Geoff Cone, the Cone in the Cone Marshall Law Firm, has been practicing New Zealand tax law since 1980. He graduated from the University of Otago in Southern New Zealand and stayed in Dunedin to achieve a post graduate diploma in tax and trust law. Driven, Cone moved to Auckland in 1980 to start practicing law.
The young star attorney caught the attention of a major law firm in Christchurch, so Cone went back to the South Island after accepting a major job offer. After serving as partner and the Chairman of Partners in a leading law firm in Christchurch, he began work in the British West Indies as a litigator for two years. In 1997, the attorney returned to his island nation to setup his own firm in Auckland.
His years of experience and his passion for tax law may seem mundane, but it makes him an expert in foreign trusts. In fact, Cone runs the only law firm in New Zealand that works exclusively with tax and trust law. So when an article recently ran that said New Zealand was a tax haven, Cone took issue.
Writing in opposition, Cone says that the romantic notion that New Zealand is some exotic location for foreigners to keep their wealth is just wrong. Instead of sexy airport thriller, he says, tax law is more mundane. It is also black and white.
The evidence clearly shows that New Zealand never has been nor will it ever be a tax haven for foreign trusts. In fact, Cone writes, New Zealand holds to a gold standard for transparency according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD sets standards for international business and tax law. New Zealand scores incredibly high according to those standards.
New Zealand was the first country on OECD’s list of countries with incredibly high transparency when it comes to foreign trusts. The 2002 OECD Model Agreement on Exchange of Information on Tax Matters instructs countries to open up channels of communication with foreign governments in order to assist those governments to apply local tax laws. This transparency should frighten off any foreigner looking to hide money in New Zealand.
Cone takes pride in his country and he points to the fact that New Zealand’s robust banking system is the reason for the uptick in foreign trusts. The stability of the banking environment in New Zealand is exactly what attracts foreign trusts, he says. People looking to setup a trust like the reliability of the country’s banking regulations and the economy.
In the end, it shows that Cone is a proud Kiwi that knows his tax and trust law. his expertise should assuage fears that New Zealand has descended into a tax haven.
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