Geoff Cone, a leading New Zealand lawyer specializing in tax and trust law, has addressed concerns about the country’s tax laws. Some people have asserted that the nation is being used as a tax haven, and he took the time to clarify the nation’s regulations and standards for transparency.
Cone explains that New Zealand lacks the traits that define a tax haven. Tax havens impose minimal taxes, they fail to communicate with other governments about financial affairs, and their financial practices have little to no transparency. New Zealand does not have any of those traits, which is why it does not appear Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s list of tax havens. To the contrary, New Zealand was one of the first nations to earn a place on the organization’s list of countries that met its standards for transparency, international cooperation, and practical enforcement of tax laws.
New Zealand even takes particular care in making sure that foreign trusts do not use the country to hide wealth from the legal authorities. All foreign trusts in New Zealand are required to file a disclosure form that includes all of the trust’s assets, liabilities, beneficiaries, and financial transactions. The government uses this information for the purpose of taxation and for assisting other governments that request the information for their own investigations. The trusts are required to keep all of the records in New Zealand to make sure that they cannot falsify the information.
Geoff Cone explained the situation in response to concerns about New Zealand’s role in the international finance community. He is more than qualified to do so, given that he leads the only law firm in New Zealand that specializes entirely in tax and trust law. His career began in 1980, when he went to work in Auckland following his graduation from the University of Otago. He went on to gain more legal experience in Christchurch for several years, during which he practiced law at every level and even appeared before the Privy Council. He eventually decided that it was time to return home and moved back to Auckland, where he established his own practice in 1999. He has maintained that practice and provided legal services to his clients ever since.