The Inland Revenue Department is reminding taxpayers of their obligations to pay gift duty, after an elderly taxpayer was found guilty of tax evasion.
The lawyer for the man, who has interim name suppression, has said his client will appeal the decision.
The ruling came after the IRD discovered a trail of undeclared gifts by the man stretching across many years.
Although the man is not a resident of New Zealand, tax laws mean that because the gifts took place in New Zealand, gift duty remains payable.
The man, understood to be a resident of the North Pole, reportedly gave thousands of gifts to strangers over a long period.
The man claimed during his trial that he only wanted to bring good cheer to the lives of children, and that his gifting had no purpose other than to bring happiness to the world.
But High Court Justice Sourcraft described the man in his judgment as “calculated and devious. [name redacted] crafted a clever scheme that involved giving thousands of small gifts, rather than fewer larger ones that would attract the attention of the revenue authorities. It is clear to this Court that [name redacted] is a methodical, untrustworthy and fundamentally dishonest man.”
The man is due to be sentenced in February, but it is expected that he will be ordered to pay most, if not all, of the $452 million in taxes assessed by the IRD. The offence he has been convicted of is also punishable by a term of imprisonment.
The man’s lawyer sought name suppression on the grounds that the defendant was a public figure who was well known to young children. His conviction would cause shock and hurt to many in the community and would destroy his reputation.
Justice Sourcraft declined the name suppression request. But that decision was appealed, and an interim name suppression order remains in place until tomorrow morning, when the issue goes before the Court of Appeal.
Tax partner Roger Nollaby of PriceWaterhouse Coopers said that the ruling was a timely reminder of the need to file gift statements.
“People may think that, just because the government is talking about doing away with gift duty, they don’t have to worry about documenting their gifting properly.
“This case shows that they need to think again.”
The convicted man was yesterday defiant, and said that he had done nothing wrong.
Speaking outside the courtroom as he was supported by his close friend Lindsay Perigo, the man said “I’m a legitimate businessman. It’s ridiculous the red tape one has to cut through to run a business operation in this country. This country’s gone to the dogs and is run by socialists.
“In my country we don’t have all these stupid laws. I can do as I please, and I don’t pay any taxes. The Arctic is the last utopia for true freedom lovers.
“Well then, if that’s the way they want to treat me then their kids can forget about getting anything this Christmas. Ho ho f***ing ho!”