Inside this edition
The business of immigration 1
Proof of intention 2
Budget 2017 3
PAYE changes and tax simplification 3
YouTube receipts 4
Tax innovation 4
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The business of immigration
New Zealand’s immigration system is currently undergoing a significant overhaul, which is sure to impact many local businesses. Following the changes to Investor Category visas announced in December 2016, further changes are also proposed to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) visa, for implementation in August. The proposed amendments are set to ensure better outcomes for both New Zealand citizens and those who are seeking to immigrate here.
Investor visas were first introduced in 2009, resulting in over $2.9 billion invested into NZ. Generally, investors may be granted resident status if they make qualifying investments in NZ for 3 or 4 years. There are two categories – Investor 1 applicants must invest at least $10m and Investor 2 applicants must invest at least $1.5m (plus have other funds available to live on).
Currently, around two thirds of these investments are in bonds. The proposed changes, effective from May 2017, seek to change this by encouraging investment in ‘growth-oriented’ industries. The ‘growth-oriented’ list includes industries associated with equities, commercial property, new residential builds or managed funds, with the potential for others to be added in the future, decided by Government need.
If Investor 1 applicants invest upwards of 25% in New Zealand growth-oriented investments they will have more flexibility on how they can meet the minimum ‘days in NZ’ requirement for this visa type. Furthermore, Investor 2 applicants will receive a reduction in the total amount they need to invest if they are willing to invest in growth investments – a $0.5m discount to be exact. To attain this discount, investors will be required to allocate more than 50% of their total investment to growth-oriented business. They will also enjoy less restriction on how they spend their required days in New Zealand over the four year period of application, much like the Investor 1 category. The additional funding is expected to provide a boost to the economy, providing an alternative funding option for businesses that may have been restricted by lack of investment into growth-oriented ventures.
Alongside this, changes to the SMC visas are also making a splash in the business environment. Residence can be granted for skilled workers under a ‘points’ system, with points granted for various criteria including qualifications and job offers. From August, the points system is supplemented by the introduction of remuneration thresholds: jobs will need a minimum salary of $41,538 to be considered ‘mid-skilled’ – being 85% of NZ’s medium income. More points will also be available for skilled work experience and for some post-graduate qualifications. It is hoped that this will help limit the net inflow of immigrants, whilst targeting this visa type to individuals that are skilled in their industries, allowing businesses to bring in the people and skills that are beneficial to NZ as a whole.
The Government is seeking to balance the economic growth that immigration brings along with the additional strain it places on public services and current infrastructure. Getting the right balance is a challenge, but solace can be taken from the fact that it is a sign of a strong economy. It is important that the Government continually reviews immigration policies to ensure they are attaining the correct outcomes for a prosperous New Zealand.
Proof of intention
The sale and purchase of residential property is an area of focus for IRD Investigators as a result of the ongoing investment in the Property Compliance Programme. A Taxation Review Authority (‘TRA’) case heard in May 2017, serves as a timely reminder for all property owners to remain aware of the tax implications that can arise from residential property sales. The case involved the purchase and eventual sale of a family home by a son who had previously been involved with other property investments.
A key criterion for determining the tax status of a property transaction rests on whether the property was purchased with the purpose or intention of resale. The intention of the taxpayer is determined subjectively at the date the property is acquired.
There are instances where taxpayers have tried to satisfy this subjective test by embellishing their future intentions to support a more desirable tax outcome. Hence, it is common to place some weight on any documentation that might also refer to a taxpayer’s future plans for a property.
In this particular case, a substantial amount of weight was placed on a diary note recorded by the taxpayer’s bank officer, accompanying the loan approval request for the property. The note recorded that the taxpayer had committed to the purchase of the property because his parents were no longer financially able to complete renovations themselves, and that he would sell the property once the renovations were completed, in order to release funds needed for his other property developments.
Due to the diary note and the taxpayer’s history of buying and selling property, the IRD sought to tax the sale of the property. But the taxpayer argued that the file note was not a true account of his intentions. He told the TRA that the bank officer was a close friend of his, a friendship that had been built over years of loan applications and property investments. This had resulted in the bank officer recording a note not of a conversation, but of a mistaken assumption about the taxpayer’s intention to resell his parent’s home.
The taxpayer asserted his true intention was to assist his parents while they were experiencing a period of financial difficulty, safeguarding the family home for the long term. This alternate set of facts was further aided by the form of the bank officer’s note – it did not refer to a specific conversation, but was written as part of the loan approval request, containing information determined relevant by the bank officer.
The process for a case to reach the TRA is lengthy and involves a significant number of steps for both IRD and the taxpayer, so IRD often only reach this point if they consider themselves to have a high chance of success. With this in mind, it must have come with considerable relief to the taxpayer when the TRA ruled in his favour, concluding that the evidence showed he did not purchase the property with the intention of resale.
The case is interesting because the taxpayer went through what would have been a difficult and stressful Investigation and then ‘Disputes Process’, due to a statement that he didn’t make and likely
didn’t know existed. The lesson here is that if a property is not being purchased with a purpose or intention of resale, it could be a good idea to state that on the record through the acquisition process, rather than simply relying on that being implicit.
Budget 2017 presented a broad range of small yet smart changes that target working families and low income earners. From a tax perspective, the key changes are predominantly to the income tax thresholds, working for families’ package and the independent earner tax credit.
All taxpayers will benefit from the tax cuts, and it is hoped that as consumers spending capacity increases, we will see a boost in the consumer economy as a direct consequence of the tax cuts.
Income tax thresholds
The income tax thresholds are set to change from April 2018 for the first time since 2010, with the lowest 10.5% bracket increasing from $14,000 to $22,000, and the next bracket of 17.5% moving from $48,000 to $52,000.
Over time inflation has pushed wages and salaries into higher tax brackets, resulting in the Government benefiting from a higher proportion of income being taxed. These new income tax thresholds seek to rectify this bracket creep and in that sense, simply reverses effective increases in the tax rates arising as a result of inflation.
Taxpayers can expect savings of $11 a week on income earned over $22,000 a year, and up to $20 a week for anyone earning more than $52,000 a year.
Independent Earners Tax Credit
The Independent Earner Tax Credit (IETC) is to be cancelled at the end of the 2017 income year. However, the loss of the IETC for those earning $24,000 to $44,000 is being incorporated into the increase to the income tax thresholds. With only a third of IETC eligible individuals actually claiming the credit, it is an overall positive change for those in that income range.