- Cryptoassets under the spotlight
- 10 years of compulsory zero rating for land transactions
- A warning for trustees moving to Australia.
New Zealand houses aren’t the only asset class that has exploded in value over the past 12 months. A report by the Secretary General of the OECD to the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Italy earlier this month noted that since he last reported to them in February 2021, the overall market capitalisation of virtual currencies has gone from just over US$1 tln to US$1.8 tln.
Now, quite apart from that near 80% increase, the growth has been almost five-fold since September 2020, when the market capitalisation was US$354 billion.
There are two things to note about this fantastic growth in value. Firstly it is going to attract keen interest from the tax authorities who will want their cut of the gains that have arisen. And of course, the tax authorities are still struggling to keep up with the pace of change in this sector. And Inland Revenue is no different from the rest.
There are some rulings in preparation at Inland Revenue including an updated release on how it views the treatment of cryptoassets. But its general position remains that cryptoassets will be taxable, with rare exceptions on the basis that rather akin to gold bullion, the value can only ever be released by sale, so therefore they must have been acquired with a purpose or intent of sale.
The thing is though, the whole cryptoassets sector is rapidly becoming ever more complex and new instruments are being developed, which point to Inland Revenue’s argument as not necessarily being sustainable. So that’s one point that people must be noting when preparing their tax returns for the year ended 31 March 2021. Now I’m sure we will see people coming forward who have substantial cryptoassets gains and are wishing to make the right tax declaration.
But the other matter, which is of concern to tax authorities, is trying to keep track of all of this. As is well known, the OECD has developed in recent years the Common Reporting Standards on the Automatic Exchange of Information. And what the Secretary General for the OECD said in his tax report to the G20 finance ministers and Reserve Bank governors, is that the OECD is designing a “tax reporting and exchange framework that will address the tax compliance risks associated with the emergence of cryptoassets and reflecting the crucial role the crypto exchanges play as intermediaries in the cryptoassets market.”
Now, the proposal is that basically they want to bring cryptoassets into the common reporting standards and in exchange for information. So that’s going to be quite complicated. One of the attractions of cryptoassets is they are supposedly off the grid or under the radar of the tax authorities, and, how shall we describe it, that the reporting requirements are a little bit more relaxed.
Anyway, the OECD is preparing detailed technical proposals on this, on a new tax reporting framework. And it is intending to deliver a proposal to the G20 later this year. As usual, we’ll bring you news on that when they when it happens.
After ten years, there is still confusion
Moving on, it is 10 years since compulsory zero rating of land transactions was introduced. From 1st of April 2011 most sales of land and buildings between GST registered persons became zero rated for GST purposes under what we now call compulsory zero rating provisions. If these apply, then the land transaction must be zero rated.
Now the provisions were introduced to prevent what was seen as a trend towards “Phoenix fraud”, whereby a vendor did not pay output tax on the sale of property to Inland Revenue but the purchaser claimed a GST refund. The suggestions were that the annual loss in GST was in the tens of millions of dollars.
Now, it’s important to note that this is between GST registered persons and what it did was fundamentally shifted the GST risk on transactions involving land buildings from Inland Revenue to the parties involved. And as an excellent little report on the matter from PWC points out, that wasn’t always fully appreciated by parties to transactions, particularly those who were seeking to claim an import tax deduction on the purchase.
After 10 years these rules should be relatively well known now. However, there’s still quite a lot of issues emerging on that. And I regularly encounter the issue where a GST registered purchaser has bought land from what they understood to be an unregistered person, only to find out afterwards that the vendor either is or should have been GST registered. Now that often comes up when they file a GST return and claim the input tax credit. Now, the result is they don’t get any input tax credit and that purchaser is understandably very upset. The last such case I handled the vendor finished up paying almost $400,000 as a consequence of getting that GST status wrong.