Stop picking on pensioners

Friday June 16, 2017 Published in Letters to the Editor
Grey Power vice-president Dennis Tunui (centre) rallies members of the pensioner activist group at a rally at MFEM’s offi ces, back in October 2013. 17061439 Grey Power vice-president Dennis Tunui (centre) rallies members of the pensioner activist group at a rally at MFEM’s offi ces, back in October 2013. 17061439

In 2013 a Richard Neves-driven CIP government turned a blind eye to a massive $26 million worth of unpaid tax (now this figure has grown to $32 million according to Finance minister Mark Brown.

 

The money is owed by individuals and companies, some of whom have not been paying their income tax for over 10 years. Richard Neves, the newly-appointed Secretary of Finance who was supposed to go after the big fish, turned his attention instead to a mere $2 million he claimed was owed by 300 New Zealand-paid pensioners now living and collecting their pensions here in the Cook Islands without paying tax on them.

In 2013, local pensioners since 1965 and New Zealand pensioners who had reached retirement age when portability became available in 1996 were exempt from paying income tax until the CIP government came into power in 2013, ending 48 years of grace for the pensioners endorsed by Papa Arapati founder of the Cook Islands Party.

Richard Neves, was given total control over all financial matters by Henry Puna, prime minister in the new CIP government. He was given such overriding power that he kicked into life a dormant, and overlooked 2009 tax law requiring those receiving New Zealand pensions to be taxed. This law was signed by former New Zealand prime minister John Key and Papa Jim Marurai, who, true to form, said nothing and did nothing about it, thus maintaining the status quo.

With a resuscitated tax law in his hands a cocky Richard Neves talked of an untapped source of new money coming in for the government from non-tax paying pensioners, orometua and the churches.

He was very brutal against us New Zealand pensioners because we formed a Grey Power organisation and protested very strongly against the treatment being dished out to us. Meanwhile, the orometua and the churches suffered in reverent silence. 

At the stroke of Neves’ pen, we Grey Power mamas and papas became tax creditors, owing $4,000 each of tax and back-tax rolled into one.

On Neves’ advice members bank accounts were raided and $30,000 removed. We law abiding grandmothers and grandfathers were threatened with a court appearance if we did not pay. We were accused and unjustly treated of a crime we did not commit because there was no law to cause us to commit that crime.

On the other hand, the individuals and companies I referred to earlier committed a crime. The law says they must comply with and law and pay their income tax: very simple.

Why were we then crucified while these chronic defaulters are getting the red carpet treatment from the CIP government?

“Tax amnesty starts in August” splashed across the front page of CI News on Wednesday, May 31, and a boastful Mark Brown says it will allow the government to write off additional tax debts and forgive companies and individuals any undeclared income.

The government made a commitment to waive any additional tax imposed on them. Yes, give them a fresh start to do the same thing all over again.

Why weren’t their bank accounts raided?

The government’s problems would have been solved then, if the government had done what it is doing right now to our members, intercepting and deducting tax on our monthly bank deposits from WINZ before we get our hands on the money.

The pensioner-bashing continues while the wicked are favoured.

And Mark Brown, when is your Government going to pay interest on $400,00 of our members’ back tax your government withheld (invested) for 10 months before they were directed by parliament to reimburse it?

My back-of-the-envelope calculation comes to $25,000.

Meanwhile, there is talk our comatose Cook Island parliament might stir back to life for a little bit.

            Praise the Lord.

            Dennis Tunui

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