Clark spraying Key

Yesterday the ODT had an editorial on Red Flag – Faith in process flagging.

Labour MP David Clark posted a link to this on Facebook:


That’s typical of how Labour seems to see the flag issue, but they have been major contributors to the farce. They have  tried to portray the process as all about Key (‘vanity project’ etc) and have appeared to be deliberately divisive to try and sabotage the process.

But the Facebook thread takes a darker turn.


That’s not an unusual sort of attack on Key on Facebook but is a bit nasty.

But for Clark to endorse it is I think not a good look for an MP.

Ministry of Bloody Insulting Extravagance

David Clark clashed with Steven Joyce clashed in Parliament over hair straighteners.

That’s David Clark:


And Steven Joyce:


Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would suggest to the member that in his case and mine, hair straighteners are no use paid for by anybody, frankly.

He’s right about that, it’s not something either of them would have much experience with.

But Clark was right to point out the extravagance of MBIE spending taxpayer money on:

  • Installation of hair straighteners for staff use
  • $140,747.66 on a public information screen
  • $74,000 on a reception desk
  • $260,000 spent renovating a rooftop sundeck
  • $1,696 spending on a ministerial plaque  – plaques are commonly installed on buildings – but for new buildings. A plaque for a refurbishment seems to be a bit ridiculous.

This is on top of a $40,000 sign. MBIE is an extravagant embarrassment for Joyce.

MBIE – Ministry of Bloody Insulting Extravagance
(a poor example for Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment)

[Sitting date: 17 June 2015. Volume:706;Page:9. Text is subject to correction.]

4. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister for Economic Development : Does the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s expenditure of $140,747.66 on a public information screen show it is achieving one of its principal goals of realising efficiency gains over time?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I am disappointed with both the cost of the public information screen and the outside sign, and, as I have said publicly, I have spoken to the chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and made clear my disappointment. He has accepted that those two items in their relocation should have cost less, and in future large building projects will have additional oversight. It is important that these two items are seen in the context of savings of $40 million over 20 years by being located in a single head office that come from a 31 percent reduction in office space. It is also important to note that the overall cost of that development came in at $2 million under budget.

Dr David Clark : Does spending $74,000 on a reception desk show good judgment?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The member could run through a number of things that he and I could both have an opinion on, but, actually, overall the project has saved very significant sums of money for taxpayers—$40 million over 20 years—and it also came in under budget.

Dr David Clark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very direct and straightforward question, and it was not answered or addressed.

Mr SPEAKER : In my opinion, in listening carefully to the answer, from what I could hear it was addressed. It would help if the member could ask his own colleagues to be a little quieter, and then he might well have heard the answer more clearly as well. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark : I did hear the answer, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Then he will agree that it was addressed.

Dr David Clark : Can he confirm that his name appears on the ministerial plaque described in the release documents as requiring an additional $1,696 spending variation in the contract; if so, is he the Minister responsible to this House for the expenditure referred to in my questions today?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : It could be helpful to the member to point out that he is failing to make the distinction between policy-related issues, which it is right and proper that the Minister gets involved in, and operational issues, which are the responsibility of the chief executive. We have seen examples in this House of members failing to observe the differences that are appropriate in what could be known as the “Trevor Mallard – Erin Leigh effect”. If Ministers start trying to run the departments for the chief executives, that generally does not work out well.

Dr David Clark : It will be an epitaph, not a plaque. Does spending taxpayer money on the installation of hair straighteners show good judgment—

Hon Steven Joyce : Well, not for you.

Dr David Clark : —well, not for you or me—if so, is the forward rental contract flexible enough to allow the Government installation of hair curlers as and when Wellington’s fashions change?

Mr SPEAKER : In so far as there is ministerial responsibility in this particular case.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would suggest to the member that in his case and mine, hair straighteners are no use paid for by anybody, frankly.

Labour press release: Labour attacks cost of MBIE’s “flashy foyer” in new Stout Street offices

Joyce squirming on Sky ‘free plus costs’

While the Sky City scam poses major problems for Key’s Government it is Steven Joyce who is squirming the most, beause he has driven the project and the deal. Vernon Small in Counting the cost of ‘free’:

This week ministers have been trying to rewrite history on just what “free” meant.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, whose name is on the deal, indulged in contortions unbecoming of a minister of a certain age, claiming the deal was “free to the agreed value of $402m”.

To be fair when the – shall we call it draft deal? – was announced in May 2013 he said SkyCity’s contribution was limited to $315m – a figure that represented the $402m cost less the value of the land.

And he did not rule out extra taxpayer funding at the time.

Joyce also avoided suggesting that a gambling corporation could be handed out milliions of free taxpayer money.

And Joyce was left squirming in Parliament yesterday when questioned by Labour’s David Clark.

Dr David Clark : Why should taxpayer money be given to a casino company that in the last 6 months alone made a net profit of $66.6 million?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : There is no requirement to do so at all, but the discussion is about the construction of a convention centre. It has agreed to build one for $402 million.

Sky City announced their their latest profits yesterday – SKYCITY 2015 Interim Result to 31 December 2014

Dr David Clark : When he proudly announced in July 2013 that Skycity will meet the full costs of the convention centre, was he meaning full costs in a strict legal sense or more in a pretty legal kind of way?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I was referring to the fact that Skycity would pay the full cost of building a $402 million convention centre, and that is still the case. It has proposed that there are some additional costs, and it has come to us to discuss those costs, so we are discussing them.

How can you have ‘additional costs’ to ‘full costs’?

Dr David Clark : Is he aware that the value of Skycity shares surged by $76 million yesterday on the back of comments about a taxpayer-funded bailout, and does this not just show that Skycity knows it has the Government over a barrel of its own making?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would be very surprised if the price of a Skycity share went up by $76 million in 1 day, but I know that the member is a very clever Treasury analyst, so maybe he knows a little bit more about it than we do.

Dr David Clark : I seek leave to table a document showing that the market capitalisation of Skycity rose by $76 million on the day of the Prime Minister’s announcement—

Joyce argued semantics but Clark had got his point across. While he is talking about a very short time period the Sky share price jumped over the last two days:

SkySharesFeb15Joyce’s response was waffly.

Dr David Clark : I seek leave to table a document showing that the market capitalisation of Skycity rose by $76 million on the day of the Prime Minister’s announcement—

Another interuption from Joyce…

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Speaking to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER : No, I am putting the—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! Leave has been sought to table a document. I therefore need to put the leave, and then I can hear a point of order subsequent to that, if you wish to raise one. Leave has been sought to table this particular document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

…but leave was put to table the document. It sounded like a sole objection from the Government side of the house but the point had been made by Clark.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I was referring to the fact that Skycity would pay the full cost of building a $402 million convention centre, and that is still the case. It has proposed that there are some additional costs, and it has come to us to discuss those costs, so we are discussing them.

And Joyce was left trying to explain the unexplainable, how a free convention centre has become free plus costs.

Full draft transcript: 5. Skycity Convention Centre—Funding

Meanwhile there are peitions from both th eleft and the right opposing the costs to taxpayers.

Kiwiblog Sign the petition against taxpayer money for Sky City

The Taxpayers’ Union has a petition against any taxpayer funds going towards the Sky City convention centre, on top of the regulatory concessions that were agreed to.

Currently 908 signatures.

The Standard Say NO to the $140m SkyCity bailout

The Labour Party is organising a petition against the $140 million bailout SkyCity is demanding – and John Key is insisting we have to pay to prevent getting an “eyesore” of a convention centre

You can sign the petition here.

Currently 19,291 people have signed.

David Clark on Otago gas exploration – yeah, nah

Dunedin City Councillor Andrew Whiley has taken a swipe at Dunedin North MP David Clark about his lack of support for gas exploration and potential business and jobs for Dunedin. ODT reports:

A Dunedin city councillor has accused Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark of putting votes before jobs as the debate over exploratory gas drilling heats up in the South.

The comments by Cr Andrew Whiley – a vocal supporter of gas exploration off the Otago coast – were made in his new role as spokesman for the gas supporters’ group Pro Gas Otago.

However, Mr Clark hit back yesterday, saying Cr Whiley’s summary was ”simplistic” and his group appeared to be ”parroting the National Party position”.

That sounds like Clark is putting politics before the people of Dunedin.

In his statement, released on Thursday afternoon, Cr Whiley said a member of the group had met Dunedin-based National MP Michael Woodhouse and Mr Clark to discuss Shell and Anadarko’s exploratory drilling plans.

Mr Woodhouse was ”very supportive” of the industry’s arrival but the group was ”disappointed” by Mr Clark, who ”felt that supporting this industry may cost him votes”, Cr Whiley said.

Cr Whiley yesterday, confirmed he had not been at the meeting, but stood by the comments anyway and urged Mr Clark to do more to support exploratory drilling.

”My view is: the same people who were campaigning for Hillside … should be in support of the jobs that could be created by exploration off the coast.

Publicly Clark (and Dunedin South colleague Clare Curran) has until now been mute on exploration. He responded to ODT:

Mr Clark said it was ”not true” he was putting votes before jobs.

”I did say that North Dunedin people are concerned about environmental outcomes and therefore wouldn’t be willing to support unregulated mining without appropriate checks and balances.

”I think the Dunedin North electorate is sophisticated enough to understand that appropriate development of mineral resources can support decent incomes, but are not willing to support mineral development at any cost.”

His view was consistent with that of Labour leader David Cunliffe, who earlier this week said the party supported deep sea oil and gas exploration ”in principle”, but would toughen environmental protection laws.

That sounds like fence sitting “yeah, nah” uncertainty. He doesn’t mention gas here, just mining and minerals but states something largely irrelevant – “wouldn’t be willing to support unregulated mining” –  mining and drilling are regulated, the question is how regulated it should be.

Clark has not expressed any support for oil exploration business or jobs in Dunedin here, he has vaguely parroted Labour’s vague position and attacked National.

This looks like party politics and elections first, Dunedin and jobs second, or third, or yeah, nah.

The prospects of Dunedin MPs working together for the best interests of the city and region don’t look good.


“Labour face disaster at the next election”

Labour have struggled to make an impression since Helen Clark and Michael Cullen departed after their 2008 election loss.

They struggled under Phil Goff.

They struggled more under David Shearer.

And they continue to struggle under David Cunliffe.

It must be more than a leadership deficit. The Labour caucus and the Labour Party machinery seem to be in perpetual struggle mode.

In the last few days alone – launching their election year, a time when it was essential Cunliffe and Labour made a strong impression – Labour have lurched from embarrassment to stuff-up.

Their ‘baby bonus’ launch has been overwhelmed by controversies. As well as strong criticism for offering people on high incomes a baby benefit the policy has been beset by controversy and David Cunliffe has had to admit he made mistaken claims.

And amongst this Dunedin North MP David Clark, once promoted as a fast riser in the Labour ranks – Shearer promoted him to 12 in the Labour rankings – has made a major blooper suggesting the Government should be able to threaten to ban use of Facebook if the multinational didn’t pay enough tax.

3 News reported:

Banning Facebook was an extreme suggestion from Labour Party MP David Clark – and it took party leader David Cunliffe just 24 hours to shut it down.

Mr Cunliffe has now ruled it out completely, but ridicule from the Government still came hard and fast.

Just 24 hours? That was far too long, this embarrassment should have been dealt with swiftly. It wasn’t.

In yesterday’s post David Clark attacked from all sides on Facebook farce ‘Goldie’ commented on the litany of Labour errors.

The comment by Kiwi in America is spot on.

First, it underlines the lack of talent in the Labour caucus. Dunedin is a Labour stronghold, so the MPs should be the stars of the party – instead you have Clare Curran and David Clark.

Second, it shows the lack of discipline in Labour – there is absolutely no way, when the policy focus should have been the “baby bonus”, that Clark should have been permitted to talk on anything else. Cunliffe’s office is not operating as it should. It lacks grip over its MPs, and can’t control its own issues (witness the speed with which the “baby bonus” policy got derailed).

Third, Labour have not been able to uncover a single major scandal on the Government and Labour have not been able to make a single policy that has not been widely shredded within days in three years. It says to me that the political machinery behind the scenes – the party researchers and advisers – have become “hollowed out”.

In contrast, the Greens are busy, focused and confident. They have the great advantage of not needing to appeal to either centre or apathetic voters, but only to people who are going to vote left anyway. As National look increasingly like they will win the election, left-leaning voters will have less reason to stay disciplined to Labour, and will “shop around” (like what happened to National in 2002).

Labour face disaster at the next election.

It’s very early in election year but Labour, who desperately needed a strong start, have stuffed up again. And again.

Unless Cunliffe can transform himself into a strong and positive alternative (too many mistakes and too much sneering snark), unless the Labour caucus can look united and competent, unless the Labour media machine can provide competent advise and support and unless the Labour Party can function effectively then it’s on the cards that Labour could face disaster at the next election.

If that happens it will be bad for New Zealand politics. We need strong party leadership and performance, especially from the large parties. Labour is losing it’s way, losing credibility. If this continues we all lose.

Update: It appears to be continuing unabated. Good grief. David Parker this time, in Parliament yesterday. See Labour says Apple et al plundering NZ economy.

David Clark attacked from all sides on Facebook farce

Labour’s Revenue spokesperson David Clark has provoked derision from all sides for suggesting Government should have the banning of websites such as Facebook an option if they don’t pay enough tax – see Labour – pay more tax or ban Facebook.

No Right Turn – Not a credible solution

I am no fan of tax cheats, but comparing them to peaedophiles is a bit over the top.

People still access those paedophile websites, despite them being banned; how does Clark think it will work with one of the world’s most popular websites, which according to his own press releases has 2.2 million users in New Zealand? And does he think that people will vote for a party which threatens to turn off their web-crack?

Kiwiblog – Labour jumps the shark.

Oh my God. He is comparing Facebook to paedophile websites. How can anyone think Labour is even close to ready for power, when they come out with this crap.

And as it happens paedophile websites are not banned in NZ. It is illegal to download or upload paedophile images, and browsing such a site may be a criminal offence, but the Government has no power to ban any website.

Putting aside the sheer lunacy of advocating the Government should try and ban Facebook if they don’t pay more tax, isn’t there something deeply malevolent about an aspiring Government making such threats. If you think a company should pay more tax, then you change the law to close down loopholes. But to declare as an MP that you have unilaterally decided Company X should pay more tax, and that you will threaten to ban them from New Zealand unless they voluntarily agree to pay more tax is what you expect from some tin pot third world dictatorship, not a so called serious political party.

MP Gareth Hughes makes it clear Greens think it’s a no go.


@pitakakariki you do it by changing the rules, not threatening to ban them. We should never ever talk about banning legal websites

Greens will not threaten to ban legal websites like Facebook

And it goes beyond being one dumb idea by one MP. It’s not the first time Clark has appeared out of his depth. This is another bad lok for Labour’s management, as ‘kiwi in america’ says on Kiwiblog:

Gosh – where to begin. Labour seems determined to score as many own goals as possible. When the Greens publicly and quickly disavow your policy musings you are in a power of trouble.

Labour proves it is light years away from being ready to govern because this comment reveals so many glaring deficiencies:

* Lack of message control by the new Leader’s Office – one thing a good LOO does is ensure all economic pronouncements uttered by any spokesperson are cleared through the LOO office first – even silent T knows this is electoral poison.

* Clark has made economically illiterate comments before about corporates not paying enough tax – that he has not been warned or advised to excercise constraint speaks volumes for the illiteracy that exists across the front bench. Neither Parker, Cunliffe nor any other prominent front bencher has sought to clarify or contradict Clark’s previous comments about taxing gross revenues rather than profits revealing a deep and fundamental ignorance of the business world and how it operates that is rampant through Labour.

* The notion that any senior politician in NZ would commit a mainstream party to the type of policy that is only seen in banana republics speaks volumes for how some on the left view the world. To contemplate shutting down the world’s largest social media site in NZ has a King Canute quality to it.

Finally, Labour had 9 years to attack the issue of multi national corporate transfer pricing tendencies and did ….. well nothing. There is a reason why ‘politics of envy’ specialist and lover of taxes on “rich pricks” Michael Cullen couldn’t manage to get the likes of Amazon or Apple to pay more tax in New Zealand and it’s because you’d have to address this issue and have agreement from not just every first world country’s tax authorities but a raft of tax havens as well. Not happening.

What will Clark and Labour do about this? Probably ignore it and hope it’s quickly forgotten, but this is part of an accumulation of incompetence.

The only plus for Labour is it took some of the attention off yet another policy announcement disaster, the ‘baby bonus’ scheme.


Labour – pay more tax or ban Facebook

Labour’s revenue spokesperson David Clark thinks that if Facebook doesn’t pay enough tax the Government should have an option to ban the use of it in New Zealand.

But it probably won’t come to that, he says that usually if you sit down and talk to them they will suddenly rearrange all their tax structures and up their payments here.

After that he can sit down and have a burger with MacDonalds, a coffee with Starbucks and then use Google to search for tax havens.

Labour threatens Facebook ban over tax issue

The Labour Party has put forward a possible solution to force multi-national corporations to pay more tax – ban them from the internet.

It says the Government should first talk with companies like Facebook, but if that doesn’t work it is important to have a backup, something Labour is describing as a credible threat.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network by far, but pays little tax here in New Zealand.

“The Government should always have in its back pocket the ability to ban websites,” says Labour revenue spokesman David Clark.

Clark is my local (Dunedin North) MP. This is embarrassing.

Labour’s targeting of multinational tax avoidance

Labour are continuing their targeting of multinational companies and their “aggressive tax avoidance”, mainly legally through what is called base erosion and profit shifting.

Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) refers to tax planning strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to make profits ‘disappear’ for tax purposes or to shift profits to locations where there is little or no real activity but the taxes are low resulting in little or no overall corporate tax being paid. (OECD)

That refers to mismatches between countries and can’t be resolved by one country.

Unilateral and uncoordinated actions by governments responding in isolation could result in double – and possibly multiple – taxation for business. This would have a negative impact on investment, growth and employment globally.

NZ Herald reports in Foreign firms face tax clash.

Labour says it will tackle “aggressive tax avoidance” by multinationals such as Facebook and Google which it says is costing the taxman hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

It isn’t costing us if the tax avoidance is legal, which it seems to be.OECD doesn’t know how much tax is being avoided:

Existing studies provide abundant circumstantial evidence that BEPS is widespread. Several studies and data show that profits are reported for tax purposes in locations different from where the actual business activities and investment takes place.

But the existing data and studies do not provide enough information to reach solid conclusions about how much BEPS actually occurs…

Labour aren’t accusing multinationals of illegal tax evasion, if that’s what it was they would be addressing it differently. NZ Herald:

Digital giants such as Google, Apple and Facebook have borne the brunt of international criticism of the way many multinational companies structure their affairs to legally minimise their tax bills.

Local concerns were fuelled last year when iPhone and iPad maker and iTunes owner Apple reported paying just $2.5 million on $571 million worth of New Zealand sales in 2012. Google and Amazon’s tax bills were also tiny in comparison with their reported sales here.

Tax is calculated on profits, not on sales, so this is misleading. Last year Labour confused sales with profits when they attacked multinationals.

The main problem is how multinational companies manipulate their profits across different countries, taking advantage of different tax rules and tax rates, to minimise their taxable profit in New Zealand.

Labour revenue spokesman David Clark yesterday said: “We certainly think there’s a lot of aggressive avoidance going on.”

He said the party was continuing a major research project on the issue and would be more proactive than the Government in addressing it through policies likely to be released before the election.

Labour can’t be more proactive than the Government (whatever that means)- the Government is already trying to address the issue.

But while Revenue Minister Todd McClay says rules for foreign firms are being tightened, New Zealand should take the lead from the international community on the matter.

Mr McClay acknowledged the disadvantage suffered by local firms competing with overseas rivals who paid little or no tax here was “the crux of where the real challenge is” in terms of taxing multinationals. Some local tax laws were already being tightened up in line with OECD recommendations last year on base erosion and profit shifting.

Problems around taxing multinationals would be top of the agenda at November’s G20 meeting in Brisbane. While Mr McClay said he wasn’t particularly optimistic about an outcome from that meeting, “ultimately a number of countries are going to have to come together and consider the best way forward”.

This highlights the main problem. Any solutions require co-operation with many countries.

Presumably through their research Labour will be aware that they can’t do a quick fix on this, it requires international co-operation in a very complex business and tax world.

More from OECD on BEPS – Frequently Asked Questions.

What is BEPS?

Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) refers to tax planning strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to make profits ‘disappear’ for tax purposes or to shift profits to locations where there is little or no real activity but the taxes are low resulting in little or no overall corporate tax being paid.

Are BEPS strategies illegal?

In most cases they are not.  Largely they just take advantage of current rules that are still grounded in a bricks and mortar economic environment rather than today’s environment of global players which is characterised by the increasing importance of intangibles and risk management. That said, some of the schemes used are illegal and tax administrations are fighting them.

Why is this relevant if it is all legal?

It is relevant for a number of reasons. First, because it distorts competition: businesses that operate cross-border may profit from BEPS opportunities, giving them a competitive advantage over enterprises that operate at the domestic level.  Second, it may lead to inefficient allocation of resources by distorting investment decisions towards activities that have lower pre-tax rates of return, but higher after-tax returns.  Finally, it is an issue of fairness: when taxpayers (including ordinary individuals) see multinational corporations legally avoiding income tax, it undermines voluntary compliance by all taxpayers.

Why worry about BEPS now? Is public outcry about the tax affairs of corporate giants the driving force behind the OECD’s work on BEPS?

The OECD has been providing solutions to tackle aggressive tax planning for years. The debate over BEPS has now reached the highest political levels in many OECD and non-OECD countries. The OECD does not see BEPS as a problem created by one or more specific companies. Apart from some cases of egregious abuses, the issue lies with the tax rules themselves. Business cannot be faulted for using the rules that governments have put in place. It is therefore governments’ responsibility to revise the rules or introduce new rules.

What is the cause of BEPS?

BEPS strategies take advantage of a combination of features of home and host countries’ tax systems. Corporation tax is levied at a domestic level. The interaction of domestic tax systems means that an item of income can be taxed by more than one jurisdiction, thus resulting in double taxation. The interaction can also leave gaps, which result in income not being taxed anywhere. Corporations have urged bilateral and multilateral co-operation among countries to address differences in tax rules that result in double taxation but at the same time have exploited them so that income goes untaxed everywhere. The report, Addressing Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, identifies a number of circumstances that, combined in different forms, give rise to opportunities for BEPS.

What is the OECD’s role in addressing BEPS?

Many BEPS strategies take advantage of the interaction between the tax rules of different countries, making it difficult for any single country, acting alone, to fully address the issue. There is thus a need to provide an internationally coordinated approach which will facilitate and reinforce domestic actions to protect tax bases and provide comprehensive international solutions to respond to the issue. Unilateral and uncoordinated actions by governments responding in isolation could result in double – and possibly multiple – taxation for business. This would have a negative impact on investment, growth and employment globally.  The BEPS Action Plan provides a consensus-based plan to address these issues and is part of the OECD’s on-going efforts to ensure that the global tax architecture is equitable and fair.

What does the BEPS Action Plan say?

It sets forth 15 actions to address BEPS in a comprehensive and coordinated way.  These actions will result in fundamental changes to the international tax standards and are based on three core principles: coherence, substance, and transparency. The Action Plan also calls for further work to address the challenges posed by the digital economy. Looking toward innovative approaches to deliver change quickly, the Action Plan calls for a multilateral instrument that countries can use to implement the measures developed in the course of the work. While the OECD steps up its efforts to address double non-taxation, it will also continue work to eliminate double taxation, including through increased efficiency of mutual agreement procedures and arbitration provisions.

What actions will be carried out in the context of BEPS?

Domestic tax systems are coherent – tax deductible payments by one person results in income inclusions by the recipient. We need international coherence in corporate income taxation to complement the standards that prevent double taxation with a new set of standards designed to avoid double non-taxation. Four actions in the BEPS Action Plan (Actions 2, 3, 4, and 5) focus on establishing this coherence.

Current rules work well in many cases, but must be modified to prevent instances of BEPS. The involvement of third countries in the bilateral framework established by treaty partners puts a strain on the existing rules, in particular when done via shell companies that have little or no economic substance:  e.g. office space, tangible assets and employees. In the area of transfer pricing, rather than replacing the current system, the best course is to fix the flaws in it, in particular with respect to returns related to over-capitalisation, risk and intangible assets. Nevertheless, special rules, either within or beyond the arm’s length principle, may be required with respect to these flaws.  Five actions in the BEPS Action Plan focus on aligning taxing rights with substance (Actions 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10).

Because preventing BEPS requires greater transparency at many levels, the Action Plan calls for: improved data collection and analysis regarding the impact of BEPS; taxpayers’ disclosure about their tax planning strategies; and less burdensome and more targeted transfer pricing documentation.  Four actions in the BEPS Action Plan focus on improving transparency (actions 11, 12, 13, and 14).

Can BEPS be tackled without replacing the arm’s length principle with formulary apportionment?

The current transfer pricing rules do not always properly address the way modern businesses operate in a globalised environment, and taxpayers have thus been able to use/misuse the rules to artificially shift profits. In particular, the arm’s length principle faces challenges in addressing transfers of intangibles, risks, and capital, and other high-risk transactions. The Action plan includes three major actions to address these cases, which may include special measures either within or beyond the arm’s length principle. The Action Plan has been developed to fix the current system quickly and efficiently, without preconceptions regarding the precise nature of the changes that may be required to address these critical transfer pricing issues.  However, adoption of alternative transfer pricing methods like formulary apportionment would require development of a consensus on a number of key issues (which countries do not believe to be attainable in the short or medium term) and could also raise systemic problems which could result in even more damaging problems for countries’ revenues. Accordingly, it is believed that it will be most productive to focus on addressing specific issues arising under the current arm’s length system at the present time.

How will the actions be implemented? How long will it take?

The BEPS Action Plan calls for the development of tools that countries can use to shape fair, effective and efficient tax systems. Because BEPS strategies often rely on the interaction of countries’ different systems, these tools will have to address the gaps and frictions that arise from the interface of these systems.  Some actions, for example work on the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines and the Commentary to the OECD Model Tax Convention, will result in changes that are directly effective.  Others will be implemented by countries through their domestic law, bilateral treaties, or a multilateral instrument.

Addressing BEPS is critical for most countries and must be done in a timely manner so that concrete actions can be delivered quickly before the existing consensus-based framework unravels. . At the same time, governments need time to complete the necessary technical work and achieve widespread consensus. Against this background, it is expected that the Action Plan will largely be completed in 2 years.

How will G20 countries that are not members of the OECD be involved?

The work on BEPS, launched by the OECD, is now strongly supported by the G20 where it is a key item on the Finance Ministers’ and of the Leaders’ agenda. Non-OECD G20 countries were involved in the work and all (Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa) participated in the meeting of the Committee on Fiscal Affairs where the Action Plan was adopted. The continued participation and endorsement of all G20 countries will be critical to guarantee a level playing field and prevent inconsistent standards. To this end, and in order to facilitate greater involvement of major non-OECD economies, the “BEPS Project” has been launched, and interested G20 countries that are not OECD Members will participate in the project on an equal footing. Other non-members could be invited to participate on an ad hoc basis.

Will developing countries be involved? How will their concerns be addressed?

Developing countries also face issues related to BEPS and the work will take into account the specificities of their national legal and administrative frameworks. In this respect, the Global Fora on Tax Treaties, on Transfer Pricing, on VAT and on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes will be useful platforms for developing countries to provide relevant input as will the Task Force on Tax and Development.  In addition, the CFA will benefit from the input of the UN, which has been an observer to the CFA since January 2012.

What are the next steps?

Work on the 15 actions outlined in the Plan has already started and will continue the technical work to develop concrete measures that countries can put in place to end double non-taxation and the artificial shifting of profits.

Will the BEPS Action Plan put an end to offshore tax evasion?

The work on BEPS focusses largely on legal tax planning techniques rather than offshore tax evasion, which is illegal. However, other work being carried out by the OECD and the OECD Global Forum on Transparency and the Exchange of Information is focused on combatting offshore tax evasion.

Based on this work, many jurisdictions have taken concrete actions to improve their legal framework and practices to ensure transparency and effective exchange of information to combat offshore tax evasion. Though there is still room for improvement, the current results are impressive.

How will the BEPS Action Plan affect “tax havens”?

The BEPS Action Plan aims to end the use of shell companies used to stash profits offshore or unduly claim tax treaty protection and neutralise all schemes that artificially shift profits offshore. Though the BEPS Action Plan is not about dictating whether countries should have a specific corporate income tax rate, it will have an impact on regimes that seek to attract foreign investors without requiring any economic substance.

Is the OECD against tax competition?

The OECD is against harmful tax competition. Countries have long recognised that a “race to the bottom” would ultimately drive applicable tax rates on certain sources of income to zero for all countries, harming nations and their citizens.   Agreeing to a set of common rules will help countries make their sovereign tax policy choices.

Is the BEPS project against business?

No, it is not. In most cases, business is just using the rules that governments themselves have put in place. It is therefore governments’ responsibility to revise the rules or introduce new ones. To ensure the fairness of the corporate tax system, the BEPS project will provide a co-ordinated, comprehensive approach that prevents double taxation and double non-taxation, creating a level playing field for all taxpayers.

How much tax revenue is lost to BEPS?

Existing studies provide abundant circumstantial evidence that BEPS is widespread. Several studies and data show that profits are reported for tax purposes in locations different from where the actual business activities and investment takes place.

But the existing data and studies do not provide enough information to reach solid conclusions about how much BEPS actually occurs…

What is the appropriate level of corporate income tax?

Every jurisdiction is free to set up its own corporate tax system as it chooses. States have the sovereignty to implement tax measures that raise revenues to pay for the expenditures they deem necessary. No or low taxation is not per se a cause of concern unless it is associated with practices that artificially segregate taxable income from the activities that generate it. In other words, tax policy concerns arise when there are gaps in the interaction of different tax systems or when, the application of bilateral tax treaties allows income from cross-border activities to go untaxed.

Clark and Curran backing Robertson

Dunedin MPs David Clark and Clare Curran have announced they will back Grant Robertson in Labour’s leadership contest.

The support isn’t a surprise, but the timing is very curious, on the eve of the leaders’ roadshow hitting Dunedin.

The ODT reports that Clark, Curran name their man:

Home town favourite Grant Robertson received a boost yesterday in his quest to become Labour Party leader, with support coming from Dunedin MPs Clare Curran and David Clark.

The Labour leader road show is in Dunedin tomorrow in familiar territory for Mr Robertson – it will be held at the King’s and Queen’s Performing Arts Centre.

Mr Robertson is a former head boy of King’s High School.

So Robertson would probably be well supported by Labour members in Dunedin regardless of this signalling from local MPs.

There is some risk in doing this, especially for Clark he is seen as an up and comer, but there’s plenty of time for him to recover. Curran is expected to struggle to rise no matter who leads Labour.

Curran and Clark put out a statement indicating their backing of Robertson.

”We need a leader whose sense of social justice is instinctive, someone with sound judgement who gets it right first time. Grant Robertson is that man,” they said.

They told the Otago Daily Times Mr Robertson grew up in South Dunedin, one of the country’s high-density and lowest income suburbs.

”He understands what it’s like to struggle. He is a kind person and has a deep understanding what Labour can do for New Zealand.”

Dr Clark…

…said the leadership race was close and, initially, he wanted people to hear the candidates and make up their own minds.

”Members started asking me my opinion about who would be best … I think all can do the job but Grant is the one best placed to take on John Key and unify the party.”

Ms Curran…

…said the caucus vote was a significant part of the overall vote. She wrote to all her members this week and explained her preference.

She found people wanted her to stand up for what she believed.

”No-one will die wondering what I think. We have to be leaders and representatives of our community and electorate.

”People want to know we have strong opinions and I expect those opinions will be respected,” Ms Curran said.

So it might be a tough sell for Cunliffe and Jones tomorrow night.

But interestingly Shane Jones is the only one of the three who seems to have made a promise to Dunedin.

”This gum-digger is coming to meet the gold-miners. I love Dunedin. I have a few rellies down there.”

One of Mr Jones’ pledges to Otago was if he became a Labour prime minister, he would ensure government services would be relocated to Dunedin, even before his own province of Northland.

”If Treasury doesn’t like it, well, they can go to Blackball,” he said.

I asked all three whether they would be prepared to work more with local government to find local solutions. None replied.

I have repeated the question to them today.

David Shearer disappoints in Dunedin

David Shearer visited Dunedin yesterday promoting Labour’s NZ Power policy. With local MPs David Clark and Clare Curran he had a staged PR sympathy/emotional event at a poor power consumer’s house in North East Valley

Later in the day he spoke at a meeting at a packed Knox Church hall. I went along, curious to see how Shearer performed.

David also attended and spoke.

Shearer was certainly more eloquent in a friendly environment, most of the time. I was bit disappointed to hear them just going over all their NZ Power policy, I already knew it, and they haven’t bothered to address any criticisms. All playing on bad National, bad power companies.

I think many of the claims made were disputable, and some more than a little was pure political bull.

It  was mostly well rehearsed talking points but less carefully structured than I’ve seen on TV. But Shearer was still not sure of himself and a few times Parker stepped in to help out. It’s their primary policy and they are obviously pushing it hard, so Shearer should know it inside out and back to front by now. It doesn’t look like he does.

He really doesn’t appear to be on his game, he has no passion for electricity markets or politics.

They took some questions and not patsies, there were Labour supporters want’ answers about Labour would have done (eg Tiwai smelter) and what they would do (eg re-nationalise assets). They avoided giving decent answers to most.

They laid on the emotionals with an illustration of poor Susan in NEV who can’t afford to pay her power bill and it just isn’t fair, that’s why National have be ejected. I found this very sad, after a few years of the next Labour government there will still be people who can’t afford their power bills. They are being sold something that is unlikely to be delivered anything more than partially at best.

When I sat there listening and looking at the potential next PM and Finance Minister it was really quite demoralising. I was hoping to see something good to write about but it confirmed some uninspiring impressions.

And David Clark and Clare Curran looked and sounded like they were at a funeral, which was probably due to the vibes from the audience. There was some clapping of course but it wasn’t a happy or optimistic place. I find that very sad, for Labour and for the country’s political health.

It was a disappointing and deflating experience. Certainly nothing inspiring from a message dominated by negatives. Their doom and gloom is depressing – and they seem to be depressing themselves.

Can’t someone in Labour see what they are doing? They seem to be determined to keep repeating the same old failures.

I want some hope, some excitement, some spark, some indication there’s life left in Labour. But it ain’t happening.


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