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Robin Oliver Tax Policy Scholarship launched

Robin Oliver Tax Policy Scholarship launched 2560 1707 Lee Stace

A scholarship aimed at encouraging university students to think critically about tax policy has been launched by the Tax Policy Charitable Trust.

The Robin Oliver Tax Policy Scholarship is worth $5000 and available to support one year of study for those majoring in taxation at Victoria University of Wellington or tax law at the University of Auckland.

It will be awarded annually to a student at each university.

University of Auckland (Auckland) – Eligibility

University of Auckland students undertaking postgraduate study in tax law can apply if they are a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident and meet certain academic criteria.

Applications close 20 February. Read more about the University of Auckland eligibility.

Victoria University (Wellington) – Eligibility

Those at Victoria University must be undergraduates in at least their third year of studying taxation and a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident to be eligible.

As part of the application process, they will also have to write an essay on the challenges facing the New Zealand tax system and supply a personal statement outlining how they meet the scholarship criteria and the impact is could have on their studies.

Selection will be based on academic merit as well as the quality of their essay.

Applications close 31 July. Read more about the Victoria eligibility.

About the scholarship

The Robin Oliver Scholarship recognises tax expert and former IRD Deputy Commissioner Robin Oliver for his continued contributions to New Zealand tax policy.

The Tax Policy Charitable Trust hopes it will support and encourage university students to strive for excellence in tax policy and discover solutions to the concerns of today and the future.

The trust was established in 2012 by generous support from Ian Kuperus and Tax Management NZ.

Image: Tax Policy Scholarship Competition

2019 Tax Policy Scholarship Competition finalists

2019 Tax Policy Scholarship Competition finalists 1200 630 Lee Stace

A negative income tax coupled with a flat tax rate for individuals and the creation of a trusted taxpayer regime.

These are among the ideas judges will hear as part of the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition.

A tax on biogenic methane emissions and freshwater as well as reforming the R&D tax credit regime are the others options on the table.

Spark’s Nigel Jemson, and the Deloitte duo of John Lohrentz and Shay Webster are this year’s finalists.

They are vying to win $10,000 prize money.

The three finalists’ proposals are an interesting mix of environmental, social assistance and behavioural messages, says Tax Policy Scholarship Competition judge and Tax Policy Charitable Trust chair John Shewan.

Photo: Tax Policy Scholarship Competition

Photo: Colin McDiarmid.

The ideas of the quartet

Jemson is pushing for the creation of a trusted taxpayer regime.

This will see businesses receive a 10 percent discounted tax rate by opting to regularly report financial information to IRD.

Anyone part of the scheme for three years or more will also have their annual tax return requirement removed.

A small business would be eligible for the scheme if they are using the accounting income method to pay provisional tax and operating a “predominantly cash-free” business.

As for Webster, he favours using tax to create a broad, universal welfare system to tackle inequality, reduce the cost of welfare and stimulate the economy.

He proposes doing this by implementing a negative income tax combined with a flat rate of 33 percent for individuals.

Under this, those earning less than $31,500 will receive a tax credit or a weekly or fortnightly cash payment from the Government.

Meanwhile, Lohrentz supports a progressive tax on biogenic methane emissions in the agriculture sector.

Revenue from the tax would go back into agricultural. That would be in the form of:

  • A fund to grant money to those changing land use, planting trees, retraining or implementing more efficient practices and technology.
  • An R&D tax credit exclusively for climate change-orientated R&D in the agriculture sector.

Not only that, but he also promotes a 40 percent R&D tax credit. This would be for taxpayers undertaking a core R&D activity that fosters ‘natural capital’ in New Zealand’s agriculture sector.

The next stage of the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition

The finalist will present to the judges in Wellington in November.

Shewan says their proposals have the potential to make a difference to New Zealand society.

Still, the judges will be considering other factors when making their final assessment. That’s because these ideas may also place additional pressure on the tax system or have unintentional consequences.

“The judging panel will be looking closely at issues such as complexity, economic impact, the potential for distortions and technical feasibility in judging the final submissions,” says Shewan.

As well as Shewan, the other judges on the panel are former Reserve Bank of New Zealand governor Alan Bollard, tax barrister David McLay, former Bell Gully tax partner Joanne Hodge and former IRD deputy commissioner Robin Oliver.

While the winner will collect $10,000, the runner-up will receive $4000 and the other finalist $1000.

Tax Policy Scholarship Competition background

Every two years, the Tax Policy Charitable Trust invites young tax professionals with an interest in tax policy to make a submission.

Submissions for the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition must outline a significant reform to the New Zealand tax system.

It is open to those under the age of 35 working (or eligible to work) in New Zealand. Those in the public and private sector or academia can enter.

There were 14 entries this year.

“Several submissions focused on the use of tax to achieve social and environmental outcomes, and to incentivise taxpayers to behave in particular ways,” says Shewan.

This is the third Tax Policy Scholarship Competition.

Previous winners include Matt Woolley and Talia Smart (both 2017) and Caleb McConnell (2015).

About the Tax Policy Charitable Trust

Tax Management NZ founder Ian Kuperus is responsible for creating the Tax Policy Charitable Trust.

His aim is to support the continuation of leading tax policy research and thinking and inspire future tax policy leaders.

In addition to the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition, the trust also sponsors the visit of a leading tax expert to New Zealand.

This is to ensure New Zealand benefits from the best tax thinking from overseas.

Last year, it held an event with Sir Michael Cullen and other Tax Working Group members after the release of its draft report.

Future of Tax Symposium: Most of TWG supports capital gains tax

Future of Tax Symposium: Most of TWG supports capital gains tax 1200 800 Lee Stace

Sir Michael Cullen revealed at an event organised by the Tax Policy Charitable Trust that the majority of the Tax Working Group (TWG) supports taxation on capital income.

However, where the group had yet to reach a consensus was mainly around some aspects of how it should be done rather than whether it should be done.

The Future of Tax Symposium was recently held in association with Auckland University and Victoria University of Wellington.

The purpose was to present and discuss major tax reform options the TWG is currently considering as per its interim report.

Sir Michael delivered the opening addressed at the Victoria University symposium, during which he revealed most of the 10-person working group were in favour of a capital gains tax.

He said some of the division in the TWG on this tax were down to the specific types of capital income taxation being presented.

His comments were covered by media outlets and Newsroom.

As well as Sir Michael, other members of the TWG also spoke at the Future of Tax Symposium. There was also analysis from business, community and economic commentators.

Download the symposium presentation PDF.

Further information about the Future of Tax Symposium

The Future of Tax Symposium was chaired by tax commentator and the Tax Policy Charitable Trust’s John Shewan. It involved interactive sessions on:

  • Should New Zealand tax capital gains?
  • Would a capital gains tax make the tax system fairer and what would the effect be on you, your business and your savings?
  • How can the broader tax system be improved?
  • Are taxes an effective way of tackling environmental challenges?
  • What strategies and recommendations are missing from the TWG’s interim report?

The audience of academics, tax industry leaders and business representatives had the opportunity to ask questions.

Several polls were also conducted. The results are as follows:







The TWG’s terms of reference are to consider possible options for further improvement in the structure, fairness and balance of the New Zealand tax system.

It released its interim report in September. Sir Michael said the group was on track to publish its final report in January – a month ahead of schedule.

The Labour-led government will take some or all of the group’s recommendations to the 2020 election. Any taxes recommended by the TWG will not take effect until after the election.

OECD’s David Bradbury meets with IRD, Treasury

OECD’s David Bradbury meets with IRD, Treasury 620 349 Lee Stace

The Tax Policy Scholarship Charitable Trust recently sponsored the visit by an OECD official who met with government officials to discuss the direction of tax policy changes around the world and how New Zealand might respond to these.

David Bradbury, head of the tax policy and statistics division for the Centre of Tax Policy and Administration at the OECD and a former Australian politician, was this year’s visiting lecturer.

As part of his trip, he engaged with officials from Inland Revenue and The Treasury to discuss such issues as capital gains tax, BEPS and the digital economy. He also held meetings with the Tax Working Group.

David also spoke to tax professionals at events held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The topic of his presentation was: The direction of global tax policy changes, how New Zealand sits and challenges for the future.

It was well received by attendees.

In between his various engagements, David was interviewed by several media outlets on the aforementioned tax issues:

Further information about David Bradbury

At the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, David leads a team of economists, lawyers and statisticians who are focused on providing internationally comparable revenue statistics and delivering high quality economic analysis and tax policy advice.

He served in the Australian Government as the Assistant Treasurer, Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Minister Assisting for Financial Services and Superannuation, and Minister Assisting for Deregulation before joining the OECD in 2014.

As a minister, David led the Australian Government’s contribution to the debate on BEPS and implemented key taxation reforms including the general anti-avoidance rule (Part IVA) and the modernisation of Australia’s transfer pricing laws.

About the Tax Policy Scholarships Charitable Trust

The Tax Policy Scholarships Charitable Trust was established by Ian Kuperus and Tax Management NZ to contribute to the future development of tax policy in New Zealand.

Previous visiting lecturers it has brought to New Zealand include Michael Keen, deputy director of the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department, and professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, Joel Slemrod.

Matt Woolley and Talia Smart named joint winners of tax comp.

Matt Woolley and Talia Smart named joint winners of tax comp. 510 307 Lee Stace

Treasury’s Matt Woolley and Talia Smart from Inland Revenue (IRD) are the co-winners of tax policy competition run by the Tax Policy Scholarship Charitable Trust (TPSCT).

The pair impressed the heavyweight judging panel while presenting their respective proposals at Wellington’s Victoria University, receiving $7000 each for their efforts.

Woolley discussed a fully integrated tax system that attributes all company income to shareholders. Under that approach, businesses would pay tax on behalf of shareholders based on their marginal rates.

Smart’s proposal looked at removing the business income exemption for charities.

The other finalists were Chris Park (KPMG) and Nicholas Coyle (IRD).

Park’s proposal revisited the idea of a land tax, while Coyle’s presentation reconsidered the claw back of interest deductions. Both received $1000.

Presentations were judged by a panel comprising TPSCT chair and former PwC chair John Shewan, ex-Bell Gully tax partner Joanne Hodge, former IRD deputy commissioner Robin Oliver, Victoria University Business School dean Bob Buckle and ex-secretary of Treasury John Whitehead.

Competition background

Tax professionals under the age of 35 were invited by the TPSCT to submit proposals that outlined a significant reform of the tax system. Twenty-five entries were received.

The TPSCT was established in 2012 by Tax Management NZ and its founder Ian Kuperus to inspire the next generation of leaders in New Zealand tax policy and administration.