Opinion: Panama Papers a flop

New Zealand's reputation is at risk from the Panama Papers revelations (Getty)
New Zealand's reputation is at risk from the Panama Papers revelations (Getty)

Are we a tax haven for foreigners? Probably. 

If we are allowing some people in other countries to avoid paying tax in their country then that's a tax haven, isn't it? 

But has the sky fallen in here? Nope.

Even the Government's arch-enemy, Greens co-leader, James Shaw, says he's seen nothing illegal. He doesn't even think we need to scrap foreign trusts. 

The Panama Papers have highlighted the scale of the issue but they've told us nothing new, yet. 

It's actually been a big, fat flop. 

Will we make changes to this regime and improve disclosure rules? You bet. 

It'll happen within weeks. But this should have happened years ago. Key will see this as nuisance value, like a bad flea bite. He'll get rid of it. 

The Government knows exactly what to do as it ignored advice from the IRD two years ago to tighten things up. That was wrong. They are now playing catch-up. 

It's true we are a shelter, a safe haven for some to bury their assets and income in New Zealand away from their home countries. Many of these countries are corrupt and dodgy.

Will some be abusing it? Yes, according to former IRD big-wig, Robin Oliver. Is that illegal? No. Morally wrong? It feels like it, doesn't it? A rule for the rich while we pay every last cent to the IRD. 

But all this was highlighted in 2012 in a good investigative story by 60 Minutes. The Government looked the other way then. It can't now. Peter Dunne knew the issue then -- it's disingenuous for him to suggest he wasn't aware of the issue. 

I don't think our reputation suffers greatly. Our tax system is actually bloody good and genuinely robust, and I doubt we'll lose a single tourist or any foreign investment as a result. 

Labour set this regime up and National has allowed it to blossom, without a decent review and a few changes. That will now change. 

In that sense the Panama Papers have been successful. But where's the smoking gun? Is this it? 

It's not keeping me awake at night. I worry more about how many kids we kill in New Zealand due to our dire record on child violence and domestic abuse.

Thirteen children were killed last year. I wish our politicians would show as much interest in that -- but the solution is so much harder than a changing a bit of tax law for the rich and famous. 

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