New Zealand Law Society - IRD investigates exposure to Appleby law firm

IRD investigates exposure to Appleby law firm

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The Department of Inland Revenue says it is interested in hearing from any New Zealand taxpayer with exposure to the Bermudan law firm Appleby.

The German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung has obtained over 13.4 million files on the tax haven industry. These include emails, court documents, client records and bank statements from 1950 to 2016. Over half of the files - 6.8 million - have come from Appleby. The files have become known as the "Paradise Papers".

IRD says it is aware of the release of papers related to Appleby and is working closely with related agencies and New Zealand's international treaty partners.

"We have a strong focus on international tax compliance by New Zealand taxpayers. It would be prudent for anyone involved to come forward and explain their position to us so we can assess whether the correct amount of tax has been applied," says IRD Strategy Manager John Nash.

"We will examine any intelligence we receive about New Zealand taxpayers and check whether it aligns with their previous tax return positions and disclosures."

The Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC), of which New Zealand is a member, is already responding to the Appleby data using the same methods it applied last year to assess the information from the Panama Papers.

Mr Nash says there’s a great deal of experience within that forum to respond to such data releases in a fast, effective and coordinated way.

"JITSIC allows us to share intelligence and pool resources to quickly develop a more accurate picture of what the data is telling us than we would be able to achieve on our own."

Tax secrecy rules prevent Inland Revenue from publicly discussing the affairs of any taxpayer revealed in the data.

Appleby responds

Appleby has released a statement saying the media coverage, by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, is a "patchwork quilt of unrelated allegations with a clear political agenda and movement against offshore".

“The journalists do not allege, nor could they, that Appleby has done anything unlawful. There is no wrongdoing," it says.

"We wish to reiterate that our firm was not the subject of a leak but of a serious criminal act.  This was an illegal computer hack.  Our systems were accessed by an intruder who deployed  the tactics of a professional hacker and covered his/her tracks to the extent that a forensic investigation by a leading international Cyber & Threats team concluded that there was no definitive evidence that any data had left our systems."

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