The clock tower building of Auckland University

2022 Robin Oliver Tax Policy Scholarship Winners

2022 Robin Oliver Tax Policy Scholarship Winners 2560 1695 Taxpolicy

Bold and fresh ideas won the 2022 Robin Oliver Tax Policy Scholarship competition.  

The annual scholarship, given by the Tax Policy Charitable Trust (supported by TMNZ) is designed to encourage university students to think critically about tax policy in New Zealand and strive for new solutions. 

The award, worth $5000, supports one year of study for students majoring in taxation at Victoria University of Wellington or tax law at the University of Auckland.  

Students were invited to submit an essay on a challenge facing our tax system and offer a potential solution. The submissions received were inspiring and thought provoking, with two winners selected by the judging panel. 

Congratulations to Coralie Smith, at the University of Auckland and Peter Hazeldine at Victoria University of Wellington. 

Coralie investigated the lack of transparency on use of tax-exempt funds by New Zealand Charities.  

“From a policy standpoint, it is crucial to have systems in place which govern how charities are practically benefitting society with their tax-exempt funds.” says Smith. 

In her submission, she highlights the risk of providing an unfair competitive advantage to charities with ancillary businesses and identified clear gaps within New Zealand regulations to oversee if accumulated funds are being channelled to their respective charitable pillar. 

The solution – a new framework along with other resolutions such as simplifying reporting for smaller tax charities and extending advisory resources to help charities maintain their tax-exempt status. This would provide further transparency on use of tax-exempt funds whilst also reducing compliance costs for tax charities in New Zealand. 

The judging panel commended Coralie’s passion for the topic and her understanding of how tax policy fits within our wider economic system and its ability to create positive impact.  

Peter Hazeldine focused his proposal on reforms to New Zealand’s Fringe Benefit Taxation (FBT) rules. 

He articulated how existing loopholes in the legislation hinder its ability to make employers neutral between providing fringe benefits and cash remuneration to employees. This shortfall in neutrality allows employees to receive tax-free benefits which creates inequities as employees earning the same salary can be treated differently, resulting in less horizontal equity. 

The judges were impressed by Hazeldine’s research and his clear grasp of the tax policy problem.  

To overcome the issue and close these loopholes, Peter recommends using market rates as a benchmark to assess if an employee receives a fringe benefit from their employer. Changing the value calculation method will create better consistency within the legislation and improve fairness for individuals.  

To find out more about the Robin Oliver Tax Policy Scholarship and how to can apply – Victoria University of Wellington and University of Auckland.

Guest speaker Dr Deborah Russell and Tax Policy Charitable Trust Scholarship winner, Vivien Lei

Inspirational idea wins Tax Policy Scholarship Competition

Inspirational idea wins Tax Policy Scholarship Competition 2560 1707 Taxpolicy

A game-changing idea to fight climate change won this year’s Tax Policy Charitable Trust Scholarship.

Each year, the Tax Policy Charitable Trust (supported by TMNZ) awards a scholarship to celebrate the brightest young minds in the industry, and 2022’s submissions were as inspirational as ever.

Entrants were invited to submit ideas that could transform New Zealand’s tax landscape, looking at either environmental taxation, tax administration, or the powers granted to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue to collect information.

The competition, open to people aged 35 and under, generated progressive and innovative ideas from the industry’s young leaders. In the end, one entrant was selected as this year’s winner for her outstanding approach to New Zealand’s tax and environmental challenges.

And the winner is….

Vivien Lei, Group Tax Advisor at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, won this year’s scholarship for her submission to introduce Impact Weighted Taxation in New Zealand, an innovative idea that would see businesses pay taxes based on their environmental impact.

A panel of leading industry professionals judged Lei’s proposal as the winner among a strong field of candidates. Mitchell Fraser, Daniel Doughty, and Jordan Yates were also celebrated as finalists in the competition.

Lei was crowned the winner at the Tax Policy Charitable Trust’s finals evening on October 19, after each finalist presented their idea to an audience of industry professionals.

Trust Chair John Shewan said the judges were “delighted to see passion and energy behind the submissions and supporting presentations”.

Lei, who received a $10,000 cash prize, described the competition as “an amazing experience”.

“You don’t often get many opportunities to think creatively about tax policy, so this was a nice space to do that,” Lei says. “Being able to develop my policy thinking and talk to some of the leading experts was really great — and winning was a huge surprise!”

This year was Lei’s second attempt to win the scholarship following an earlier submission in 2019. Her perseverance and positive attitude paid off.

“I entered when I was still very green in my career,” she says. “Since then, I’ve been mentored by amazing people who have helped with my development, particularly Rachael Bull, Head of Tax at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, and Joseph Chueh who fostered my interest in tax policy. I was grateful to have their support this time around.”

Tax to fight the climate threat

Lei’s background in the social impact sector and personal concerns about the environment informed her submission idea.

“These are the most difficult problems of our time,” she says. “I’m hoping my idea will bring the conversation to the fore and spark other young minds in our industry to think about how tax might influence positive environmental outcomes.”

The Tax Policy Scholarship Competition is proudly supported by TMNZ, which invests 100% of its profits back into the environment and community, through strategic philanthropic partner, Whakatupu Aotearoa Foundation. Lei believes that tax professionals can help to build a better future for Aotearoa.

“It’s scary to think about the trajectory we are on with our natural capital, so it’s important for our industry to think of ways to help,” she adds.

Vivien Lei, presenting her proposal to introduce Impact Weighted Taxation in New Zealand

Inspiring future tax leaders

Tax Policy Scholarship Competition Judges commented that this year’s entrants will inspire future generations as well as today’s professionals.

“This competition is all about supporting and inspiring future tax policy leaders. The results from this year and from earlier years’ competitions reflect the presence of emerging talent that will ensure the continuation of leading tax policy research and thinking in New Zealand,” said the judges.

Find out more about the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition here.

To see Vivien’s full submission, click here.

Tax Policy Scholarship showcases the next generation of talent

Tax Policy Scholarship showcases the next generation of talent 2048 1365 Taxpolicy

Four bright young industry minds have emerged as finalists in this year’s Tax Policy Scholarship Competition, an annual prize hosted by the Tax Policy Charitable Trust. 

The biannual competition, which supports the continuation of leading tax policy research and thinking in New Zealand, enters its fourth round in 2022. The first competition was run in 2015. 

The scholarship is designed to inspire the next generation of tax industry leaders. This year, entrants under the age of 35 were invited to propose significant reforms to our current tax system or analyse potential weaknesses and unintended consequences from existing laws, and propose changes to address them.

Entrants were asked to tackle one of three topics: environmental taxation, tax administration, or the powers granted to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue to collect information for tax policy purposes. Participants were invited to address the topics with creative ideas backed up by reasoned research and analysis.

We are delighted to announce the four finalists for this year’s competition, selected by our panel of leading tax industry professionals.

Daniel Doughty

Daniel is a Senior Consultant with EY in Wellington. He has proposed the introduction of a small business consolidated reporting regime to simplify tax reporting for small companies.

The regime would consolidate pre-existing tax obligations into a single report to be filed every second month. Inland Revenue would send an automated income summary out at the end of the year, similar to those currently prepared for individuals.

Mitchell Fraser

Mitchell is a Tax Solicitor with Mayne Wetherell in Auckland. Mitchell is concerned that the recently-expanded powers granted to Inland Revenue to collect information for tax policy purposes could create unintended consequences.

He believes the new powers risk political interference, conflicting with the IR’s need to be politically neutral. Mitchell proposes identifying alternative means to collect this information, including through Statistics New Zealand.

Vivien Lei

Vivien is Group Tax Advisor with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, and finance lead with the Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Foundation.

Vivien proposes to change New Zealand’s environmental practices through the introduction of an impact-weighted tax regime. Under this model, organisations would be taxed on their net positive or negative impact on the environment.

Jordan Yates

Jordan is a Senior Tax Consultant with ASB in Auckland.

Jordan believes the tax policy landscape is fractured, and suffocated by political roadblocks. His proposal is to establish an independent statutory authority that would be responsible for the independent management of fiscal policy, as it relates to the tax base.

Selecting a winner

The finalists were announced on 2 June, and each will go on to develop a 4,000-word submission on their proposal.

The four will be invited to present their final proposals and answer questions at a function in October 2022. The winner will be announced that evening.

Our Tax Policy Scholarship Competition celebrates creative thinking from young professionals and also provides a springboard for the brightest industry minds to develop their careers.

Nigel Jemson, the winner of the 2019 competition, says: “Entering the competition was a terrific opportunity for me to grow and develop my tax policy thinking and connect with leading minds in the tax community.  Winning the competition has given my career a boost and since, I have enjoyed a range of great roles in tax for leading businesses, Spark and PwC, and continued my involvement in and passion for New Zealand tax policy.”

Chris Cunniffe, Tax Policy Charitable Trust Committee Member and TMNZ Chief Executive, says this year’s entries underline the strength of the next generation.

“We’re consistently delighted with the breadth and the freshness of thinking young people bring to this competition. The competition provides a forum to share ideas, and secondly, ensures that creative tax policy is not the sole domain of people who have worked in the industry for a long time. As an industry, we are open to fresh thinking and new ideas.”

Tax Policy Charitable Trust Chair John Shewan says the entries prove the industry’s future is in good hands.

“New Zealand has been very fortunate to have so many competent tax leaders involved in developing policy for the betterment of our country. It’s very exciting to be around the next generation of future tax policy influencers, who are already, at a young age, focused on innovative opportunities to enhance the tax landscape.”

Michelle Redington, Chief Tax Counsel at Inland Revenue, who was the guest speaker at the event where the four finalists were announced, says it is fantastic to see the Tax Policy Charitable Trust create opportunities for the next wave of tax policy thinkers.

“Throughout my career, I have been very lucky to be supported by some of New Zealand’s preeminent tax leaders, who have been fantastic teachers and mentors,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed a diverse career in tax, spurred on by a need to solve complex problems, and I’m proud to be able to give back to the next generation of talented tax enthusiasts.”

Find out more about the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition, here.

Robin Oliver Tax Policy Scholarship launched

Robin Oliver Tax Policy Scholarship launched 2560 1707 Taxpolicy

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.

Trusted taxpayer regime just the beginning

Trusted taxpayer regime just the beginning 2315 1545 Lloyd

Winning this year’s Tax Policy Scholarship Competition has given Spark’s Nigel Jemson huge encouragement to keep sharing his tax reform ideas.

Jemson will receive $10,000 after wowing a heavyweight judging panel while presenting his trusted taxpayer regime idea at Wellington’s Victoria University.

The winning entry

Under his proposal, businesses would receive a 10 percent discounted tax rate if they opt to regularly report financial information to IRD.

Taxpayers part of the trusted taxpayer regime 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 provisions tax and operating a “predominantly cash-free” business.

Jemson was thankful for the opportunity to enter the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition.

“It’s great that young professionals get the chance to bring some new ideas to the table and get feedback on them,” he says.

“Winning the competition has given me huge encouragement to continue contributing my ideas in the tax policy sphere.”

Minister of Revenue Stuart Nash and 2019 Tax Policy Scholarship Winner Nigel Jemson

The other proposals

Jemson’s idea was among three proposals the judging panel listened to during the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition final.

Deloitte’s John Lohrentz was runner up, taking away $4000, and Shay Webster (also Deloitte) pocketed $1000.

Lohrentz supported a progressive tax on biogenic methane emissions in the agriculture sector.

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

  • A refundable tax credit to support sustainable farmers in implementing more efficient practices and technology, changing land use or planting trees.
  • A new 40% R&D tax credit exclusively for agricultural R&D – targeting core R&D activities that foster innovation and ‘natural capital’ in New Zealand’s agriculture sector.

Webster favoured 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.

Jemson and Lohrentz will now present their proposals at Young IFA.

The thoughts of the judges

Overall, competition judge Robin Oliver says the finalists’ proposals reflect the changing nature of tax policy and how it interreacts with social concerns such as the environment, welfare reform and how to better manage taxpayer behaviour.

“Tax used to be much more about black letter tax law – the rules about measuring income and expenditure.

“The role of tax in building a sustainable and working society is being increasingly recognised, as is evident from this year’s [finalists].”

The former deputy commissioner of IRD was joined on the judging panel by Tax Policy Charitable Trust chair John Shewan, 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.

Tax Policy Scholarship Competition background

Every two years the Tax Policy Charitable Trust invites tax professionals under the age of 35 with an interest in tax policy to make a submission that outlines a significant form to the tax system.

Those in the private and public sectors and academia working (or eligible to work) in New Zealand are eligible to enter.

Matt Woolley, who was co-winner of the 2017 competition with Talia Smart, says it provided him with the opportunity to advocate for tax law reform in an area of interest and present to members of the Tax Working Group and government officials.

Caleb McConnell was the winner of the first Tax Policy Scholarship Competition in 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.

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

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

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.