New Zealand and Foreign Trusts

Despite opinions from some on financial matters, New Zealand is no tax haven, says Geoffrey Cone of the Cone Marshall law firm.


In the case of New Zealand, Cone argues that the typical definition of tax havens simply don’t apply there. In addition to having a relatively transparent banking system, New Zealand lacks the exemption from nominal taxes for those filing in the country, and it is void of laws that limit the communication between governments on financial issues. One can clearly see how both those conditions would benefit an individual or corporate body in seeking to hide money from their host or home country.


New Zealand has in fact consistently been leading the charge for transparency in these matters for quite some time. Looking back to 2006, regulations introduced by former Minister of Finance Michael Cullen placed residents under increased scrutiny when holding a foreign trust. Obligated to submit a Foreign Trust Disclosure Form and produce a bevy of financial records, which could include details of assets, liabilities, and even accounting records, New Zealand could create a more accurate picture of its tax dealings involving money held elsewhere. Failure to comply is met with serious penalties, even more so in the past five years as money laundering has grown into a more troublesome crime for governments to combat.


This, along with the 39 double tax agreements New Zealand currently has on the books, Cone argues, makes for one of the most rigorous financial apparatuses in the world for limiting tax avoidance and evasion. But part of what makes this really work is a network of more than 20 countries that engage in the exchange of tax information, which would make the country most inhospitable to any person or organization seeking a tax haven.


This, however, does not diminish New Zealand’s reputation as a good place to have a foreign trust. Thanks to the country’s commitment to financial law and a the high praise of its judiciary, it’s become a place where sound business can take place and benefit from a stable financial infrastructure.


About Geoffrey Cone:


Having graduated from the University of Otago, New Zealand, Geoffrey Cone began his legal career in Auckland in 1980. His career soon led him to Christchurch where he ascended to the position of Chairman of Partners in one of the city’s most prestigious law firms, focusing largely on commercial litigation in addition to tax and trust counsel. Though he spent several years working in the British West Indies in litigation, he soon returned to Auckland where he eventually established his own legal firm.


Since 1999, Geoffrey Cone has been at the head of Cone Marshall Limited, the leader in New Zealand international trust and tax planning. Along with a team of legal and financial experts, Cone’s firm provides trustee and trust management services to its diverse group of clients.