That figure is a combination of additional (or penalty) tax that has been written off, core tax that’s been paid, and tax owing for which a payment plan has been organised.
“We’re pretty happy with the response,” says RMD tax advisory officer Chiavanni Le’Mon, adding that the amnesty was extended, “because everybody is seeing the benefits of jumping onboard and taking advantage of the write-off of all additional taxes”.
More than $4.5 million in additional tax, around a quarter of total additional tax owed, has been written off, while $3.5 million in core tax has also been processed.
Only $725,000 of that core tax owing has been received so far however, with $2.8 million to be paid off under instalment.
But Le’Mon says the tax amnesty isn’t just about recovering tax debt; it’s also about educating people on their responsibilities and obligations as taxpayers.
“It’s about understanding why we have to pay tax, because people are still asking that question,” she says. “Tax is a good thing to contribute to our economy, because it is for us. It is our money for us to enjoy public services that we all use.”
Particular efforts have been made to reach out to the outer islands during the tax amnesty, with Le’Mon and others travelling to Aitutaki, Atiu and Mangaia.
“When I went over to Mangaia, when I went over to Atiu, they were all like, ‘Oh, last time the tax department came out here it was to collect debt’.
“But my role is not to collect debt, it’s to help educate and help people understand. And so they were asking for the service to go back once a year.”
Le’Mon says the possibility of RMD making regular annual visits to outer islands in future is “all dependent on the budget”.
Taxpayer response to the amnesty has been positive she adds, describing it as “a welcoming gesture for people to come forward and ask about their taxes”.
“I’ve gotten heaps of emails from people who are like, ‘Oh, I’m so thankful for the tax amnesty, I’m so grateful for the tax amnesty. I feel like I can breathe now’.
“That’s the biggest one – the tax amnesty has given them a relief, knowing that they don’t have that on their shoulder anymore, and that they can relax knowing the taxman is not going to chase them.
“Because it is scary: we do have quite a lot of powers. We can go into your bank accounts, we can seize your assets and we can organise a deduction order direct from your employer. But we don’t want to do that.”