Panama’s in Pajamas
By Lyndon Hood
New Zealand’s international trust regime has been under the spotlight with the release of the ‘Panama Papers’. The often murky and suspicious offshore finance industry appears to regard New Zealand highly.
Scoop registered a special shell company in order to facilitate the free exchange of views with a government expert on the subject.
Scoop: Hello there.
Person in charge of Policy Formation on Foreign Things: Hi.
S: Can I ask your name?
P: You certainly can.
S: Well, then.
P: You usually don’t though. In practice.
S: Why not?
P: I might not want to tell you. Or it might be inconvenient for you to know, I suppose. I have to know my name though, so that’s all right. It’s called disclosure. All above board.
S: Well I have to assume it is. Basically I’m taking this on…
S: … trust.
P: Yes, that’s the exact word. It’s a completely transparent disclosure regime.
S: Transparent like a window?
P: Or air. Can’t see it at all.
S: So is New Zealand a tax haven?
P: No definitely not. Our tax regime is very respected internationally.
S: And not just by the international people using us as a tax haven?
P: We’re not a tax haven.
S: …using us like a tax haven? I mean, people can put their money here and not pay tax.
P: You’ve got it.
S: Apart from tax avoidance and crime, why do people need these foreign trusts anyway?
P: Well imagine you were living under a totalitarian regime and you wanted to send your money to a better life in the free world. Or if your town was being attacked and you didn’t want your money cowering under the bed while bombs fell on your roof. It’s perfectly in line with international convention: if money shows up seeking sanctuary, you can’t just send money back to face political persecution.
S: That’s people. Refugees.
S: You’re talking about the refugee convention.
P: What did I say?
P: Oh, did I? No you’re right, I meant to say money. I mean, people. Anyway, the point is, there’s a lot of instability in the world at the moment and huge amounts of displaced money…
P: … Yes, I suppose … and it’s our duty to take in as much of it…
S: Of them.
P: … Sorry, right … As we can. “Give me your currency, your wealth, your fiscal masses yearning to be tax-free.” “What is the most important thing in the world? …”
S: I’ll stop you there. So can I take it the government will be doubling the refugee quota?
P: Depends, is there any money in it?
S: Well, once they’re settled refugees pay taxes like everyone else.
P: Well, not everyone else.
S: Sorry: like all the people who aren’t rich enough to hire tax lawyers.
P: This refugee thing’s got potential, though. Have your people talk to my people.
S: Who are your people?
P: Tax lawyers. Who are yours?
S: Just people.
P: They probably can’t afford to talk to tax lawyers, then. Well that’s a shame.
S: We’re grateful for your time.
P: So you should be, I usually get $300 an hour.