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Import News: Anderton's Tax Grab Illegal

Import News from the Importers Institute 13 November 2001 - Anderton's Tax Grab Illegal

Acting Customs Minister Jim Anderton announced that, from 1 July 2001, a "subsidy reduction" of $18 per import shipment will be levied on all shipments with a value of more than $1,000. The Importers Institute called this the most facile spin yet to come out of this government. The so-called "subsidy reduction" is a new tax that will transfer $15 million from importers' bank accounts to government coffers.

This initiative is yet another government attack on business. The needs of business are simply not understood by the collection of teachers, lecturers and trade unionists that comprise this government.

At first, we thought that this was yet another tax grab from a government in perennial need of our money to spend on 'necessities' like a new State-owned bank and opera troupes. Another plausible explanation was that Mr Anderton was in need of bolstering his anti-business credentials to the Alliance anoraks, in the lead up to their conference last weekend. It has now transpired that Mr Anderton was replying to requests from an outfit called Export Institute of New Zealand, Inc.

A Mr Murray Davies is the national president of that organisation. We suggest that all those exporters who are happy to pay the new fees on all their imported components should send Mr Davies a congratulatory email (to info@export.org.nz). As Mr Davies is currently touring Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina on a government-sponsored mission, he will be able to pass on your good wishes to fellow missioners, including Prime Minister Helen Clark. WTO Rules (GATT Article VIII: Fees and Formalities connected with Importation and Exportation) allow the imposition of some customs processing fees provided they are "limited in amount to the approximate cost of services rendered and shall not represent indirect protection to domestic producers or a taxation on imports for fiscal purposes".

It is interesting to note that the Minister specifically excluded exports from the new tax. In fact, he said that it "will put everyone on a level playing field". This means that the new tax is little more than a backdoor tariff - and illegal. The Importers Institute hopes that other governments will take the appropriate action against Mr Anderton's idea in the WTO.

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