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Dunne Releases IRD Inquiry Report

Wednesday 13 October 1999

DUNNE RELEASES IRD INQUIRY REPORT

United New Zealand leader and Finance and Expenditure Committee chair, Hon Peter Dunne, has released the report of the Finance and Expenditure Committee on its inquiry into the powers and operations of the Inland Revenue Department.

The inquiry was established by the committee in March 1999, and has been going for the last six months, hearing some 64 oral submissions, over 52 hours, as well as receiving a further 124 written submissions.

Mr Dunne says that although this is the final report of his committee, he does not see it as the last word on the Inland Revenue inquiry.

“While we have covered many issues in the time available, we have not been able to complete the inquiry, and we have therefore made many recommendations that we expect both the next Government and the next Finance and Expenditure Committee to take further.”

“Nevertheless, we have been able to make substantial progress, as the 27 detailed recommendations we have made show.”

“Consistent with my statements at the start of the inquiry, we have not used the investigation as an opportunity to relitigate the many individual taxpayers’ cases that were the subject of evidence to us.”

“We do, however, deeply acknowledge those individual submissions, many of which were made under great personal stress, and believe that our recommendations will go some considerable way towards ensuring there is not a repetition of such adverse circumstances in the future,” he says.

Mr Dunne says the inquiry has concluded that although the vast majority of taxpayer dealings with IRD are non-controversial and carried in a fair and ethical way, there is nevertheless a need for a cultural shift within the way IRD operates to reflect a greater customer focus, and that change must be driven from the top.

“We acknowledge the words of a former Commissioner of Inland Revenue that IRD is a civil service – its officers are there to be civil to taxpayers and to provide a service.”

“Accordingly we are recommending moves which we believe will be both beneficial to taxpayers and will also ensure an improvement in the IRD’s overall level of service.”

“Among these are:

A taxpayer’s charter to inform taxpayers of their rights and obligations;
An independent board of directors for IRD to oversee the operation of its powers;
The establishment of a specialist tax adviser position within the Ombudsman’s office;
A requirement on IRD to advise dissatisfied taxpayers of their rights to external appeal;
The re-introduction of a problem resolution service, which must be well publicised;
A more flexible approach to the application of penalties;
A requirement that IRD improve the timeliness of its written responses to taxpayers, and improve the efficiency of its telephone services;
A review of IRD’s preferential status in liquidation proceedings.”

“By far the biggest and most difficult issue for us to deal with was that of departmental culture.”

“We are extremely concerned that the IRD is seen by many taxpayers as having a culture of fear and punishment, and we believe that the pendulum has swung too far towards the use of sanctions and threats to enforce taxpayer compliance.”

“We have concluded there must be an attitudinal shift within IRD itself, and that must be led from the very top of the organisation, from the Commissioner and his senior management and operations team,” he says.

Mr Dunne says he was determined from the outset of the inquiry that it become neither a “witch hunt” of IRD personnel, or a “kangaroo court” for disaffected taxpayers.

“We have honoured those commitments and our report today proposes practical steps the next Government can implement now, but also signals clearly areas where the next Finance and Expenditure Committee should concentrate its efforts, more thoroughly than we were able to do in the time available.”

“This report contains both a clear recognition of the problems confronting IRD, and makes a strong start towards proposing measures to address them.”

“I express my special thanks to my fellow committee members and our secretariat for their work during this inquiry,” Mr Dunne says.

ENDS

New Zealand’s Liberal Party


MEDIA STATEMENT
HON PETER DUNNE, MP
LEADER UNITED NEW ZEALAND
Parliament Buildings, Wellington 1.
e-mail: peter.dunne@parliament.govt.nz. Internet Address: http://www.united.org.nz


New Zealand’s Liberal Party

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