Following recent media reports on alleged financial malpractices in New Zealand, one lawyer has come out with guns blazing. Geoffrey Cone, a partner with Cone Marshall Ltd, is an eminent lawyer and accountant of a high standing. He takes issue with the portrayal of New Zealand as an exotic place where wealthy individuals congregate to partake in complex financial deals.

Secretiveness, he argues, is the fundamental pillar of tax havens and New Zealand has never subscribed to the idea of a secretive banking industry. The country strives to adhere to the tenets of transparency in tax matters. It is party to the 2002 Model Agreement on Exchange of Information on Tax Matters. This agreement works to support the international effort to enforce domestic tax legislation. It is on these grounds that the OECD placed New Zealand on its white list.

Cone further explains that the country has always been at the forefront in demonstrating transparency on tax matters. It has entered many agreements with other nations to enable easy sharing of information relating to foreign trusts. Every trust and trustee are required to file all information relating to any transaction they make and keep the records in English. The use of English is to ensure that other governments can peruse and check them without difficulty.

Cone further directs any doubting Thomas to check the OECD database. That OECD maintains a list of proven tax havens on its database. New Zealand, Cone insists, never has and will never feature on that list. If the OECD had any doubts about the status of foreign trusts in New Zealand, it would have placed the country on the black list.

The country shows its commitment towards an above-board handling of foreign trustees. Every trustee of a foreign trust must hand in a Foreign Trust Disclosure form. They must also keep all records relating to their trusts for the authorities to scrutinize as and when necessary. Such records include details of settlements and distributions, trust deeds, a declaration of assets and liabilities and any incomes and expenditures of the trustee. The New Zealand government requires such information to keep an eye on tax matters.

Geoffrey Cone is a top lawyer and an accountant who formed Cone Marshall Ltd., a law firm committed to the needs of families striving for sound financial advice on tax matters and investments in New Zealand. Cone Marshall Ltd opened its doors to the public in 1999 in Auckland, New Zealand.

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