Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: Is being a tax haven worth it?

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  • Alfie, in reply to Amanda Wreckonwith,

    Link to Slater – result!

    There are interesting links appearing all over the place.

    Today’s Stuff editorial points out the potential damage to New Zealand’s good reputation and calls for decisive action.

    On 3 News last night Key tried to rebrand Nicky Hager as a conspiracy theorist, which is pretty low in the circumstances. While a rather large conspiracy is certainly emerging, it’s Key whose hands are looking dirty.

    I'm impressed with Peter Dunne’s stand. He’s pissed off that during his eight years as Revenue Minister, nobody from the IRD flagged the “explosion” of foreign trusts in New Zealand. It’s great to see Dunne taking a strong line on the ultra-wealthy exploiting our lax tax laws, and NZ being openly promoted as a tax haven by a small cabal of lawyers and psuedo-lawyers. He said…

    The bottom line is that being labelled a tax haven has in transparency and reputation terms, the same impact that an outbreak of foot and mouth disease would have on our reputation as viable primary producer.

    Morning Report noted that when Key was asked why foreigners with no business or connection with NZ should operate trusts in this country, he had no answer.

    He knows.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1385 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1385 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1385 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Deborah,

    Well, that makes it easier for me to comment here again. It's a shame that we've lost some other women from this site in the meantime.

    Deborah, could we please move on from this sort of rhetoric.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah, in reply to steven crawford,

    Deborah, could we please move on from this sort of rhetoric.

    It's not just rhetoric, it's a serious comment, and it matters. It particularly matters to me that misogynistic and nasty comments to women commenting here didn't merit a ban.

    I made that comment in good faith. I was appalled by the most recent post from the person who was banned, just as I was appalled by many of the posts that person had made in the previous few days. I very much appreciate that perhaps Russell had just reached a tipping point. But I am very serious when I say that the continued presence of the person who has now been banned was exactly what had driven me away from commenting on PAS, even on a post in my specialist area of knowledge.

    And I immediately demonstrated my good faith by making another comment, very explicitly on point for the thread. I *did* move on, immediately.

    Edited to add: I wrote several other things here, and then deleted them, because they were too personal, too much directed at one person.

    And I'm going to add one further point. I am one of the longest standing members of this community. If you can dredge up the very first post that Russell wrote when commenting became a thing at Public Address, you will see that I was one of the very first people to register. Except for one egregious error in the early days here, where the person concerned and I have long since become good friends, perhaps in part because of that error, I have always done my best to comment with respect and courtesy, even where I disagree intensely with someone else. I would appreciate being treated with some respect.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Alfie,

    While a rather large conspiracy is certainly emerging, it’s Key whose hands are looking dirty.

    This is true, but it's also not the first time that accusations have flown about corruption and dirtyness in politics (esp with the current government), and lately that's had little effect except to polarise people's opinions one way or another.

    If the discussion is framed in a way which makes it clearer how everyone's lives are worse off, or will be, as a consequence of all this foreign trust mess, then I think it'll be more likely to have a lasting effect.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Edited to add: I wrote several other things here, and then deleted them, because they were too personal, too much directed at one person

    That’s why I have so much respect for you. It’s why I see you as a kind of mentor.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah, in reply to steven crawford,

    Thanks, Steven. You're one of the people here who makes me think, instead of just react.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Marc C, in reply to Alfie,

    "New Zealand's international reputation taking a hit is one thing. But the average Joe Blow in the street will probably go meh and forget all about it because it has no affect on his life."

    This is what I fear is already happening. Watching the hopeless 'Breakfast' on TV One and that ridiculous eternal, or late puberty displaying Paul Henry on his show this morning, the MSM presenters and many "reporters" do already seem to put the Panama Papers into the ticked off basket. The challenges put to Labour's Andrew Little and the Green's James Shaw are now in the form of questions like: "But have you found anything illegal?" As the way the law is, and as the way the system is ALLOWED to operate (thus far), the activities revealed are in the form of the foreign owned trusts held in New Zealand not strictly illegal. They are legal, as far as that no criminal activity may have been committed by those benefiting from or administering the trusts.

    If tax evasion has occurred, it is illegal activities that happened in other jurisdictions, and that is nothing Key and industry insiders seem too concerned about. The law enforcement and prosecution in other jurisdictions will have to study the revealed new information, and to do checks, and see, whether any laws were broken, whether money may have been laundered and so forth.

    Only if that gets proved, and only if it can be tied together with trusts here, will there be further discussion of this topic. Most people will otherwise not bother too much, as it will indeed not affect them directly.

    And listening to Andrew Little on Morning Report, where Guyon Espiner gave him some hard time, asking him, why he thought ALL should be called to be "grubby" who hold such trusts, Labour have an uphill battle again.

    Sadly it seems that the industry and vested interest holding businesses have all the experts on their side, as they are paid by them, and the opposition can only hope to find the odd academic at a university, who may offer some qualified comments on all this.

    Academics again go into details and particular language, to which the ordinary Kiwi may not relate. Andrew Little did struggle to deliver arguments, I felt.

    As for the benefits of these trusts now in discussion, I think that Andrew is basically right, as it is clear from the setup of all this, it is used to hide wealth assets behind complex networks. But instead of abolishing it altogether, a more refined approach may be needed, simply by starting to tighten regulations and creating a transparent register with more details. As Key is the expert in appearing to do something by doing as little as possible, most will settle to his "show activism" in this area, like in other areas.

    Akl • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Alfie,

    I'm impressed with Peter Dunne’s stand. He’s pissed off that during his eight years as Revenue Minister, nobody from the IRD flagged the “explosion” of foreign trusts in New Zealand. It’s great to see Dunne taking a strong line on the ultra-wealthy exploiting our lax tax laws, and NZ being openly promoted as a tax haven by a small cabal of lawyers and psuedo-lawyers.

    You're impressed by an exercise in retrospective arse-covering? Dunne certainly wasn't taking any "strong line" on these issues back when he was the relevant Minister. If anything, he seemed aware of the practice of tax minimisation and actively defended it.

    While I appreciate that Dunne may well have grasped the importance of building a worthwhile legacy in his present portfolio, I don't believe that creating a personality cult around him is going to facilitate that.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Marc C,

    The challenges put to Labour's Andrew Little and the Green's James Shaw are now in the form of questions like: "But have you found anything illegal?" As the way the law is, and as the way the system is ALLOWED to operate (thus far), the activities revealed are in the form of the foreign owned trusts held in New Zealand not strictly illegal.

    ..which also conveniently misses the point, for those who claim this. If someone discovered a technicality which enabled them to legally kill a person they didn't like, and did so, would that make it okay? Or would it make it a serious issue with the law that needed to be fixed? What if that technicality had been identified years before, and the government of the day had actively done nothing?

    And listening to Andrew Little on Morning Report, where Guyon Espiner gave him some hard time, asking him, why he thought ALL should be called to be "grubby" who hold such trusts, Labour have an uphill battle again.

    I don't fully agree with how Andrew Little and Labour have responded to this. He still doesn't interview brilliantly, but at least he's actually turning up to be interviewed by people like Guyon Espiner. That's more than the Prime Minister can say, who instead chooses to only expose himself to breakfast TV hosts who already spend significant amounts of their time being blanket apologists instead of actually aiming to challenge anyone and everyone they interview.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    The phrase “personality cult” may be a little strong Joe. While Dunne has certainly modified his position over the last four years, he’s currently the only member of the government support team actively criticising our tax haven status.

    Incidentally, does anyone know where the Maori Party stands on this issue? I haven’t been able to track down a single statement from them.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1385 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Also relevant, Dunne won Ohariu by only a wafer-thin plurality last election, and needs desperately to strengthen his brand in order to be re-elected next time.
    This may be a good thing if it pushes him more into line with the average voter.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1887 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to izogi,

    If someone discovered a technicality which enabled them to legally kill a person

    I'm told that Western Australia only disallowed hunting permits that included aboriginals late last century. Whether someone could have got a permit issued and used it is an open question, but it was at least superficially the technicality you are looking for.

    The other "technicality" is the legal practice of heavily discounting driving incidents so you end up with "I was drunk and he annoyed me" ending with a conviction for... perjury, in the case of one Australian former police officer here. Wasn't there a case in Christchurch a few years ago where a drunk got in a car and drove it through a crowd of people, injuring if not killing people? No "attempted murder" or even "assault with deadly weapon" charges there IIRC.

    (sorry, can't find links, but II have looked)

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Moz,

    Wasn't there a case in Christchurch a few years ago where a drunk got in a car and drove it through a crowd of people, injuring if not killing people? No "attempted murder" or even "assault with deadly weapon" charges there IIRC.

    I'm not sure if it's the incident to which you're referring, but in 2007 there was an incident on Edgeware Road for which the driver was convicted of two murders and sentenced to a minimum of 17 years jail without parole.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to izogi,

    I suspect it is, which kinda disproves my point. Less of a loophole in NZ, by the look of it.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • papango, in reply to Alfie,

    he’s currently the only member of the government support team actively criticising our tax haven status.

    As if he didn't have eight years as Minister of Revenue to do something about it.

    I do not buy for a second that he wasn't informed by IRD of the situation with foreign trusts (and it's worth noting that he is claiming he 'can't recall' any advice, which is not the same thing as not receiving it, or as rejecting briefings before they arrive). It's convenient for him to lay the blame with civil servants who can't dispute him.

    The tax haven review was on the IRD action plan in November 2013, and an IRD report to Ministers from August 2013 states "However, our foreign trust rules continue to attract criticism, including claims that New Zealand is now a tax haven in respect of trusts" It'd be a hell of a thing was an issue that only came to IRD's attention after Peter Dunne left office in June of that year.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2012 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to papango,

    it's worth noting that he is claiming he 'can't recall' any advice, which is not the same thing as not receiving it, or as rejecting briefings before they arrive

    This seems like the type of advice that, if present, would be very OIA'able from IRD.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • papango, in reply to izogi,

    You'd think. I suspect that it was done as part of the weekly meetings with officials or as an item in the regular weekly report. Should be there, could be tough to get.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2012 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    naming names...

    Kiwi businesses trade on being the honest Johns of the world

    Andrea Vance might've found another phrase - Key benefits from piggybacking on that 'Honest John' usage, as he does from the use of 'key' in many stories - kind of background reinforcement of an idea or ideal.
    'Vital' or 'prime' or even 'pivotal' or 'central' could be used instead of 'key' in most contexts...
    I guess 'Honest John' is now slightly coloured by car salesmen and the other idea that 'Honest Johns' are easily duped due to their innocence - so it may be entering that etymological twilight zone occupied by words like 'fulsome' which are seemingly self-antonymous.

    Language is a virus!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7887 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    I guess 'Honest John' is now slightly coloured by car salesmen and the other idea that 'Honest Johns' are easily duped due to their innocence - so it may be entering that etymological twilight zone occupied by words like 'fulsome' which are seemingly self-antonymous.

    Then again, as an Australian commentator suggested when the "Honest John" tag was being rolled out for John Howard's political rise, it may be justified as part of that grand folk tradition where redheads are nicknamed "Blue".

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to papango,

    You'd think. I suspect that it was done as part of the weekly meetings with officials or as an item in the regular weekly report. Should be there, could be tough to get.

    This government, from the day they got in, have insisted on oral briefings from officials. They never wanted a paper trail.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    - Key benefits from piggybacking on that 'Honest John' usage, as he does from the use of 'key' in many stories - kind of background reinforcement of an idea or ideal.

    Hmmm, Keytruda...

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Language is a virus!

    Babel17!

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    John Key kicked out of Parliament by David Carter.

    The impossible, it happened.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1321 posts Report Reply

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