Tax net widening to include stallholders

By Amy McGillivray, Katie Holland

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Stallholders at farmers' markets may soon come under the scrutiny of the Inland Revenue Department.

In its annual Compliance Focus document released last month, tackling the "hidden economy" of businesses that don't declare all their income was one of the IRD's key priorities.

In Whangarei, a growers' market manager recently reported receiving a letter from IRD asking for a stallholder's details and an IRD spokesman confirmed markets were being monitored and may be subject to site checks.

However, the manager of the Tauranga Farmers' Market, Trixie Allen, said she had not had any such communication and was not aware of the IRD contacting or monitoring any of the stallholders.

She is able to provide stallholders' details if requested to do so, but said it was up to each seller to comply with tax regulations. "As independents coming to the market, it's their own responsibility," she said.

"We've had no issues at all. It's the same as complying with the bylaws."

That the IRD would target markets came as no surprise to her.

"When I think about it, markets in general are a very, very popular way of generating income nowadays so it's logical that they would be watching, just the same as they watch everyone else."

Rotorua's Soundshell Market manager, Liz Davies, said as far as she was aware the IRD had never visited the lakefront market.

She said most of her stallholders were craftspeople who sold their goods as a hobby although there were some commercial traders operating.

"It [tax compliance] is up to them. They are big boys."

Tauranga accountancy firm Ingham Mora director Michael Stuart said he had not had any experience with the IRD targeting stallholders but said the cash market was a huge industry.

"I'm amazed by how often you're getting work done at home and the tradesman says it's this price but if you pay by cash it's this much," he said.

"It makes the honest people uncompetitive and that's a problem."

Judith Stanway, managing partner of Rotorua accountancy firm BDO, said new IRD commissioner Naomi Ferguson had made it clear cash businesses - even small ones - were one of the areas she wanted to focus on.

Ms Stanway said statistics indicated there was a significant "black economy" in New Zealand.

"There is a huge number of small players that they [IRD] want to bring into the net."

She said while market traders were a target, those selling goods on internet auction website Trade Me should also be wary.

"It's a fairly easy way to catch people compared to markets."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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