Geoffrey Cone is a force to reckon with when it comes to tax laws. He is a specialist and an established legal practitioner. He graduated from University of Otago in New Zealand with a degree in tax and trust law and also got a post graduate diploma in the same course. He began practicing in Auckland, New Zealand in 1980.
Later, he relocated to Christchurch where he worked in a notable law firm not just as a partner but as the Chairman of partners. He specialized in tax and trust advisory and commercial litigation. Due to his legal expertise, it didn’t take long before he began to appear in court as lead counsel. Thereafter, he worked for another two years before relocating back to Auckland 1997. Two years after his return, he established his own law firm – Cone Marshall Limited. His firm is said to be the only law firm in New Zealand that handles international trust and tax planning.
New Zealand is not a tax haven and can never be. OECD regularly updates the list of tax havens and New Zealand has never been included in the list. There is usually lack of transparency in the dealings of tax havens and they also hinder free flow of exchange of information with other governments. New Zealand does not engage in that so it can’t be regarded as a tax haven.
Due to the exhibited transparency in the exchange of information with other governments, New Zealand was among the first few countries to be placed on the OECD’s white list for compliance to the internationally agreed tax standard.
Another way through which New Zealand has demonstrated a high level of tax transparency is how foreign trusts are handled and the stringent trustee requirements. All these are geared towards transparency to other governments that may need vital information.
To further strengthen the policy, Michael Cullen introduced new rules in 2006. Every trustee that lives in New Zealand must tender a foreign trust disclosure form and keep other vital records for tax purposes. And all records must be kept in New Zealand and documented in English. Needless to say stiff penalties await defaulters.
To eliminate all forms of tax obstacles to cross-border financial transactions and curb tax evasion, New Zealand operates double tax agreements. Despite all the structures in place, New Zealand also has more than 20 agreements with several other countries on exchange of tax information.
New Zealand always refrains from transacting business with both established and suspected tax havens. We only deal with countries with transparent tax system like the US, Singapore and Britain. Are these characteristics of a tax haven? Despite all New Zealand’s open efforts in curbing tax evasion, why will anybody still see the country as a tax haven?