Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Silly to ignore dodgy tax dealings of the well-off

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Chester Borrows. Photo / Supplied
Chester Borrows. Photo / Supplied

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows has come out this week, all testosterone engorged and righteous, and declared a fatwa on thieving, taxpayer rorting, fraudster beneficiaries.

Anyone who is on a DPB or a Sole Parent Allowance, and who is in any sort of relationship, is already liable for prosecution. Now the Government has decreed that the partner of the beneficiary is liable for prosecution, too.

And we're not talking a slap over the hand with a wet bus ticket. The partners of those deemed to be fraudsters will be liable for a fine of up to $5000 or a year in jail.

Chester Borrows reasoned that he wasn't beneficiary bashing - he was going after criminals. In the same way that police charge people who receive stolen goods so, too, should those living in households where they live the life of Reilly on taxpayer-funded benefits.

In principle, you can't argue with that. Of course people who make declarations about their circumstances should be truthful and honest.

But if we're going to talk truthfulness and honesty, then shouldn't we look at the activities of all New Zealanders?

We've spoken many times on talkback about the billions of dollars of lost revenue to the Government that results from cashies - jobs done by people in return for actual paper money that doesn't have to go through the books and the accountants and for which no GST or income tax is paid.

If you dare to suggest to people that cashies are wrong, they'll point the finger at white collar, high-income earners who hire top line accountants to pay the barest minimum in tax.

We can't afford the sorts of people who can make numbers jump through hoops, they reason, so we'll evade tax in our own way.

Accuse those earning top dollars of tax evasion and they'll argue they already pay the lion's share of tax in this country and they get nothing back in return.

They go private for their health and their children's education and they don't use the roads because they fly everywhere.

And, if you can believe the figures, everyone was rorting ACC, hence the cutbacks in treatments and services and payments provided by the corporation.

Borrows has argued that other fraud committed by Kiwis - those involved in cashies and the tax-evading rich pricks - doesn't come under his purview.

He's concerned only with matters pertaining to social development.

Fair enough. And it's only right and proper that people who are ripping off the welfare system be punished.

But I hope the white hot glare of ministerial scrutiny is also turned on those people who undercut honest tradespeople by agreeing to perform jobs under the table and on to those who would rather spend thousands of dollars on accountants than paying those thousands willingly in tax.

- Herald on Sunday

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