Returning Kiwis - be careful of how you declared your tax residency status while you were away. The IRD may target you …
Perhaps you are one of the many who have booked (somewhat pricey!) tickets to The Eagles
If so you will be familiar with one of The Eagles
most iconic hits: Hotel California
“Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here”
We have been hearing about whether or not New Zealand is a “Rock Star economy” and although we may not agree; there are familiar echoes to the chorus lines of Hotel California.
Music metaphors aside, New Zealand’s improving economy has resulted in a great turn-around in the migration flows between New Zealand and Australia. According to statistics, net migration to New Zealand has been positive and mostly increasing since September 2012…mainly due to fewer departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia.
Now as those migration trends reverse, some of those returning to New Zealand may find their tax residency status isn’t quite as clear cut as they imagined.
Many of you may be aware that a person is deemed to be a tax resident of New Zealand if the person is physically present in New Zealand for more than 183 days in any 12 month period. However, this is the secondary test of tax residency. The overriding test is whether a person has “a permanent place of abode in New Zealand.”
The term “permanent place of abode” is not defined in the Income Tax Act but has been described as meaning a lasting or enduring place where a person usually lives. It is this test which may present some issues for returning Kiwis as an ex-soldier recently discovered to his cost.
The ex-soldier in question retired from the Army in 2003 and then left New Zealand, initially for Australia, but from 2004 in Iraq, as a security consultant with an American company. The ex-soldier continued to work in Iraq with American security firms until April 2012.
The ex-soldier had separated from his wife in 1994 but the couple did not divorce until March 2009. They had a good ongoing relationship and she acted as his de-facto financial advisor and business partner, owning a number of investment properties in partnership. He returned to New Zealand every 5-6 months visiting his ex-wife and their four children, and other friends and family. On average he spent 42 days each tax year in New Zealand during the 2004 to 2007 tax years under review.
Just before Christmas last year, the Taxation Review Authority (TRA) ruled that the ex-soldier had a permanent place of abode in New Zealand for each of the tax years in question and was therefore a tax resident of New Zealand. The TRA ruled that the investment property the ex-soldier owned was an “available dwelling” even though he had never lived in it.
Viewed overall the TRA considered the ex-soldier “continued to have a strong and enduring relationship with New Zealand in the relevant tax years."
To add insult to injury the TRA also upheld
the IRD’s contention that the ex-soldier’s view he was a non-resident was an unacceptable tax position and therefore shortfall penalties applied.
The “availability” of a dwelling has always been critical in determining a person’s permanent place of abode. However, the TRA decision, together with Inland Revenue comments in a draft interpretation statement issued in December 2012, implied that properties rented out even to third parties would be considered “available”.
Fortunately, when the IRD finalised their Interpretation Statement on Tax Residency, IS 14/01 in March 2014, it stepped back from its dramatic extension of the definition of available dwelling.
The Interpretation Statement now makes it clear that the IRD would not ordinarily deem someone who owned holiday homes, or residential rental properties to have an available dwelling as part of determining a permanent place of abode. However, the new interpretation statement does significantly increase the likelihood of people, who leave for 3-5 years, being deemed to continue to have a permanent place of abode in New Zealand.
As paragraph 249 of the Interpretation Statement notes “The New Zealand residence rules for individuals are intended to make it relatively easy to become resident here, and more difficult to lose residence.
What’s more, the Interpretation Statement gives no clear indication what length of absence the IRD would consider acceptable.
The risk therefore arises that the IRD may deem anyone going overseas for a 2-3 year contract to continue to be a New Zealand tax resident. This could well apply to anyone returning to New Zealand after a period working in Australia.
In such an instance the person may want to argue that he or she is an Australian tax resident under the double tax agreement between Australia and New Zealand. But where no double tax agreement exists then, like the ex-soldier in the TRA decision, a hefty tax bill is likely.
The TRA decision and the Interpretation Statement both confirm that anyone thinking of going overseas for a 2-3 year period needs to very carefully consider their New Zealand residency position.
Otherwise, like the ex-soldier in the TRA decision, you may find out the hard way that in tax terms New Zealand is now like the Hotel California –
“You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave”
Landlords set to pick up state tenants
A change in Government policy on state housing is likely to boost demand for private rentals. Up to 800 state house tenants paying market rents, or close to market rents, could be seeking privately owned rental properties over the next financial year as they face possible eviction under a new state house allocation policy that took effect in April of this year.
In total, some 5,000 state house tenants who pay market rate because they have ‘adequate incomes’ will be affected by the move away from the traditional 'homes for life' approach.
The Ministry of Social Development took over state house allocation from Housing NZ on April 15, when all state house tenancies became legally reviewable under a Social Housing Reform Act passed last year.
The first 800 tenants to be reviewed in the financial year starting July 1 will be those paying market rents who have no children and are in areas of adequate supply of alternative housing options.
Reviewable tenancies were first introduced in 2011 and people who became Housing New Zealand tenants from July 2011 have been subject to a review. This will extend to all tenants from July 1.
Junk Mail Delivery Boys and Pizza Hutt Drivers now Self-Employed
IRD has recently ruled that junk mail delivery persons and pizza hut drivers are self-employed so can register for GST and claim expenses against their income. These decisions lead one to ask whether many of the affected people actually declare such earnings and whether IRD will now target such taxpayers.
For most countries the youngsters (and some oldsters) that undertake such work avoid the hassle of tax by tax free thresholds (AUD18,200, GBP10,000 and approx USD10,000). NZ taxes self- employed on the first dollar unless the earner is a child earning less than $2,340 a year (a paltry $45 a week). And, unlike most threshold exemptions, if the child earns $1 over the threshold the entire exemption is wiped and tax is payable on the first dollar.
So if you see the paper boy doing his mail round on a brand new bike, it could be because he realised that he could claim a GST and income tax refund on his work vehicle. Perhaps his accompanying dog is a security cost. And the next time you tip for the pizza delivery, be happy in the knowledge that a chunk of it may end up with the taxman. Imagine the GST refund and depreciation claim on a delivery vehicle such as this one:
Business Banter ...
Is Facebook right for your business?
The world of social media has come a long way in recent years and Facebook, in order to stay at the top of its game, has taken the phenomenon one step further. Offering strategic marketing solutions, paid advertising and even the option to sell retail online, Facebook has created a portal for businesses to get their name out in the marketplace with ease and in real-time.
Perhaps you’ve thought about having a Facebook page for your own business? Here are just some of the key benefits that may help to sway your decision.
The initial set up is completely free of charge and so too is posting or inviting people to like your page. This means you can let your audience know what you’re up to, new products or services on offer and you can also interact with clients on particular issues where you want to gauge opinion.
Facebook takes this a step further though by offering paid posting options, which allow businesses to expand the target audience by paying a fee. For example, any unpaid posts will only show up in the feed of people who already follow your page. Paid posts on the other hand, will promote your page to people who are not currently followers of your business page. This fee is completely up to you and can range anywhere from $5 upwards. You can choose how long you want to run your advertising for, whether it be for one day or ongoing for a chosen length of time or you can simply set a maximum marketing budget and allow the advertisement to run until this amount has been spent.
One of the most exciting aspects to Facebook marketing is the ability to specify and hone in on a particular market by narrowing it down to different demographics, age groups, cities, gender and even down to particular interests.
Facebook is a quick way to let people know you’re out there and what it is your business does. The viral nature of social media means those who like it and share it will instantly pass it on to friends and so forth. With over a billion users worldwide, this provides your business with the potential to reach and expand your market with ease.
Facebook for businesses is a fast growing, effective marketing tool but it’s not for everyone. Take the time to establish whether a Facebook business page is right for you. Look at your competitors and check in on your target market to see how they respond to the idea. Do your research first and ensure there are people on your team who can manage the page appropriately.
Tax Talk ...
Save the date - income tax returns are due on 7 July
|Unless your business has already been given an extension, or an approved late balance date, income tax returns for the 2013-2014 year are due on 7 July.
Cheque duty abolished
Cheque duty will be abolished from 1 July 2014. No duty applies to other payment methods and this simply tidies away a compliance cost. While most businesses have been using other payment methods for some years, enough people still use cheques that the cost of removing the duty is estimated at $15.5 million over four years.
Update on changes to financial reporting
You may have heard about changes to the financial reporting legislation. In the short term, many people are finding it a bit hard to work out how or whether the changes affect them.
The requirements are changing for some businesses that used to have to file financial statements based on the New Zealand version of International Financial Reporting Standards (NZ IFRS). For example, your requirements have changed if your business:
- has less than $30m in turnover or less than $60m in assets, or
- is a subsidiary of a multi-national company and your annual revenue is $10m or less, your assets $20m or less
Inland Revenue has said businesses like this won't have to file financial statements based on NZ IFRS, but do have to prepare financial accounts to the standard of IRD's minimum reporting requirements. You may see some changes to the way your financial statements are presented while we transition to the new regime.
Your bank, of course, will still be interested in seeing financial statements, as will any investors. And business owners, boards and shareholders will still need enough information to have a good grasp of how the business is progressing against key financial targets.
about how the financial reporting changes affect you.