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The government is seeking feedback on the practicalities and privacy issues arising from its move to give all businesses, including charities, partnerships and sole traders, a single identifying number for dealings with state agencies.
All registered New Zealand companies were allocated a so-called New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) last December, with a view to it being in use by a core group of government agencies by 2016.
First to use the NZBN would be the Companies Office and other company-facing parts of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Inland Revenue Department, Statistics New Zealand, the Accident Compensation Corp, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Customs Department, Callaghan Innovation, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
"The vision for the NZBN is that it allows businesses to focus on business, not administration," says the consultation document issued by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce at a launch in the Wellington headquarters of cloud accounting software firm Xero.
"It does this by creating new opportunities to make the transfer of information more efficient, secure and accurate."
Xero founder Rod Drury suggested the NZBN would also help to create trusting links between businesses, which would in turn increase business opportunities by allowing businesses to deal accurately and safely with one another.
Public consultation will last until April 11 and focuses on questions such as how much information should automatically be made public, how much information businesses should be able to choose to put into their publicly searchable NZBN registrations, and coverage of non-company structures, such as sole traders and partnerships.
The government proposes sole traders should have a single, non-transferrable NZBN to reflect that many run more than one type of business activity.
Registered companies, however, would have an NZBN covering each separate corporate entity, which would shift to new owners or be able to be cancelled or suspended if a company ceased to trade. It also proposes making bankrupt NZBN-holders visible to public searches by linking the official insolvency register with Companies Office files.
For the moment, however, even where NZBN's have been allocated, they will not rep0lace ACC, IRD or any other numbers.
The consultation is intended to ensure the government's plans are on the right track before putting government agencies through the process of abandoning their existing identification methods which, for many, will be "significant and costly."
"Having a single business number means that by 2016 businesses will only have to provide government with their information once, which will be automatically shared across government agencies," said Joyce.