The Insider
What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Over-taxed at IRD

IRD's ageing computer system is once again unable to cope with the increased workload required to implement government reform. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today
IRD's ageing computer system is once again unable to cope with the increased workload required to implement government reform. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today

Once again, a law change has been delayed because Inland Revenue's computer systems cannot cope. A long overdue overhaul of child support law was to come into force in April, but IRD has told MPs the new formula should be delayed until April 2014, and other changes until 2015. Inland Revenue is expecting a 15 per cent increase in the workload associated with administering what is already "Inland Revenue's most expensive product to administer on a per person basis". There are estimated additional costs of $91 million and a $28 million contingency because of the significant IT risk involved. It is not the first time IRD's computers have dictated the pace of reform, but with the government set to make decisions about replacing the ageing system, some will be hoping it is the last.

A fierce lobbying battle is happening over the prospect of applying competition law to international shipping. Some shipping companies are threatening to withdraw services if they lose their exemption from competition law, saying publicly that because of low freight volumes in and out of New Zealand, compliance will not be worth the hassle.

They say vessel sharing arrangements might be treated as collusion, which would be unfair as they make the New Zealand/Pacific Island markets more viable (and more profitable). The government seems to have fallen into a state of indecision lately about aspects of commerce law, so the shipping companies may get their way.

Plagued by cold callers, British man Richard Herman didn't just get mad - he got even. After giving due warning, he billed one repeat offender for the time he spent answering its call - 19 minutes and 30 seconds, at £10 ($19.60) a minute. Armed with a recording of the call, he took his case to the small claims court and - wonder of wonders - the offender settled before the hearing, paying £195, plus £25 court costs.

Marsden Fund grants are lifesavers for many in the science and research community. After conducting a rigorously non-scientific study, the Insider has discovered the best way to get the big bucks - come up with a quirky title for your research project. For instance, one of the biggest grants in the latest round, $960,000, went to "Surviving in the Eocene ocean", with a lovely literary allusion in the subtitle: "The Unbearable Warmness of Being". The rather poetic "How does the heart grow?" received $910,000, but another human anatomy study got only $345,000, perhaps because it was prosaically titled "Understanding the rapid electrophysiological transition in the stomach". Likewise, research on the triggers for toxin production in planktonic cyanobacteria received $920,000, maybe because the project was called "Toxic in crowds", compared with $345,000 for the plainly named "Photodissociation of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere". The lesson for scientists seems obvious. Hire a writer.

There's nothing like changes to employment law to polarise the lobby groups. The Government's plan to change Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act - dealing with contracting mainly in the cleaning, catering, and laundry industries - is a case in point. Unions see it as the end of the world; business groups think it is a bit too mild. What is surprising is that anyone is shocked by it. Perhaps all those well-informed groups and commentators didn't read National's election manifesto.

What's the chance of a new business surviving for 10 years? Not much better than one in four, say figures out this week from Statistics NZ. Over the past decade, about 80 per cent of new enterprises - companies, partnerships, self-employed individuals etc - made it to their first birthday, but by year 10, only 28 per cent were left.

Eyebrows have been raised in the Beehive after the Christchurch City Council voted to spend $127.5 million repairing the old town hall, which is insured for about half that much. The council believes the town hall is "iconic", justifying the cost of about $1400 per household in the city. But some people in government think the city council is insolvent, and wonder why it wants to add even more to its liabilities, especially as the government is offering to build a new convention centre.

- NZ Herald

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