People around the world have the odd impression that New Zealand is full of lavish, wealthy people making complex financial deals in a tax haven. Geoffrey Cone is here to clear the record: New Zealand is not a tax haven.
The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) keeps a list of tax havens in the world, and New Zealand is not on it. It is highly unlikely that they will ever be on it. There are key characteristics of tax havens: They impose no or strictly nominal taxes, and there is a serious lack of transparency. New Zealand doesn’t qualify as a tax haven on any of those grounds.
The 2002 OCED Model Agreement on Exchange of Information on Tax Matters defined the gold standard for transparency. It supports the exchange of information to give out or enforce domestic tax laws. New Zealand was one of the first in the world to be placed on the white list of the OECD for implementing the agreed upon tax standard.
New Zealand has shown leadership in tax transparency by how it handles foreign trusts and all of the requirements that it places on its trustees. All of these things go towards the assistance of other governments in requesting information.
They require resident trustees that have a foreign trust to submit a Foreign Trust Disclosure form and to keep other records for tax purposes. These records include trust deeds, settlement details, and details of assets and liabilities. If the trust is carried on a business, the trustee must keep additional information about their accounting system.
All of these records must be kept in New Zealand, recorded in English. The failure to comply to these rules can and most likely will result in heavy penalties. All of this power was enhanced in 2011 by the legislation of world standard money laundering.
Geoffrey Cone practices law at Cone Marshall LTD. He graduated from University of Otago in New Zealand with a degree in tax and trust law. He started practicing in 1980 and quickly became a partner and the Chairman of Partners in a leading law firm. He practiced in commercial litigation in addition to tax and trust advisory work.
After two years of working as a litigator in the British West Indies, he returned to New Zealand in 1997 and started his own practice in 1999. His newly established firm, Cone Marshall LTD, is the only New Zealand firm that specializes in international trust and tax planning. It also provides trustee and trust management services through their affiliated companies.