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Ngā whiu taihara Criminal penalties

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The penalties for criminal offences apply to all taxes and duties. A conviction for tax crime can mean a fine, and in serious cases you can go to prison.

Absolute liability offences

Absolute liability offences are failing to:

  • keep the books and documents as required by law
  • give information (including tax returns and forms) to us
  • issue a tax invoice within 28 days after a request for one.

Knowledge offences

Knowledge offences are when you know your tax obligations but choose not to meet them. The types of offences include:

  • not keeping legally required books and documents
  • not providing information, including tax returns and forms, when required to
  • providing altered, false, incomplete or misleading information
  • not accounting to us for tax deducted or withheld
  • not deducting or withholding tax when required to
  • issuing two tax invoices for the same taxable supply for GST purposes.

We will not prosecute if you didn't have information requested for reasons beyond your control.

Evasion offences

Certain actions can be evasion offences if they’re done to:

  • evade the assessment or payment of tax by yourself or anyone else
  • get a refund or payment of tax in the knowledge that you're not lawfully entitled to
  • enable someone else to get a refund or payment of tax, knowing that they aren't lawfully entitled to it.

Criminal offences for evasion can include:

  • not keeping legally required books and documents
  • not providing information, including tax returns and forms, when required
  • providing altered, false, incomplete or misleading information
  • not making a legally required deduction or withholding of tax.

It's also an offence to pretend to be another person for purposes relating to tax law.

We can seek a court order to get the information we need to carry out our legal duties. Not complying with the court order can mean a conviction and a fine and/or prison sentence.

Obstruction, aiding and abetting

Trying to stop us from doing our lawful duties, or using our lawful power, is an offence. It is an offence to help someone else commit an offence.

Offences made by employees and officers

If you’re a taxpayer's employee, agent or officer you are accountable when you are responsible for the taxpayer committing an offence.

We will penalise you if the principal offence was caused by you, your omission or with your knowledge. To convict you, we must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you:

  • meant to commit the offence
  • knew what you were doing.

We’ll check to see if you were following the instructions of a senior officer, and knew an offence was being committed.

We won't penalise you if we find only the taxpayer has committed an offence.