On 13 July New Zealand's Finance Minister Bill English and Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse announced the government will act on all recommendations from the Shewan Inquiry into foreign trust disclosures rules.

Following the Panama Papers data leak, the New Zealand Government appointed tax expert John Shewan as an independent adviser to review the country's foreign trust disclosures rules.

Finance Minister Bill English and Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse announced the government will be acting on all recommendations from the Shewan Inquiry.

Recommendations for improved focus on:

  • registration and disclosure of information to government agencies (not publicly searchable);
  • increased information sharing between government agencies, and
  • anti-money laundering rules.

As the government is also committed to preventing anti-money laundering, there will be more comprehensive requirements for lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents among others.

These changes will be consistent with New Zealand's commitment to global transparency initiatives and will protect its strong and well-deserved reputation as an active member of the OECD.

The registration, information disclosure and reporting points will be addressed during the August 2016 tax bill. Legislation will then be introduced later in 2016 and is expected to be passed in the first half of 2017.

The majority of the new disclosure rules are expected to align with the new disclosure requirements under the Common Reporting Standard, an international reporting convention to which over 100 countries have already committed.

Allowing foreign trusts to establish in New Zealand is consistent with the government's policy of maintaining an open economy which welcomes foreign investment and active financial services sector; this stance is unlikely to change.

Trustees, professional advisers and back office service providers to New Zealand Foreign Trusts will need to be aware of the new disclosures and be ready to provide the additional information as required.

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