Govt will act on all Shewan tax recommendations

Revenue Minister Michael Woohouse (Simon Wong / Newshub.)
Revenue Minister Michael Woohouse (Simon Wong / Newshub.)

All 16 recommendations made by government-appointed tax investigator John Shewan in the wake of the Panama Papers saga will be adopted.

Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse says the inquiry into foreign trust disclosure rules highlighted areas where improvements can be made, especially in the areas of registration and disclosure of information, anti-money laundering rules and increased information sharing between government agencies.

The inquiry was launched by the Government following the release of tens of thousands of pages of tax records from Panama company Mossack Fonseca which showed a global network of tax avoidance.

New Zealand was caught up in the saga, identified as a place where rich foreigners could keep their cash to avoid tax in their homelands. 

Mr Woodhouse says most of the changes will be rolled out as quickly as next month, when a Tax Bill is introduced into Parliament, tightening loose ends in the tax system. 

"We have already committed to a course of action for strengthening New Zealand's anti-money laundering rules, which will bring in more comprehensive requirements for lawyers, accountants, real estate agents and others," he says. 

Finance Minister Bill English is calling the recommendations sensible and well-reasoned.

The Green Party says the Government's back-down on foreign trusts is welcomed, saying they've been wanting similar changes since 2012.

Finance spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter says the changes would likely lead to "greater scrutiny and oversight of this dark industry".

"The secrecy and tax-free status of New Zealand foreign trusts have made them an attractive vehicle for tax avoidance and crime, damaging our reputation abroad.

"The National Government has consistently defended foreign trusts, with the Prime Minister saying we had 'full disclosure' as recently as two months ago," she says.