Cabinet Minister Gerry Brownlee has questioned why political reporters' phone, email and swipe card records should be protected when they frequently publish classified information or the private records of others.
The Commissioner has recently published an Operational Statement (OS 13/01) on the Commissioners search and seizure powers under section 16 of the Tax Administration Act 1994. OS 13/01 seeks to provide practical guidance to IRD officers and taxpayers when the Commissioner invokes these powers.That the Commissioner has immense powers under section 16 is beyond debate. The Commissioner can search any property at any time, and may remove and retain any and all documents and records the Commissioner considers may be relevant to any tax issues. Where however such search is to take place at a dwelling, the Commissioner is required to obtain a District Court warrant beforehand. In practise the Commissioner will obtain such a warrant without notice to the taxpayer concerned, and so without the taxpayer having an opportunity to present their case to the Court considering the issue of the warrant.The scale of the Commissioner’s search and seizure powers presumably makes the Police Commissioner’s eyes water with envy. In addition, the Commissioner effectively answers to no one, save for the Courts where a taxpayer has sufficient financial resources and is sufficiently brave to challenge the Commissioner.Taxpayers have few rights when being raided, and these are effectively restricted to claims of privilege or non-disclosure in respect of documents seized. It is imperative that taxpayers who are being raided obtain the services of a tax solicitor to represent them when the IRD arrive. Usually a solicitor is able to agree a process applicable to the conduct of the raid with the IRD officers whereby the Commissioner’s rights are secured, as is the taxpayers’ privilege or non-disclosure rights.In practise it is unclear exactly how wide the IRD's powers are, and so the presence of a tax solicitor can be useful to monitor events so as to ensure that the IRD officers carrying out the raid do not overstep their powers. In our experience IRD officers generally do try to act in a professional manner, but it needs to be borne in mind that their objective is to advance the Commissioner’s interests, not the taxpayers.Practical issues that we have been confronted with during IRD raids include;· IRD officers attempting to ‘detain’ or restrict the movement of staff and other persons present at the premises during the raid.· IRD officers seizing immigration documents and passports belonging to relatives of the taxpayer.· A locksmith engaged by the IRD who forcibly opened a combination lock leather briefcase with a hacksaw, (the combination of which the taxpayer had forgotten) after declaring that he had the ‘expertise’ to open the combination lock.
No left egalitarian has explained how such [taxes] square with Kant’s second formulation of the categorical imperative: “So act as to use humanity, both in your own person and in the person of every other, always at the same time as an end, never simply as a means.” Taxing Peter to pay Paul is using Peter for Paul. It is corrupting. Modern governments have been encouraged to think that any abuse of Peter is just fine, that Peter is a slave available for any duty that the ruler has in mind. A little like non-modern governments.