New Zealand contemplates not charging GST on crypto transactions

As is the case in certain countries, New Zealand views cryptocurrency as a form of property. Just like other products in the same category, a goods and services tax (GST) must be applied when crypto changes from one person or entity to another. However, the government has discovered that, when applied, this rule leads to the possibility that crypto might be double taxed due to the application of a requisite income tax, and is now looking at whether or not crypto needs to remain included in the 15% GST tax regime.

The New Zealand Inland Revenue Department (IRD) published an update (in pdf) to its GST policy issues this week, asserting that the double taxation situation is “unfavorable” and could be removed. However, it specifies that crypto would still be included when calculating income taxes. The IRD explains in its update, “Because of their innovative nature, [cryptocurrencies] will often also have different features to … other investment products. This means that some existing tax rules can be difficult to apply, involve very high compliance costs or may provide policy outcomes for some crypto-assets that lead to over-taxation compared to other alternative investment products.”

The proposed changes wouldn’t be all-inclusive – some transactions and sales could still be required to pay taxes twice. One of these examples is a share that provides an “interest in a foreign company or partnership.”

The IRD further states that, by relaxing the rules, crypto innovation will be enhanced and the space will be allowed to grow more rapidly. It expects that those in the industry will no longer be disadvantage from issuing or selling digital currencies in the country, and that the change will enable increased investment and business growth. The IRD adds, “The current GST rules provide an uncertain and variable GST treatment making, using or investing in crypto-assets less attractive than using money or investing in other financial assets.”

“Requiring the financial arrangement rules to be applied to some crypto-assets would lead to accrual-based taxation on large unrealised gains and losses from cryptoasset values, which can be very volatile. It could also bias investment decisions about which types of crypto-assets New Zealand investors may prefer to invest in, if some tokens are only taxed on realised gains or losses when they are sold or exchanged for other tokens, and others that are subject to tax on accrued gains or losses,” asserts the agency.

The tax authority is now seeking input on the changes, and will allow submissions until April 9 before moving forward with any changes. Should the revised tax code be implemented, New Zealand would be on the same level as Australia, which introduced a similar structure in 2017, and possibly Singapore, which began exploring the same idea in the middle of last year.

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