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MP has no evidence to back tobacco tax 'rort'

New Zealand First MP Andrew Williams has no evidence to support his claims the tobacco industry is rorting taxpayers out of tens of millions of dollars.

In a public statement today, the list MP says he wants customs minister Maurice Williamson to look into a loophole he says could be costing between $30 million and $40 million in avoided taxes.

He alleges “vast” quantities of cigarettes were imported and stockpiled in warehouses towards the end of last year, before the January 1 tax increase of 10%.

He says those cigarettes were then re-exported overseas after January 1 and the tobacco industry claimed back the increased excise tax.

“They were even chartering planes at huge expense to fly cigarettes into the country and stockpile them in warehouses to meet the 31 December deadline. That's how lucrative this scheme is.” 

However, when asked by NBR ONLINE to provide evidence, Mr Williams could not and his claims were rubbished by an industry source.

“I don’t know how much was imported.

“I have no idea who was doing it, but it’s people involved obviously in the tobacco industry in the know.

“I’ve got no figures or documents, only information from people who’ve witnessed it and seen it and said there’s definitely something going on here,” he told NBR ONLINE.

Mr Williams was not even sure where the tobacco was being held, only that it was in “various forms of warehouses.”

He is urging the government to act on his "claims."

Mr Williamson's press secretary Clint Owens says occasionally tobacco companies will import cigarettes and pay the excise duty, only to have to export the products when they expire.

He says in those cases, the tobacco companies are entitled to be paid their excise tax as they paid it when the tobacco was imported.

Others told NBR ONLINE New Zealand Customs went to great lengths to make sure the excise tax paid on export was exactly the same as what was paid on import – no higher and no lower.

One of the country’s biggest tobacco companies, British American Tobacco produces its cigarettes in Australia and is frequently importing large container loads into the country - all of which is legitimate.

More by Blair Cunningham

Comments and questions

I've got no evidence that he put much intelligent thought into his position.

Much like when he was mayor, then? Perhaps he should txt the PM in the middle of the night about it. How is it that we get to pay these guys to be professional plonkers?

Or that he puts intelligent thought into any of his statements.

The dude thought it would be a vote-catcher, the same way he sees himself as a nature-lover by watering council trees.

What a dick. Obviously not a very good leak. P*ssy.

A classic example of why List MPs are a waste of space. Kiwis deserve better in Parliament than this unelected idiot.

While I agree Williams is an idiot, the fact that he is an unelected MP has nothing to do with it. He was born that way. The real idiot is the party leader who chose him

Sounds like smart business to me.

It hardly sounds feasible in light of the excise tax issue itself, as explained by the minister's office. But in the context of the plain packaging debate (and the focus already on big multinationals like Google and Facebook seemingly avoiding tax by using offshore structures), it would be truly bizarre if the tobacco companies would be so monumentally foolish to risk a massive public relations own goal for the sake (arguably) of a possible marginal excise tax difference.

And what if this rumour is true? I wouldn't expect Maurice Williamson to raise an eyebrow, let alone an investigation.

I'd like to see an investigation on the effects of public urination on council trees.

Oh sure, beat up on tobacco. Bet he has little to say about booze.

Smokes need to be far cheaper to compete with overseas prices. It is a rort in that sense.

Andrew Williams is, and always was, a first class jerk. Anyone who believes a word he says is an idiot. This includes the media.

Check out Andy's tie; it's a cheap pre-knotted one on an elastic band.
A fitting sartorial statement to match his political nous.

No need for evidence - just make an outrageous claim. Certainly seems to have learnt the Winston way..