Write-off rewards bad behaviour

Monday February 12, 2018 Published in Letters to the Editor

Monday’s article announcing Governments plans to wipe out $18m in tax states, “Since the start of the tax amnesty in January last year, the government has recovered a significant amount, believed to be around $4.5m”.


So clearly the tax amnesty must be working. Taxpayers have been submitting outstanding returns, payment plans have been put in place and people are actually making payments. Success!

If so, why then, would the Government decide on an outrageous policy to completely wipe out $18m in tax debt? Why write debt off when you are actively recovering some of that same debt? Why give back some of that already recovered debt? Debt validly owed to the Government, to the people of the Cook Islands?  It makes no sense! Or does it?

If you owe taxes, it is because at some point you have earned revenue. Anyone who lives in the Cook Islands, is a part of our community, enjoys the benefit of living in this paradise, has the obligation to share in the costs of public services that are provided for us. We all know taxes help pay for things like education, health, roads and street lights, police, and a whole lot of other benefits and services we all consume. We all have to pay our share.

Businesses and individuals that make their living from our islands but don’t think they have to pay their share should be ashamed. Any taxpayers that will significantly benefit from this write-off should be ashamed.

Actively trying to get away with having other hardworking people and businesses pay your share, you should be ashamed. Some of these people you probably know, nice big house, latest model pick-up truck, travel, the good life. But you and I pay their share. Shame!

Those that will benefit from this write-off include individuals and businesses that have made money off the Cook Islands, its people and environment and not paid their dues. Businesses that have charged you and me VAT on their goods, but put that money in their pocket. Employers who have taken PAYE out of your pay check every week or fortnight and put it in their pocket. Tax avoiders and evaders. All given a reward by the finance minister.

The minister merits the write-off with, “Reducing the number of accounts that the tax department needs to sort out” and “makes their job easier”.

Hello, minister!! That is their job. The government instead should apply more resources to the tax department to help process returns and collect debts.

The minister says “this is good news for everybody”. What it is, is a slap in the face for all the good and honest people and businesses out there who strive to meet their tax obligations. These good taxpayers are also burdened” by high living costs and costs of doing business in these small islands but they still make the effort – actively contributing to the nation’s economic growth.

Imagine two business competitors trading side by side. One pays their taxes every month, every year, and the other pockets their collected VAT, PAYE, and income tax. Then along comes the minister with a policy to write-off and reward the dishonest. Both now have no incentive to keep paying taxes, simply wait a few years for the next government policy to write-off. This is a bad policy that sets a very dangerous precedent. Incentivising the good to become bad, and the bad to stay bad!

I find it hard to believe that the tax department would think this is a good idea. It would be interesting to see who exactly pushed for this write-off. The fact that this decision was made with such little thought and consideration is frightening. Imagine what other decisions have been made that we don’t know about.

To demonstrate how ridiculous this write-off is, by the same logic, our under resourced ministry of justice would benefit from this type of policy. Shall we forgive all the drunk drivers, domestic violence perpetrators, thieves, rapists and other criminals awaiting trial? This would definitely free up the ministry of justice, making their job easier and reducing the number of cases to process. Of course not! That would be grossly unjust and unfair. Completely inappropriate! And so is this tax write-off.

Simply writing off debt based on a specific date rather than on the circumstances of individual debtors clearly shows that this policy is targeted to allow preferential write-off of specific debts, to benefit certain people, but to hide them among others within this date range.

Given the absurdity and absolute unfairness of this policy, there can only be one logical conclusion. The people who will benefit the most from this $18m write-off simply must be people close to those in government responsible for this decision. Friends, family, staff, who knows. The only other explanation is that the people managing the finances of this country are grossly incompetent. Or perhaps both. You decide!

The tax debt is owed to the government, the Crown, the people of the Cook Islands. The people deserve to know who the special few are, the special ones that the rest are paying for. So minister, let’s see a list of the lucky few please. Until then, smells like corruption to me!

PS: On the issue of this $18m tax write-off, the silence from the “Opposition” is deafening. Could it be that some of them are also hiding behind this policy as they too benefit? Who then, is left to stand up for the good taxpayers, the honest people of this country?

Calling you all out because the hardworking people of this country deserve better

Yours, also in disgust

            Average Tere

            (Name and address supplied)


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