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Queenstown Airport loses second bid to keep depreciation tax deductions

No evidence to suggest any work would need to be done on the majority of the structure.

Sophie Boot
Mon, 27 Feb 2017

Queenstown Airport has lost a second legal dispute with the Inland Revenue Department over its runway end safety area (RESA}.

The Court of Appeal has dismissed the airport's claim for tax deductions relating to depreciation.

The RESA is an area beyond a runway which is there as a safety zone if a plane undershoots or overruns the runway surface.

At the eastern end of Queenstown Airport's runway, there was a steep drop off where the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers merge, so Queenstown Airport built an $8.7 million embankment from the existing cliff for the RESA.

The airport argued it should be able to claim depreciation on the RESA at the eastern end of its international runway for the 2012 and 2013 tax years, and in the future.

It wanted to claim between $312,000 and $419,000 per year in depreciation, dependent on whether the RESA qualified as runway, hardstanding or road. The IRD said the area was land, and therefore not depreciable.

In July 2016, High Court Justice Brendan Brown ruled the IRD was correct in refusing the airport's claim for tax deductions, and awarded costs for two lawyers to the IRD.

The judge ruled the eastern RESA was neither an airport runway nor hardstanding under the Income Tax Act, a finding that the appeal court upheld in its judgment delivered on Friday. However, the appeal bench said it was possible that in different circumstances, such as Wellington Airport, the RESA could be considered runway for depreciation purposes.

Queenstown Airport's lawyer David Goddard QC argued the High Court had used a narrow construction of the Income Tax Act and had lost sight of the overarching question of whether the eastern RESA was depreciable property. Justice Brown found it was not property that might be expected to decline in value while being used in normal circumstances, which the airport disputed.

The Court of Appeal bench said there was no evidence to suggest any work would need to be done on the majority of the structure, and any amount properly deductible as depreciation would be "reduced to a very low level accordingly." The court awarded further costs for two lawyers to the IRD.

The airport recognised the full deferred tax liability for the RESA of $2.64 million in its 2016 accounts.

(BusinessDesk)

Sophie Boot
Mon, 27 Feb 2017
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Queenstown Airport loses second bid to keep depreciation tax deductions
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