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FEC Key Findings on IRD

“The Finance and Expenditure Select Committee's Inquiry into IRD’s culture and operation vindicates ACT’s long-running complaint that the IRD has a “bully-boy” culture and needs major overhaul. The FEC says amongst other things:

* “There are times when the department’s approach in its dealings with taxpayers has been less than exemplary”;

* “The department in our view sometimes dealt with these taxpayers [i.e. submissioners] in a heavy-handed and dictatorial fashion”;

* “We have taken account of the many examples given to us by taxpayers who have been confronted with amended assessments of apparently insupportable amounts and the subsequent difficulties encountered in trying to understand the basis of assessment”;

* “Recent changes in the tax laws have imposed on taxpayers significant compliance obligations, the department has at its disposal extensive investigatory powers which are less well supervised than those of the Police, and the burden of the ‘onus of proof’ all combine to produce an impression that it is impossible and perhaps foolhardy to ‘take on’ the department”;

* “The policies for instalment arrangements are inconsistently applied across offices, with some offices being overly restrictive relative to the department’s stated policies”;

* “This kind of disregard for the law [in respect of instalment arrangements] could severely damage the integrity of the tax system”;

* The Committee expressed “concern” at the pattern revealed by submissioners of a “heavy-handed approach to debt collection” and “standover tactics”;

* “We consider that the department’s culture is one which sometimes emphasises enforcement at the expense of providing a courteous and professional service to taxpayers. The fact that taxpayers have obligations does not excuse the manner in which some taxpayers have been treated by the Department”;

* “We believe that the pendulum has swung too far towards the use of sanctions and threats to enforce compliance”;

* “What we consider is required is an attitudinal shift. This shifts needs to come from senior management and involve a restatement of values focussing on the needs of the department’s customers”;

* “More checks and balances on the department’s exercise of its powers are required to enhance the integrity of the tax system”;

* “There is a need for a cultural shift in the department to reflect a greater customer oriented ethos”;

* “The culture of any organisation stems from its leaders. Some submissioners to us suggest that the department’s senior management team, including the Commissioner, have engendered a culture of punishment and fear which impacts upon both staff and in turn taxpayers. Irrespective of the extent to which this is true, we believe that there must be a cultural shift within the department, and that shift must come from the top”. * We need changes in the laws and policies that drive the IRD. We also need fresh management to effect the necessary shift in culture,” said Rodney Hide.


ends

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