Rosie Dawson-Hewes: Tax haven idea bad for all of us

By Rosie Dawson-Hewes

8 comments
Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse denies New Zealand is a tax haven.
Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse denies New Zealand is a tax haven.

This week has seen an unprecedented leak of 11.5million files from the database of the world's fourth-biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The documents, nicknamed the Panama Papers, shed light on the myriad ways the world's wealthy are exploiting secretive offshore tax regimes, with a trail of money that leads all the way to little, old New Zealand.

(As an aside, can we just take a minute to thank the saviour who chose not to name this whole thing Panama-gate? Honestly, the only gates I'm interested in now are the ones you close behind you on your way to someone's garden or paddock.)

The story, and its implication that New Zealand is an offshore tax haven, has seen social media explode with people surprised and incensed that such a thing would take place here.

Read more: Pupils raising cash to send popular teacher to Melbourne for treatment

"It's shameful for New Zealand to be caught up in international tax avoidance," Deborah Russell from Massey's School of Accountancy told the Herald on Monday.

But Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse hit back, saying it was "ridiculous to suggest that New Zealand is a tax haven".

I don't think we should be surprised at all. John Key has hinted at his wish for us, as a nation, to offer international financial services for some time.

When he was National's finance spokesman in 2005, he spoke about New Zealand becoming the "Jersey of the South Pacific" and his wish to develop the offshore banking industry, something I am incredibly uncomfortable with.

Jersey is a tiny British Crown dependency off the coast of France and is a popular tax haven because of its light taxes.

I just can't see how anyone but the wealthy benefit when they use our laws to avoid paying tax in their own country.
Rosie Dawson-Hewes

I think the reason people are so upset and surprised at what the Panama Papers revealed is because New Zealand is a country of fair play; from the rugby field to the boardroom, everyone deserves a fair go.

When the wealthy avoid paying tax, it gives the finger to our ethos of fair play. As a friend of mine so succinctly put it on Facebook: "Surprise! Rich people like to stay rich and they don't give a **** about you."

Admittedly that's a very black-and-white view of things and I don't think all rich people fall into such a category. But, the way I see it, avoiding paying tax just isn't fair and it's not what we Kiwis are about.

When one group in society ignores the rules and only looks out for themselves it goes against the grain of the 2x4 and No8 wire our proud wee nation is built on.

We're shocked to discover that not everyone is doing their bit. It's a kick in the guts when we're so used to looking out for each other.

Our tax system is built on the notion that we all pitch in to the collective pot so we all benefit from great things, such as free education and healthcare.

Those who are financially comfortable pitch in a bit more, so those who are struggling don't pay as much. But everyone benefits.

I just can't see how anyone but the wealthy benefit when they use our laws to avoid paying tax in their own country.

Read more: Bay students surpass NCEA average

This whole saga has been particularly poignant for me this week as I've been through a first-hand experience of our brilliant healthcare system at work. From the professionalism of our St John ambulance officers, to triage nurses and ED doctors, this past weekend I witnessed the high level of care our taxpayer-funded health system provides. It is so comforting, in your time of most need, to know that all your years of dutifully paying tax mean that you're not going to end up with a whopping bill just to get the help you need to feel healthy again.

As I sat in ED waiting for test results, all I could think was "thank goodness for paying tax".

That's the way it should be.

We all do our bit so that when we need it most, help is there.

We need to lock down the loopholes in our law allowing people to take advantage. It's not fair and it shouldn't continue.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 29 Sep 2016 18:04:18 Processing Time: 826ms