Government Scrambling to Help Quake Victims

February 25, 2011 New Zealand Taxation

365 Day 326*Less than three days following the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, the New Zealand government is rallying to organize financial support for people and businesses in the disaster struck Canterbury region.

In a media statement on February 24th New Zealand Prime Minister John Key revealed that later in the day he will begin talks with chief executives from New Zealand’s largest companies, in the hopes of working on a cooperative assistance package for the companies’ workers which were affected by the quake. The Prime Minister expects that the assistance and wage subsidy packages that might be needed after the earthquake will be different to those offered after the September 2010 earthquake, as this time many large businesses were disrupted alongside numerous small enterprises. It is expected that the assistance package will be finalized by Monday.

After the media statement the Prime Minister was asked about the possibility of an earthquake levy being imposed to help with the financial burden of recovering from the earthquake, similar to the system passed through the Australian House of Representatives on February 24th. The Prime Minister replied, saying that New Zealand effectively already has a tax to raise funds for disasters, in the form of the Earthquake Commission. He went on to say that while he prefers not to pursue a disaster tax, he will if it is deemed necessary.

In addition, the Inland Revenue Department is still advising taxpayers that they are eligible for several relief programs if they were adversely affected by the earthquake. According to the IRD earthquake victims are eligible for a waive in their late interest payments, and an earthquake support subsidy. The IRD can also fast track any GST refunds that are being expected by business owners in the area.

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