Changes To IRD Admin System

The manner in which we interact with Inland Revenue (IRD) is likely to change dramatically over the next two years as the upgrade of IRD’s IT system and associated legislation comes on-line. IRD’s broad objective is to reduce the amount of time and cost it and private business spends on tax administration by modernising its software platform.

At present, both GST and PAYE processing costs are higher than necessary and there are problems with the quality and timeliness of information submitted. These issues not only impose costs on employers and the IRD, but also limit the Government’s ability to provide effective social services.

IRD is currently working with third party software providers to design digital solutions that will integrate tax obligations into everyday business practices. To ensure the changes are well designed and beneficial to all parties, feedback is being sought on potential changes via discussion documents.

One of the most recent discussion documents outlines potential changes to GST and PAYE. The IRD is currently requesting feedback on proposed changes and poses several questions that are designed to challenge our thinking on the current approach. For example, whether changes should be made to the calculation of PAYE on extra pays, holiday pay and years that include an extra pay period?

GST related changes include the ability to allow GST return filing and payment processes to be integrated with digital accounting platforms. This would allow GST-registered persons to submit their GST returns through their chosen accounting software programme as they fall due, effectively eliminating the requirement to file a separate GST return as a separate process. Such changes would remove the need to double-enter information, and reduce the potential for error. IRD’s proposals also include making GST refunds via direct credit to a customer’s bank account compulsory, unless it would cause undue hardship or is not practicable.

PAYE could shift to a semi-automated process. Similar to the GST proposal above, businesses would be able to submit payroll information to the IRD direct from their accounting system and make necessary payments to the IRD at that time. For example, PAYE information could be submitted to IRD at the same time that a ‘pay run’ occurs. Under this design, employers’ PAYE obligations would be integrated with their current business procedures, eliminating certain processes such as the need to file nil employer monthly returns. PAYE payments to IRD might be due at the same time the employee is paid.

By increasing the quality and timeliness of the information provided, IRD should have greater capability to improve individual’s access to social entitlements and identify and prevent errors; such as overpayments of family assistance.

The changes represent a shift to a framework in which IRD’s system would no longer work on a stand-alone basis. Instead, IRD would ‘talk’ to software providers, ensure their system worked in accordance with its view of applicable legislation and would then accept what it was sent. Such changes would provide the business and IRD with greater confidence regarding the accuracy and correctness of a tax return.

Modernising New Zealand’s Tax System

The Government has released two discussion papers to engage in public consultation on options for simplifying and modernising New Zealand’s tax system. The documents introduce taxpayers to the general direction the Government intends to take to improve administration of the tax system.

Basically, the Government wants to simplify tax for individuals and businesses by reducing compliance costs, and making interactions with the IRD faster, more accurate and convenient with a greater use of electronic and online processes. As the IRD puts it, “tax obligations should be easy to comply with and hard to get wrong”.

The first discussion paper ‘Making tax simpler – A Government green paper on tax administration’ outlines the overall direction of the tax administration modernisation programme. Key elements of potential change include:

  • Simplifying tax for businesses, for example by streamlining the collection of PAYE, GST and other withholding taxes and integrating these obligations into business processes. Options will be investigated for simplifying the calculation of provisional tax – with more emphasis on real time information, together with payment options that better reflect taxpayer’s cash flows.
  • Simplifying tax for individuals by providing online income tax statements for individuals pre-populated with income details, so that all that would be required is to ‘check and confirm’. Technology will be used more effectively to better manage both overpayments and underpayments of tax.
  • Social policy objectives would be met by using information that the IRD or the Government already holds, providing for timely payments on a more real-time basis, resulting in certainty for individuals and families. With faster, more accurate information, there should be less chance of people receiving too much and going into debt.

The IRD wants to make tax obligations part of the normal day-to-day business processes, making it quick, easy and harder to get things wrong.

Consultation closes on 29 May 2015.

The second discussion document ‘Making tax simpler – Better digital services’ outlines proposals for greater use of electronic and online processes. In particular the discussion document considers whether secure digital services can be delivered using the current policy and legislative framework and discusses options to move people to digital services, these include:

  • The IRD working with third parties such as banks and business software developers so that tax interactions are built into a customer’s regular transactions rather than managing tax separately at specific times of the year.
  • Non-digital services will need to be provided for those who still cannot use digital services.
  • A process would be developed for moving to a digital format those who could potentially use digital systems for some services – in circumstances where there would be wider benefits accrued.

Consultation closes on 15 May 2015.

These are the first two releases in a series of public consultations designed to modernise and simplify the tax system. Further discussion documents will be released over the next two years and public feedback is requested.

The significance of this process can’t be overstated. In an age where changes in lifestyle as a result of technology have moved at an explosive rate, the design, administration and technology associated with our tax system have not kept up.

Tax Payments – When Received In Time

Despite our best efforts, many of us are familiar with the consequences of making late tax payments to the IRD. Often, the problem is not just that we forget and leave it to the last minute, but that the payment we make is not processed or received by the IRD in time.

Late payment penalties and use-of-money interest can often be prevented by simply paying tax on time. The IRD has released an updated Standard Practice Statement (SPS 14/01) setting out when different types of tax payments will be accepted as having been paid by the due date. Importantly, it contains several amendments to the previous standards, particularly in relation to payments by post and payments made at Westpac. These changes took effect from 1 October 2014. To ensure your next tax payment is not late and subject to interest and penalties, it is important to familiarise yourself with the standards, as summarised below.

PAYMENTS BY POST – previously, the IRD based the payment date on the post date on the envelope. This is no longer the case. Instead, the IRD will deem the payment date to be the date the envelope is received. As a result, if your routine is to post the cheque on the due date, you may need to put it in the post a day or two earlier.

ELECTRONIC PAYMENTS – payments made electronically or by direct credit into an IRD account must be completed before the end of the bank’s online “business hours”.

For example, if a GST payment is made on 28 April at 10.30pm but the bank’s internet banking cut off is 10.00pm then the payment will not be processed that day and could be treated as late. This also applies to payments made from overseas (bearing in mind the international time difference).

PHYSICAL DELIVERY – payments made by cheque must be delivered to an IRD office before it closes, by the due date.

CASH & EFTPOS – all cash and EFTPOS payments must be paid over the counter at a Westpac branch by the due date. It is important to note that returns must still be filed electronically, posted or delivered to the IRD (Westpac will accept the payment but not the actual tax return).

POST-DATED CHEQUES – post-dated cheques will not be banked by the IRD until the specified date. If it is post-dated after the due date then it will be treated as a late payment (even if it was received before the due date).

Take note that from 1 October 2014, Westpac stopped accepting cheque payments so these must now go directly to the IRD.

WEEKENDS & PUBLIC HOLIDAYS – if a due date falls on a weekend or a public holiday then electronic payments will be accepted on the next working day. This includes all provincial anniversary days.

Whatever your preferred method of payment, adhering to these updated and clarified standards will enable you to avoid unwanted interest and penalties.