.

There was a story in the Herald (paywalled) about a very common thing, Kiwis coming back to New Zealand, but continuing to work for overseas based employers. And what’s happening is that a number of these are potentially facing double taxation, hopefully temporarily, and they understandably are confused about how much they own to which government.

One key concern is if an employee of an overseas employer is in New Zealand for more than 183 days, then technically the employer will need to start accounting for pay as you earn. However, in the meantime, that overseas jurisdiction may still be applying its equivalent of pay as you earn to the employee’s earnings. So there’s a risk of double taxation risk.

And one of the other problems is with foreign tax credits. Technically, under double tax agreements employment is taxable only in the jurisdiction in which it’s being exercised. So as the Herald article pointed out, in a worst case scenario, what can happen is that someone working in New Zealand for an overseas employer may have earned $100,000 dollars and paid UK pay as you earn, but won’t get any credit for it in New Zealand. Inland Revenue’s view is “Well, you’ve earned $100,000. This is the tax bill, pay it.” Meantime, the problem that particular employee faces is that he or she have to then go and get the overpaid UK tax refunded. And of course, that can take some time.

And it may also involve getting assistance through what we call the mutual agreement procedures between Inland Revenue here and the UK’s HM Revenue & Customs.  All this takes a lot of time and a lot of stress. It’s a very good example of how the system is evolved, where it really isn’t terribly flexible, and issues arise. One answer is to put people into the Provisional tax regime. Another one is for such employees of overseas companies to register themselves for pay as you earn or what they call an IR56 taxpayer.

Now just to clarify, we’re assuming that the employees of the overseas company, is just an employee, and we’re not dealing with the issues of that employee having sufficient authority to create what we call a permanent establishment, which is a whole other raft of issues, but are not relevant to this particular discussion.

Issues are starting to emerge where the IRS is expecting the US employer to deduct the US equivalent of pay as you earn. Meanwhile Inland Revenue here wants its cut and although the double tax agreement will give most taxing rights to New Zealand the IRS is very cumbersome in moving to say to the US employer, “Oh, yes, that’s now foreign sourced income so you no longer need to deduct tax.”

And then there’s the other issue I mentioned that the overseas company, could be treated as an employer and required to deduct PAYE in New Zealand. Now, fortunately, in that respect, Inland Revenue has a draft operational statement, which was released for consultation last year which deals with this issue of non-resident employers’ obligations to deduct pay as you earn, pay FBT and deduct employer superannuation contribution tax. The deadline for comments closed on it on 1st September so we ought to be seeing it fairly soon in final form.

And basically, Inland Revenue is saying an overseas employer isn’t going to need to apply PAYE so long as the employee’s presence does not create a permanent establishment or as the operational statement has it, “a sufficient presence.” So that’s a good solution. But I think this illustrates the problems with small businesses overseas and here of dealing with issues around tax systems that weren’t designed with such matters and are slow to respond.

And that leads on to a second related point, the question of fringe benefit tax and the new 39% tax rate, which came into effect on 1st April. As a consequence of the change in the tax rate, a new flat rate of FBT of 63.93% applies to non-cash employee benefits such as discounted goods and services and private use of company cars. But that only applies in in reality to employees earning more than $180,000, which is only 2% of earners.

But the FBT system expects employers to pay using a single rate which prior to 1st April was 49.25%. And so the increase to 63.93% represents a substantial burden. Now, it’s possible to work around that and not use the flat FBT rate by filing quarterly FBT returns and calculating FBT on an attributed basis, i.e. for each employee.

So, yes, that’s a solution, but it leads back to my point at the start of this podcast, it adds to complexity of the tax system and also increases the burden of compliance with small businesses. So I think the point has been reached in our system that going forward, Inland Revenue really should have a hard think about the fringe benefit tax compliance costs for small businesses.

Leaving aside the separate issue of how well FBT is being complied with, particularly in relation to work related vehicle, it does involve a fair amount of compliance for small businesses. The FBT regime dates from the mid-80s and I think it’s time for a rethink. In the 1980s it was probably a sensible approach that the employer paid FBT. Maybe now with better procedures in place, what should happen is that the employer calculates the value of the fringe benefit and that amount is then included as part of an employee’s salary and taxed at the relevant rate. This would immediately deal with the issue of applying this new 63.93%rate.

But that’s something that needs to be considered, perhaps as part a whole package of looking at compliance for small businesses. And I understand there is something in the works on that which we will be watching with great interest and report back on when we hear something in due course.

And finally this week, we’ve talked in the past about the international tax regime striving to try with the digital economy and each tax jurisdiction trying to find an appropriate level of taxation relative to a company’s economic activity in a country. The focus is on the GAFA, as they call Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

Here in New Zealand these companies pay very little tax. Facebook does not publish financial statements in New Zealand, and Google’s accounts to December 2019 show that its revenue in New Zealand was  $36.2 million. And it finished up, paying $3.6 million in income tax. That was actually an increase in from the 2018 year, where it paid around $400,000. But Google’s revenue from New Zealand is considerably more than $36 million.

And what’s happening here is replicated all around the world. So the OECD has been looking at this in conjunction with the G20 group of nations. This is part of a shift to try and stop the aggressive use of tax havens to minimise multinationals’ corporate tax bills. And this past week after a meeting of G20 finance ministers there appears to have been a breakthrough in that they are now exploring the equivalent of a global minimum tax on corporate profits.

What’s encouraging about this is that the US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, initiated the proposal, and this is a rapid, significant change from the Trump administration. There will be pushback on this, obviously, because certain jurisdictions and Ireland has been mentioned as one who already have a fairly low tax rate, concerned that their current 12.5% corporate tax rate may rise.

And obviously, tax havens will be looking at this with some unease. But my personal view is that the days of the tax havens are numbered because of the double impact of the Global Financial Crisis and Covid-19 anyway. It remains to be seen how well this will develop, but it is an encouraging sign. It might not actually make a great deal of difference to the New Zealand Government’s books, but it will certainly be a step forward in the right direction. As always, we will bring you developments as they happen.

Well that’s it for today, I’m Terry Baucher and you can find this podcast on my website www.baucher.tax or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening and please send me your feedback and tell your friends and clients. Until next week Ka kite ano!

The potential tax implications of the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice.

  • A look at the potential tax implications of the Climate Change Commission’s first draft advice to the Government
  • The latest from the OECD on international tax
  • A look at what a recent slew of reports and documents say about the state of Inland Revenue and its priorities

Transcript

Last Sunday, the Climate Change Commission released its draft advice for consultation. The draft advice has already stirred up a great deal of controversy and discussion about the suggested objectives for the country and how they are to be met.

On tax, the Commission’s Necessary Action 3 recommended accelerating light electric vehicle (EV) uptake.  As part of this it suggested the Government –

“Evaluate how to use the tax system to incentivise EV uptake and discourage the purchase and continued operation of internal combustion engine vehicles.”

I’ve covered this elsewhere and my suggestion is that Inland Revenue needs to look at greater enforcement of the fringe benefit tax rules, maybe including an exemption for electric vehicles and looking also at the application of FBT to parking.

What else did the Commission discuss on the taxation side? Well, it noted that the climate transition will impact government taxation and spending and that the Government needs to plan for this. It noted that fuel excise duties, the revenue comes from that which is spent on land transport, will change and probably decline. It also noted that reducing oil and gas production will result in less tax revenue and also affect the balance of exports because of the reduction in oil exports.

On the other hand, the emissions trading scheme will generate income from the sale of emissions units. Obviously the amount raised will depend on the volume of units and the market price for years, but at current estimates are that it could equate to about $3.1 billion over the next five years.

Now, what the Commission has suggested is that maybe these funds could be recycled back into climate change projects. And that’s something I would agree with. In my piece on the Commission’s draft report I suggested that increased FBT take should be recycled into funding a vehicle purchase scheme.

So I think one of the things that comes out of the Commission’s draft report is that its recommended changes are  going to affect the country and the community greatly, and we need to mitigate for that. And if funds are being raised from environmental taxation, my view is they need to be recycled into the economy to mitigate the impact of change.

That, by the way, was also the view of Sir Michael Cullen when he presented the Tax Working Group’s report, which covered environmental taxation, but its interesting observations on that were completely lost in all the hoo-ha over capital gains tax. As the Commission notes, one of the key objectives going forward is a

“process for factoring distributional impacts into climate policy and designing social, economic and tax policy in a way that minimises or mitigates the negative impacts.”

There’s going to be a very interesting debate on this issue which will continue for quite some time. But we are at a point where we’re going to need to take quick action, I believe, which come with consequences. We need to mitigate those consequences as far as possible.

Late last week, the OECD held its 11th meeting of the OECD/2020 inclusive framework on base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS). This is the international project on reforming international taxation.

The (virtual) meeting included a last address from the outgoing Secretary-General of the OECD, Angel Gurría. He talked about what has happened over his 15-year term as Secretary-General. As he said when he took the helm in 2006 –

“tax avoidance and evasion were running rampant. Urgent action was needed, and the aftermath of the global financial crisis presented the opportunity to crack down on these nefarious practices backed by the newly established G20.”

The Secretary-General then ran through the latest developments noting that 107 billion euros of additional tax revenue has been identified as a result of the initiatives such as the Common Reporting Standard and the Automatic Exchange of Information. There have been over 36,000 exchanges of tax rulings between jurisdictions and over 84 million financial accounts have been identified and exchanged in 2019, with a total value of around 10 trillion euros.

He also made a very important point that in a globalised world, tax cooperation is the only way to protect tax sovereignty. That was true at the start of his term in 2006 and remains the case now.  Without such cooperation each country’s domestic tax policies are at risk. The latest state of play is a reflection of this where if an international solution is not found by the middle of the year, over 40 countries, including New Zealand, are considering or will move ahead with a unilateral digital services tax.

The solution to this is the so-called Pillar One and Pillar Two proposals. Now, these are progressing, and an encouraging fact is that the new United States Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, as part of her confirmation hearings stated the United States is –

“committed to the cooperative multilateral effort to address base erosion and profit shifting through the OECD/G20 process, and to working to resolve the digital taxation disputes in that context.”

So that’s extremely encouraging.

The Secretary-General also picked up the Climate Change Commission’s draft report, that carbon pricing is an issue that needs to be addressed. As Mr Gurría noted across the OECD 70% of energy related CO2 emissions from advanced and emerging economies are entirely untaxed. And so, as he put it, “putting a big fat price on carbon is one of the most effective ways to tackle climate change by creating incentives to reduce emissions.”

Now, the Climate Change Commission’s recommendations and the ongoing OECD BEPS Initiative are just two of the major policy issues on which Inland Revenue will be needing to provide policy advice and ultimately implementation. Although the Treasury provides advice to the Ministers of Finance and Revenue on tax policy, Inland Revenue is the main tax policy adviser to the Government. That’s actually quite unusual by world standards, where more often it is the Treasury Department that drives tax policy advice.

So where is Inland Revenue at in terms of where it thinks tax policy is going? Well, as part of its general processes it prepares a briefing to each incoming Minister of Revenue. And the briefing Inland Revenue provided to the new Minister of Revenue, David Parker has now been released.

Inland Revenue, in conjunction with Treasury, will develop a tax policy work programme, which is then signed off by the Ministers of Finance and Revenue.  These programmes will show what the priorities are and the expected policy focus over the next 18 months.

Now, obviously, Covid-19 will have some impact on the programme. The five top policy issues that Inland Revenue have identified as key priorities are rebuilding the economy, issues related to misalignment of the top personal tax rate, the role of environmental taxes and what an environmental tax framework should look like, improving data analytics, and international tax settings.

And the briefing then goes on to set out significant current policy issues, most of which reflect these policy priorities.  There is a specific item on taxing the digital economy which notes –

“Ministers will need to make a decision about the suitability of any OECD multilateral solution for New Zealand and whether to progress a unilateral digital services tax.”

But as often is the way it’s what’s not actually said in a document that makes it interesting. Briefings to Incoming Ministers are usually frank in giving an overview of where the department is at, what the main policy issues are as it sees it, and how it proposes that it should deal with the issues. But not everything is revealed.

And there are one or two interesting redactions in here, one of which appears to relate to some form of investigation into taxation of wealth.  At a guess this is identifying the wealthy in the group, usually defined as those with more than $50 million dollars in assets, their tax behaviours, how much tax they pay and what are they doing to mitigate tax.

Interestingly, by the way, the tax concessions charities and not for profits get is going to be reviewed to “ensure they operate coherently and fairly and to ensure the integrity of the tax system is protected.”  As the Tax Working Group noted, it received a number of submissions complaining about tax preference treatment of charities.

The Briefing also talks about Inland Revenue’s Business Transformation project, described as “complex, high-risk and fiscally significant (costing $1.8 billion)” in the separate briefing provided by the Treasury to the Minister of Revenue.

And there are some more very interesting redactions in here relating to funding of the Inland Revenue including references to other reports which have not been provided and which I have therefore requested under the Official Information Act.

What some of these redactions to an issue that in my view the Minister of Revenue and the Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Naomi Ferguson, need to address,  is the poor state of morale.

Inland Revenue’s 2020 Annual Report, released just before Christmas, at the same time as the Briefing to Incoming Minister, puts its staff engagement at a shocking 25%. And it has been bumping around at the 25 to 29% for several years now. And that’s an impact of Business Transformation, which has shaken up the workforce in Inland Revenue quite substantially. In the year to June 2016, the headcount of Inland Revenue was 5,789. As of 30 June 2020, that has fallen to 4,831.

So a substantial amount of change has gone on in the department which doesn’t appear to have been welcomed or met with enthusiasm.  It has certainly had a dramatic impact on the Inland Revenue staff engagement and morale. Whatever you might think about Inland Revenue and its activities, poor staff engagement is not good for tax payers at large.

It should be said that remarkably and consistently Inland Revenue staff in their direct interactions with tax agents like myself and the general public continue to be highly professional, well-mannered and and responsive to our needs. But clearly behind the scenes, there is stuff going on that needs to be fixed and that should be a priority for the Minister of Revenue and the Commissioner of Inland Revenue.

There’s also ongoing controversy around exactly what savings are going to be achieved from Business Transformation. The scale of the Business Transformation project means the Cabinet gets regular updates on progress. So next week I’m going to take a closer look at a couple of the documents that have also been released in relation to Business Transformation.  These report on how it’s progressing relative to what was expected and what changes and additional funding, if any, may be required.

Well, that’s it for today. I’m Terry Baucher and you can find my podcast on website www.baucher.tax or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening. And please send me your feedback and tell your friends and clients. Until next week, Ka kite āno.