Tax Crime

Section 143B(1)(b) and (f) of the Tax Administration Act 1994 are unusual provisions in that they have an either or wording to the charge. For example section 143B(1) begins by saying that a person commits an offence against this Act if the person-

(b) knowingly does not provide information (including tax returns and tax forms) to the Commissioner or any other person in respect of a tax law … and does so

(f) intending to evade the assessment or payment of tax…

So it is possible to commit the offence with two different intentions. The intention to evade assessment or the intention to evade payment of tax. Normally, the section is invoked in situations where the intention is to evade payment of tax. This is because one way that people see to avoid the payment of tax is by not filing their tax returns.

However, it rear situations a taxpayer pays all the tax due but does not file the returns, thereby evading assessment of tax (which only happens on filing) rather than the payment of tax.

That is what happened in the case of CIR v Chand et al [2021] NZDC 16787 (CRI 2021-070-000794) 16 August 2021. In that case the taxpayer had over 16 years diligently paid their tax but had failed to file their returns.

Sentencing in cases involving s 143B(1)(b) and (f) is normally approached on the basis that there is fraud involved as evidenced by the non-payment of the tax truly due. But CIR v Chand did not involve fraud or evasion of payment responsibilities. It simply involved not filing the returns and hence evading assessment.

Neither the judge nor counsel could find any case which dealt with the correct sentencing approach where the defendant has plead guilty to evading assessment not evading payment of tax. Counsel for the defendant argued that the culpably for evading assessment was less particularly in circumstances where all the tax was paid over the period in question.

The judge disagreed. He considered that because Parliament had not differentiated between the two in terms of the range of penalty neither should he. Thus this case stands for the proposition that if a taxpayer pleads guilty to evading assessment of tax not the payment of tax it will make no difference to the approach to sentencing.   

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