Barry Soper: John Key's foreign trust backflip


They all do it, it's just that John Key tends to do it more than most.

Testing his toe in the pool of public opinion and if there's more than a ripple he'll do a backward flip turning a 'yeah' into a 'nah'.

The latest is his position on the Panama papers which revealed there were around 12,000 foreign trusts operating through this country. Yeah, so what? seemed to be his initial response, insisting there was complete disclosure, citing a clean bill of health for the trusts from the old boys' club, the OECD, and the fact that we've signed up to a convention to dob in the dodgers.

Yeah, well that convention, that we're all meant to feel comfortable with, contains well known taxation utopias like the Cayman Islands, the Seychelles and not forgetting Switzerland - that the Prime Minister once said he'd like us resembling in this part of the world when it came to providing financial services.

But then came the news that a cabinet minister from Malta and their Prime Minister's chief of staff worked through trusts registered here and were in hot water at home.

Also, the Icelandic Prime Minister resigned after avoiding tax through a trust and even his old Etonian buddy David Cameron is facing tough questions about his late dad's foreign trust that he once had money in.

The ripple suddenly become a wave and Key's now ordered a tax expert to look into the trusts here, presumably to reassure us that there's not one rule for the rich and another for the PAYE plodders - while at the same time dispelling the notion that this country is the tax haven many are now saying it is.

If you listen to the academic experts, who've already had a squizz at foreign trusts here, they could save the Government's expert a lot of work. Other than informing the IRD of a trust's existence they have to declare diddly squat we're told.

READ MORE: Stephen Mihm: Shocked by the Panama Papers? Blame Switzerland

And even though the PM insists IRD proactively shares information with other countries, given the amount of work they do collecting tax in this country, they're not going to be busting their butts narking on others avoiding tax in their country, especially when there's no filthy lucre in if for them.

So if the experts so far are right, they're unlikely to have a lot of damning info on foreign trusts anyway simply because the information won't be available.

Still, an inquiry will settle the dust for a while.

Debate on this article is now closed.


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