The incoming Government has committed to lifting penalties for corporate fraud and tax evasion.

While few details were revealed this afternoon, the lift in sanctions for this sort of offending was part of New Zealand First's election policies.

According to the party's website, it wanted to double the criminal penalty for tax evasion offences to 10 years per offence - and increase fines from up to $50,000 to $5 million per offence.

One senior lawyer told the Herald this afternoon that she wasn't aware of any call for tougher penalties in legal circles, nor of any work done by the Law Commission in this area.


The move may be an attempt to do away with any perception that the country is a soft-touch when it comes to white collar crime.

A Victoria University study last year found that welfare fraudsters face a tougher time than tax evaders, even though tax evasion costs taxpayers three times more.

The study shows tax discrepancies cost the Government $1.24 billion in 2014, while welfare fraud cost the Government $30.6 million.

However, it showed tax evaders were far less likely to be investigated, prosecuted or imprisoned, and far more likely to have debts written off.

Associate Professor Lisa Marriott, at the time, said judges tended to denounce blue-collar criminals for the "seriousness" of their offending and recognise the "good character"of white-collar offenders.