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Govt weighs up foreign fund free-for-all

The government is considering proposals to reduce PIE and non-resident withholding tax rates to 0% for foreigners who hold offshore assets through New Zealand entities.

Thursday, April 9th 2009, 5:29AM

by David Chaplin

Craig Stobo, who holds director roles and ownership stakes in various financial services companies, said Inland Revenue Department and other officials are currently “scoping out” the foreign tax proposals, which were approved for further investigation at the recent government 'jobs summit'.

The proposal for “exempting tax for non-residents that invest outside NZ via PIEs” was included in the Cabinet paper listing the viable ideas to emerge out of the February employment summit.

Stobo, the former head of BT Funds Management NZ, first floated the idea of a zero tax for foreigners investing in offshore assets last year in a paper titled 'Creating wealth for New Zealanders'.

In the paper, Stobo said the proposals had the potential to create “a vibrant funds management industry located in New Zealand with an international focus - with the relocation of fund managers incentivised by the tax changes”.

“And this comes at no cost to the New Zealand tax base, as those attracted by the changes are not currently in New Zealand. This will develop finance skills in New Zealand and provide employment opportunities for Kiwis currently overseas wanting to come home,” the Stobo paper says.

“This treatment opens up an enormous opportunity for industry participants to develop and manage products in New Zealand that can compete with other jurisdictions for global business. The employment, income and taxation revenue consequences of this could be significantly positive for New Zealand.”

It also claims the tax changes could produce a range of other benefits including: expanding the investment options for New Zealand savers; increasing the efficiency for New Zealand companies; reducing the incentive for foreigners to buy 100% of New Zealand firms, and; an increase the liquidity and depth of New Zealand equity markets.

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