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Geoffrey Cone‘s take on New Zealand’s tax transparency profile


According to Geoffrey Cone, the recent media coverage of foreign trusts in New Zealand can be best summarized in one word: baseless—and for a number of reasons. To begin with, the country has never been a tax haven. The major characteristics of tax havens are well documented: most impose little or no nominal taxes, lack tax transparency, and have laws or tax procedures that limit sharing of information with other governments or international bodies. New Zealand neither meets these criteria nor houses extremely secretive private banking industry. Secondly, New Zealand is among the first nations to be listed by the OECD to have significantly implemented the agreed and recommended international tax standards.

What is more, New Zealand has always demonstrated astute leadership in tax transparency, especially in the way it handles foreign trusts as well as in the requirements that it places on trustees—all of which are ready to assist other governments with relevant tax information. For instance, the country’s resident trustee of a foreign trust must submit a Foreign Trust Disclosure form and keep clear financial records for tax purposes.

New Zealand has also 39 double tax agreements which are designed to limit tax impediments that may exist in cross-border trades and investment. The double agreements are also aimed at prevention of tax evasion or avoidance.

Additionally, the country boast of over 20 tax information exchange agreements with other governments. These are also aimed at curbing tax avoidance and evasion. Moreover, the country is currently signed up to a multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters—an action that you will never find in tax haven!

So any issue on the use of foreign trusts could have been directed at the best ways of regulating the country’s trust companies so that they all meet the set high standards and that their hard-earned global reputation is not damaged by rouge operators.

In a nutshell, New Zealand remains globally recognized as stable, safe, and high-end jurisdiction with well structured judiciary and excellent legal and professional infrastructure—a credit that goes both to its regulatory environment developed by successive governments and the caliber of the people behind the foreign trustees. By and large, most New Zealand service providers comprise of accountants and lawyers as well as qualified members of STEP (Internal Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners).

Among the most qualified and reputed individual s behind the management of the country’s foreign trusts is Geoffrey Cone. His company, Cone Marshall Limited, is the only company in New Zealand known to specialize in international trust and tax planning. The firm is also a top provider of trust management services via its many affiliated companies. Cone holds LLB honors from University of Otago and has a post graduate diploma in tax and trust law.

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