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Govt’s tax think-tank membership compromised

21 October 2009

Govt’s tax think-tank membership compromised

A Government sponsored group set up to look at tax reform is hopelessly compromised due to its membership containing people currently embroiled in court cases involving tax avoidance, Green Party Co-Leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

The tax working group set up earlier this year contains a large number of private sector tax experts one of whom, John Shewan, was an advisor to Westpac earlier this decade.

Westpac recently lost a $918 million tax battle with Inland Revenue (IRD). The IRD introduced evidence in the High Court that Mr Shewan had advised Westpac to pay a lower rate of tax than the corporate tax rate.

“The recent outcome of the High Court case in Auckland involving Westpac shows that members of the group set up to reform the NZ tax system have been actively involved in promoting tax avoidance to assist overseas-owned banks,” said Dr Norman.

“The composition of this working group is far too skewed towards those working for corporate interests.

“The tax working group is in no way representative of New Zealand society.”

Dr Norman further pointed out that when the tax working group was originally set up there was not even one woman on it.

“Only after concerns were raised by the CTU did the tax working group decide to include one female representative - Auckland University economist Dr Susan St John,” said Dr Norman.

“I have very real concerns that the Government will be getting a report back from this group later this year that favours the sectors many on this group represent rather than the vast majority of tax paying New Zealanders.”

Link to background article on Westpac vs IRD


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