Blog

05
dec

New Zealand explains its tax approach to multinationals

The Minister of Revenue issued a media statement explaining some of the issues relating to taxing large multinational companies

Tax systems around the world are adjusting to corporate giants with huge internet footprints, but very little physical presence, Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said in addressing issues around the tax treatment of large multinational companies.

“The reality is that tax regimes internationally have generally been developed for an industrial age, and have struggled to keep pace with new business models and technologies not contained by location or national borders,” Mr Dunne said.

“That is the challenge that we face in New Zealand, but it is very much a global issue faced by other nations too. The problem is not just that these large companies are not paying substantial tax here, but that they tend not to be paying substantial tax anywhere.

“We see Britain and Australia facing exactly the same issues, and our rules are already very similar to those adopted by Australia last week,” he said.

Mr Dunne said the answer to taxing multinationals appropriately in various jurisdictions would be found through international projects and agreements, and that New Zealand is involved in these talks, particularly through the OECD.

“A key issue is that foreign companies are taxed on the activities that they actually perform in New Zealand, so under international norms, New Zealand, like any other OECD nation, may have no right to tax profits from revenues generated from New Zealand.”
“Again, for cross-border transactions, the New Zealand tax system, like those of tax jurisdictions around the world, focuses on a physical presence and taxable activity occurring here,” Mr Dunne said.

“However, the internet has made it possible to provide an increasing range of services to distant customers from anywhere in the world. This means that overseas-based internet companies have a very limited physical presence in most countries in which they operate – including New Zealand.

“Since the bulk of what these companies do, in terms of programming, designing websites, running servers, selling advertising, is done overseas, New Zealand, like other countries, may have very limited taxing rights.

Mr Dunne said concerns that such multinationals are not paying appropriate levels of tax need to be balanced against those complex realities.

“There are no easy answers or quick fixes here, but there are definitely fundamental issues that need to be tackled to get a fairer system,” he said.

taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz