COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Bill (No 2)

  • enacted

COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Bill (No 2)

Government Bill

318—1

Explanatory note

General policy statement

This Bill is an omnibus Bill that amends 8 enactments. The single broad policy of the Bill is to make amendments relating to administrative matters, such as timelines for financial reporting, and to taxation legislation that are aimed at assisting the Government and New Zealanders to more effectively manage, and recover from, the impacts of COVID-19.

Broadly, the amendments deal with the following issues:

  • extending certain statutory deadlines relating to the 2019/20 financial year, including those for annual reporting and auditing by public sector entities, local authorities, and council-controlled organisations:

  • amending the Accident Compensation (Experience Rating) Regulations 2019 so they continue to apply for the 2021–22 tax year:

  • amending tax legislation in relation to—

    • supporting the implementation of the research and development loan scheme:

    • qualification periods for the in-work tax credit:

    • the power of the Commissioner of Inland Revenue (Commissioner) to vary due dates and deadlines:

    • the remission of interest for provisional taxpayers.

The enactments amended are:

  • Accident Compensation (Experience Rating) Regulations 2019:

  • Crown Entities Act 2004:

  • Crown Research Institutes Act 1992:

  • Income Tax Act 2007:

  • Local Government Act 2002:

  • Public Finance Act 1989:

  • State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986:

  • Tax Administration Act 1994.

Departmental disclosure statement

The Parliamentary Counsel Office is required to prepare a disclosure statement to assist with the scrutiny of this Bill. The disclosure statement provides access to information about the policy development of the Bill and identifies any significant or unusual legislative features of the Bill.

Clause by clause analysis

Clause 1 is the Title clause.

Clause 2 is the commencement clause. The amendments in Schedule 2 (Inland Revenue Department) come into force, or are deemed to have done so, on the dates set out in clause 2. The rest of the Act comes into force on the day after the date of Royal assent.

Clause 3 makes all the amendments to the enactments amended by Schedules 1 to 4 of this Bill. The amendments are arranged in schedules based on the administering Agency.

Schedule 1: Department of Internal Affairs
Local Government Act 2002

Section 67 of the Local Government Act 2002 requires boards of council-controlled organisations to prepare an annual report of their operations for each financial year and to deliver the report to their shareholders and make it publicly available. They must do so within 3 months after the end of the financial year. Section 98 of the Local Government Act 2002 requires local authorities to prepare and adopt an annual report within 4 months after the end of each financial year. In each case, the annual report must include an auditor’s report from the Auditor-General.

For the reasons explained below in relation to the Crown Entities Act 2004, compliance with this deadline poses a risk to the quality of reporting and auditing.

New sections 67A and 98A extend both these deadlines in relation to the 2019/20 financial year by 2 months (to 30 November and 31 December 2020 respectively). These provisions will be repealed on 1 February 2021.

Schedule 2: Inland Revenue Department
Income Tax Act 2007
Tax treatment of expenditure related to certain government loans

Section DF 1 provides for the tax treatment of expenditure funded by government or local authority grant, subsidy, or loan.

Generally, a person cannot claim a deduction for expenditure funded in this way. As payments made under the small business cashflow loan scheme are an exception to this rule, it is considered that the payments under the research and development loan scheme should receive the same treatment. New section DF 1(1)(cc) provides for this treatment.

The amendment to schedule 21B, part B, clause 21 provides that expenditure funded through a loan made under the research and development loan scheme is not ineligible expenditure for the purposes of the calculation of research and development tax credits. A definition of research and development loan scheme is provided in section YA 1.

In-work tax credits

Due to the difficulties posed by COVID-19 for work-hours and income, sections MD 9 and MD 10 are amended to ensure a 14-day extension to in-work tax credit entitlement in cases where, due to work-hours and income not meeting current criteria, there would otherwise be no entitlement.

Tax Administration Act 1994
Commissioner’s power to vary due dates and deadlines

Section 6I of the Tax Administration Act 1994 provides for variations to be made by the Commissioner for the limited period during which persons who are required to do something under an Inland Revenue Act might find difficulty in the performance of this task because of COVID-19 related circumstances.

While the provision allows the Commissioner to extend a due date, deadline, time period, or timeframe, it may be that shortening the period might be a more favourable option for taxpayers.

The amendment to section 6I(1)(a) and new subsection (1B) provide that the Commissioner may extend or otherwise modify the date or period if it is advantageous for persons in these circumstances.

Disclosure of taxpayer information

Schedule 7 of the Act governs the detail relating to the disclosure of taxpayer information by Inland Revenue.

It is unclear whether Inland Revenue can share information with Callaghan Innovation in relation to the research and development loan scheme which Callaghan Innovation administers on behalf of the government.

The amendments to schedule 7, part C, clauses 23B and 38 ensure that Inland Revenue is able to share this information to enable Callaghan Innovation to make faster and better-informed decisions about an applicant’s credibility and to increase the efficacy of the scheme.

Remission of interest on terminal tax for 2020–21 tax year for provisional taxpayers affected by COVID-19

Under section 183ABAB of the Act, the Commissioner has a discretion to remit use of money interest for taxpayers whose ability to pay tax on time has been significantly adversely affected by COVID-19.

Some provisional taxpayers begin accruing interest on their terminal tax for a tax year before their terminal tax date for the tax year. The only interest on the terminal tax of these provisional taxpayers that the Commissioner may remit under section 183ABAB is that which accrues after their terminal tax date.

New section 183ABAC gives the Commissioner a discretion to also remit use of money interest on provisional taxpayers’ terminal tax for the 2020–21 tax year accrued up until their terminal tax date if certain criteria are met. The heading to section 183ABAB is amended consequentially.

Schedule 3: Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment
Accident Compensation (Experience Rating) Regulations 2019

The Accident Compensation (Experience Rating) Regulations 2019 (the ACER regulations) specify a mechanism for adjusting base levy rates for the 2020–21 tax year. Regulations could be made under the Accident Compensation Act 2001 to extend the ACER regulations to apply for the 2021–22 tax year. Given the effects of COVID-19 and resulting pressures on both levy payers and the accident compensation scheme, it has not been possible to conduct the consultation process that would usually occur before such amending regulations would be made. Having this Bill amend the ACER regulations will ensure levy payers have early certainty as to the continuance of the experience rating system.

This Bill will amend the ACER regulations so that they also apply for the 2021–22 tax year. The levy rates and levy groups (which determine who is required to pay what rate of levy) are not being changed—the rates and groups that apply for the 2021–22 tax year are simply being continued for another year. The ACER regulations, once amended, will cease to apply after 31 March 2022 (unless they are further amended).

Crown Research Institutes Act 1992

Section 17 of the Crown Research Institutes Act 1992 requires Crown research institutes to give financial and other information and audit reports to their shareholding Ministers within 3 months after the end of each financial year.

For the reasons explained below in relation to the Crown Entities Act 2004, compliance with this deadline poses a risk to the quality of reporting and auditing.

New section 17A extends that deadline to require the information and reports for the 2019/20 financial year to be given by 30 November 2020. This provision will be repealed on 1 December 2020.

Schedule 4: Treasury
Crown Entities Act 2004

Under the Crown Entities Act 2004, after the end of each financial year,—

  • within 3 months after the end of the year, each Crown entity must provide financial and performance information to the Auditor-General (section 156(1)); and

  • within 4 months after the end of the year, the Auditor-General must provide the entity with an audit report (section 156(2)).

Section 150 then requires various information and reports to be given to the responsible Minister, presented to the House of Representatives, and published.

The ability of Crown entities and auditors to meet the deadlines in section 156 for the 2019/20 financial year is under pressure because of—

  • increased complexity due to COVID-19 (for example, the need to revalue assets and liabilities and audit new risks and new areas of operational responsibility); and

  • delays caused by COVID-19 (for example, interim audits that were scheduled to occur while New Zealand was in lockdown did not proceed as planned); and

  • lack of access to key staff, information, and experts.

Without sufficient time to consider the issues that have arisen from COVID-19, and given resourcing constraints, there will be risks to the quality of reporting and the robustness and quality of audits.

New section 156(3) extends those deadlines so that the information for the 2019/20 financial year must be given by 20 November 2020 and the audit reports must be provided by 18 December 2020. This provision will be repealed at the end of the financial year, after all the related deadlines have passed.

Public Finance Act 1989
End-of-year performance information on appropriations

Section 19B of the Public Finance Act 1989 requires each appropriation Minister who is identified as providing end-of-year performance information on an appropriation for a financial year to prepare the information and ensure it is presented to the House within 4 months after the end of the financial year, and is then published. If the House is not sitting, the Minister must ensure that it is published within 4 months after the end of the financial year.

In line with the deadline extensions for departmental reporting (see below), this deadline is also extended for the 2019/20 financial year to 21 December 2020. This provision will be repealed at the end of the financial year, after all the related deadlines have passed.

Statement on long-term fiscal position

Section 26N of the Public Finance Act 1989 requires the Treasury to prepare a statement on New Zealand’s long-term fiscal position at least once every 4 years, which the Minister must present to the House of Representatives. The next statement is currently required by November 2020.

Due to the uncertain economic effects of COVID-19, it will be very difficult to produce a meaningful statement on the long-term fiscal position by November 2020. Modelling and projections being used to prepare the statement are now out of date. Because the effects of COVID-19 are still ongoing, the likely long-term effects on the economy are not yet fully apparent. A statement with a Budget 2021 forecast base will allow a better indication of the economic and fiscal impacts of the pandemic to be factored into projections.

To allow time for the economic position to become clearer and to enable a more meaningful statement to be prepared, new section 26NAAA defers the date by which the next statement on long-term fiscal position must be given until 30 September 2021. This provision is repealed on 1 October 2021 as there are no related deadlines.

2019/20 financial year audits

Under the Public Finance Act 1989, for each financial year,—

  • within 2 months after the end of the year, each department and departmental agency must provide various financial and performance information to the Auditor-General (section 45D(1) and (1A)); and

  • within 3 months after the end of the year, the Auditor-General must audit it and provide the entity with an audit report (section 45D(2)).

Sections 19A and 44 then require various information and reports to be given to responsible Ministers, presented to the House of Representatives, and published.

For the reasons explained above in relation to the Crown Entities Act 2004, compliance with the deadlines in section 45D poses a risk to the quality of reporting and auditing.

New section 45DA extends those deadlines so that the information for the 2019/20 financial year must be given by 31 October 2020 and the audit reports must be provided by 30 November 2020.

New section 44A adjusts the deadlines for presentation and publishing under section 44 in line with the extension provided by new section 45DA.

These provisions will be repealed at the end of the financial year, after all the related deadlines have passed.

State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986

The State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986 requires State enterprises to deliver various financial and other information and audit reports to their shareholding Ministers within 3 months after the end of each financial year (section 15). The Minister must present them to the House of Representatives within 12 sitting days of receiving them (section 17).

For the reasons explained above in relation to the Crown Entities Act 2004, compliance with the deadline in section 15 poses a risk to the quality of reporting and auditing.

New section 15A extends that deadline so that the information and reports for the 2019/20 financial year must be delivered to the Minister by 30 November 2020. This provision will be repealed at the end of the financial year, after all the related deadlines have passed.