Tax Avoidance

The SST reports:

Finance minister Bill English has signalled the government will next year get tough with tax-dodgers by closing loopholes that allow wage earners to avoid paying their share of tax.

The IRD says the government is missing out on $300 million a year because of wage earners who squirrel away money into trust accounts to avoid paying the top income tax rate. More is lost because of earnings that are “sheltered” by a company created solely to avoid tax.

Not sure how you can legislate to fix that.

The IRD, in its latest submission to the Tax Working Group, says the problem is that New Zealand’s multitude of tax rates is encouraging bad behaviour.

Oh I am sure it is.

It said the trust account and company tax rates were too far out of line with income tax rates. Taxpayers were placing income in a trust account, paying 33 cents for every dollar earned, rather than the top rate of 38c. Another common ploy was for individual taxpayers to “shelter” their money by creating a company so that they paid 30 cents of every dollar earned in tax rather than the top rate.

The preferred solution is to lower the top tax rate – in fact that is the Govt’s official goal – to have a top tax rate of 30% for individuals, companies and trusts.

The IRD says that when the top income tax rate of 39 cents (now 38 cents) was applied to earnings of $60,000+ in 2000, a flood of taxpayers rearranged their finances to avoid the new regime.

I understand the number of people who declared they earned exactly $60,000 increased literally exponentially.

English said large-scale “legitimate avoidance behaviour” by higher-income earners undermined the goodwill of lower-income earners.

“It’s quite telling that there has been virtually no growth in the number of people paying tax on $1 million of annual income, since the 39 cent top personal tax rate was introduced 10 years ago.

So reduce the incentives for avoidance and cut the top tax rate. When Muldoon’s top tax rate of 66% was dropped to 33%, it killed off much of the avoidance industry. Cullen recreated it.

Also some of the reason for no growth in people paying tax on a million dollars of income, is they have gone overseas.

“As a country, we want families, businesses, accountants and lawyers looking at how to unlock greater income and productivity, not working out how to minimise their tax.

“We don’t want people spending their time and resources trying to avoid tax. We also don’t want IRD devoting all its time to chasing tax and compliance issues.”

Then again drop the top tax rate!

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