Govt knows nothing about EU's tax blacklist

Govt knows nothing about EU's tax blacklist

The Government knows nothing about a reported investigation into New Zealand's tax haven status by the European Union.

New Zealand is on a list of 28 countries the EU is looking into, with trade sanctions possible if our tax laws don't meet its standards. Presently they don't, and still won't after changes recommended by tax expert John Shewan are made law later this year.

The EU is New Zealand's third-largest trading partner and worth about $7000 for every person in New Zealand, and we're trying to negotiate a free trade agreement with them.

But Acting Prime Minister Gerry Brownlee says they've heard nothing about any investigation.

"It is a serious matter," he told Paul Henry on Tuesday morning.

"We've had no official correspondence at all from the EU about this matter… We have had no indication from the European Union we are under investigation or eminently going to be reversed from our position of being a compliant country to a non-compliant country."

Mr Brownlee's comments appear to contradict what Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse said on Monday - that the Government was aware of the investigation, but hadn't received advice action against New Zealand was being considered.

Mr Brownlee says just last month New Zealand was ranked by the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information in the top few countries in the world for its open tax system.

"I don't think much would have changed in that time… We don't want to have any suggestion that New Zealand is uncooperative as far as making sure that the various tax bases around the world are protected."

He also says any tax investigation won't have any effect on New Zealand's bid for a trade agreement with the EU, "as far as we know".

"We are of course pursuing the trade deal and we'll pursue that with Britain should they exit as well. But to confuse the two at this point is a bit too much… I'm not too worried by it."

The EU loses around $1 trillion to tax havens every year. New Zealand's role in the international tax avoidance industry was revealed in the Panama Papers, but the Government has repeatedly denied we're living in a tax haven.

Labour leader Andrew Little says the latest revelations are "just the sort of thing we were concerned about when this issue first came up".

"It is about New Zealand's reputation, and we don't want to be part of a club that says we'll help others avoid their tax responsibilities."