Wellington mayoral hopeful Merepeka Raukawa-Tait has past convictions for failing to pay employees' taxes.



The Women's Refuge chief executive, under her previous name Merepeka Sims, pleaded not guilty to 12 charges totalling $12,466 in Rotorua District Court in 1993.



She was convicted and sentenced to community service.



Mrs Raukawa-Tait announced last month she was standing for the Wellington mayoralty. She planned to submit her nomination yesterday, saying the convictions were in the past and should not affect her ability as mayor.

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She told The Evening Post that the tax matter, which related to two previous businesses in Rotorua, was "well and truly in the past".



"I think that most people that have ever gone into business have had dealings with the Inland Revenue Department ... If anyone wants to ask me about it then they're more than welcome to ring me up about it," she said.



"That was at a time when I was attempting to grow a business. It didn't work out well ... I was lucky to come out of it and I've learned from it."



Mrs Raukawa-Tait said she later paid the tax .



She said her financial successes with Women's Refuge proved her fitness to manage Wellington's finances.



Inland Revenue had investigated her PAYE payments in respect of her Rotoiti businesses, the Emery Store and Hinehopu. At the time a member of Bay of Plenty Regional Council, she had been accused of deliberately not paying PAYE so she could put the money back into her two businesses.



A tax law specialist told the Post the charge of failing to pay PAYE was one of the more serious tax offences because it involved other people's money.



Today, the maximum penalty is five years imprisonment and/or a $50,000 fine.



- NZPA