14 October – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – New Zealand’s Inland Revenue Department is attempting to seek immediate imprisonment for taxpayers who fail to act on court orders to supply IRD with documents or returns. The first attempt at doing so today in the Wellington District Court was frustrated when Judge Susan Thomas ordered that the matter be deferred pending further submissions.
Judge Thomas found the IRD request to be “quite extraordinary” and noted that the effect would be to have defendants taken straight from the court room to Rimutuka Prison for breach of a civil matter. When Judge Thomas questioned IRD counsel on the fairness of such a request the counsel replied that the defendants would be free to seek bail.
Judge Thomas noted that she was “very concerned about Bill of Rights issues” and was “very uncomfortable” with the whole notion.
IRD’s Cath Cowper said that using the civil jurisdiction in tandem with the penalties available to them under the criminal jurisdiction appeared to Inland Revenue to be an effective and legitimate means of getting taxpayers to comply with Inland Revenue requirements.
In all a total of five taxpayers were sought to be imprisoned by IRD on the spot but only one taxpayer, Scott Anderson, seemed to take the matter seriously enough to turn up. Mr Anderson has been waging a personal battle with IRD for years and argues that he has supplied the IRD with everything they have asked for, sometimes many times over.
Mr Anderson’s submissions to court include an internal IRD email which discusses what to do about Mr Anderson’s many disputes with IRD. It says that “when he is broke he won’t be a problem”. Mr Anderson says that “as well as trying for years to make me broke, they want to send me to prison for not supplying documents I have already given them”.
IRD’s submissions to court state that imprisonment for not supplying returns or documents is not “unduly draconian”. Anderson says in response that if IRD does not view incarceration for failing to supply information as draconian, “would the Commissioner look to hanging or guillotine” as being the measure of draconian action?