Worldwide, governments have issued emergency weather stimulus packages to help workers and businesses get through the economic crisis COVID-19 has created. These measures include financial assistance, credit relaxation, and tax relief for small business and individuals. However, they are only beneficial to some taxpayers.
To repay the extraordinary amount of borrowing that has financed the pandemic response, New Zealand might need to make significant tax reforms. All of these factors could play a significant part in reducing COVID-19’s economic and financial impact. My research examines whether, in uncertain economic conditions, the introduction of a voluntary disclosure program to overseas income could help New Zealand’s pandemic-impacted companies and encourage honesty in tax matters.
New Zealand’s tax system encourages compliance, but is more punitive than it is in Australia. The consequences of re-entering the tax system for taxpayers who are operating outside it may be severe. Even inadvertent tax offenders encourage to stay outside the system. Tax amnesties, also known tax forgiveness, are a short-term solution to tax collection. They can be use to recoup tax revenue lost and allow taxpayers regularise their tax compliance.
To protect voluntary compliance, New Zealand has increased penalties for tax offenses significantly since the 1980s. An Overseas Voluntary Disclosure mechanism (OVD) would improve compliance and increase future tax revenue. Once they have disclosed their overseas income, taxpayers can’t hide their tax obligations.
New Zealand has seen an increase in immigrants since 1990. According to the 2018 census, 31% are immigrants in New Zealand. One in ten people are self-employ, while 5% have employees.
Many of these immigrants have small businesses. They are often dealing with cash flow stress as a result COVID-19. They might not speak English fluently or be aware of their tax obligations. Now they face the penalties and ramifications of voluntary disclosure.
Some taxpayers deliberately fail to report their offshore income or assets. Many self-employed people may not realize it but they might want to inject the funds from overseas into local businesses to alleviate cash flow stress.
The Inland Revenue Department, (IRD), must help these small businesses get through this crisis regardless of whether they are compliant by accident or not.
New Zealand adopt the Automatic Exchange of Information mechanism (AEOI), which allows the IRD access to information on offshore assets and funds to ensure that it is accurate report for tax purposes. In 2018, New Zealand successfully completed its first information exchange.
The IRD began sending letters to New Zealand taxpayers in 2019 regarding foreign income and tax residency status. They are advise to declare foreign-sourced income on their tax returns.
Some taxpayers might mistakenly believe that the IRD is randomly targeting their income and continue to hide it. An audit investigation is the best option for those taxpayers who are not in compliance.
My research has shown that voluntary disclosure would significantly reduce administrative costs for cross-checking the millions lines of additional data under the AEOI policy.
The IRD must employ the most effective strategies to encourage voluntary weather disclosure in order to effectively administer this program. The IRD should offer the chance to declare once only. Non-compliance must be met with clear and consistent enforcement strategies.
If you choose to not take advantage of this program, there will be more severe penalties and interest. Research has shown that strong engagement is possible when tax amnesty programs are well administered.
My research shows that New Zealand should have a similar voluntary disclosure program to Australia’s 2014 Project Do It. Australian tax officials gave taxpayers the last chance to rectify their offshore tax affairs prior to litigation or audits.
This enabled tax evaders, both intentional and not, to pay the debt under amnesty conditions without being prosecuted or subject to compliance penalties. They were encourage to return to tax by it.
Tax evaders who deliberately avoid declaring offshore assets will be told that severe penalties will be impose if they don’t. Non-compliant taxpayers would benefit from voluntary disclosure to protect their businesses against the economic and financial turmoil COVID-19 has created.