Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism : Phase 2

As an Accountant I am captured by the recent changes to bring in phase 2 of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 (AML/CFT Act).  Phase 2 extends the current AML/CFT Act 2009 to cover more businesses. It now includes lawyers & conveyancers, accountants,  real estate agents, and the New Zealand Racing Board (aka the TAB) as well as some businesses that deal in expensive goods.

These changes came/come into force on the following dates:

  • Lawyers and conveyancers – 1 July 2018
  • Accountants – 1 October 2018
  • Real estate agents – 1 January 2019
  • The TAB – 1 August 2019
  • Businesses that deal in expensive goods – 1 August 2019

As an accountant I was preparing for these changes in the lead up to 1 October 2018.  I had to document a “risk assessment,” “risk rating” and “anti-money laundering programme.”  These documents form part of the process that is required in our office in order to comply with the AML/CFT Act.  The compliance programme also needs to be audited every two years and can be subject to spot checks and penalties can be applied for non-compliance.

What does this mean for clients of accountants?

Accountants will now require more information from their clients before they can act for them. Client due diligence (CDD) must be completed on new and existing clients.  This process includes verifying identity documents, addresses, entity structure and in some cases the client’s source of wealth (enhanced due diligence).  Once these documents are obtained reasonable steps must be taken to verify their authenticity.

Enhanced due diligence will be required for the following types of clients:

  • All trusts
  • Charities/Incorporated Societies
  • All companies that have a trust that is a shareholder
  • Clients that come from countries that are deemed high risk (such as tax havens and non-democratic countries)
  • Clients with significant wealth

So what happens after CDD?

Accountants will be required monitor and report to the financial intelligence unit of the New Zealand Police:

  • any suspicious transactions
  • where a client wants to conduct a transaction with more than $10,000 of cash; or
  • by international wire transfer over $1000.

Also, the accountant is obliged not to tell the client that they have reported them to the relevant authority.

Reaction of some accountants

In the circles of small practitioners I associate with, initially some decided that they would restructure their accounting practices so that they would not be captured by the act.

I have only heard of one small practitioner managing to not be captured under the AML/CFT Act as he doesn’t do any captured activities.  For my practice this wouldn’t work as most clients expect me to do these captured activities.  Most practitioners have now accepted that they are captured and it now means an additional compliance cost they will bear.  Ultimately and unfortunately this cost will end up being passed onto the client.

From discussions with other practitioners, for many new clients completing CDD has not been a problem.  However, some existing clients that have been with firms for many years have been questioning the process.  There is also an issue with clients that accountants act for that do not visit due to being in different regions or countries.  This has required some clients to visit solicitors or justices of the peace to certify documents and post them to the accountant. In most cases I have seen the compliance burden from complying with the act turn a relatively straightforward and quick job into something that can take weeks to start, especially with overseas based clients.  Do you remember how quick it used to be to open a bank account?

With respect to the legislation/regulations, personally, I believe this is the government extending itself into a police state.  Also the examples listed in Appendix A of the Department of Internal Affairs Guidelines for accountants only involve accountants that wilfully and knowingly entered into money laundering transactions on behalf of criminal clients.  None involved cases cited were examples of an accountant that unwittingly laundered money for a client.  All this legislation does is essentially apply a hammer to crack a nut mentality and will not stop the types of accountants that are mentioned in the cases from doing doing business with people who want to launder money.

This also places me in a conflicted position.  Professionally under my code of ethics I take client confidentiality very seriously.  This is to the point if the IRD is not formally requesting information under their powers under the Tax Administration Act I won’t give it to them until they compel me to do it.  Now I am obliged to report clients to the FIU and not alert them. This makes me feel uneasy.

In any case watch this space it has only been six weeks since implementation.  I am sure that I will post some further comment on AML/CFT and the way it is affecting clients and accountants.

Recipe: Christmas Puddings

Since Christmas is on the way you should start preparing your Christmas puddings for the following year.  Puddings always taste better if they have had at least a year to mature.  Here is the recipe that I use to make my Christmas puddings.  You will need at least a 1.7 litre pudding basin.

Ingredients:

  • 150 grams of currants
  • 150 grams of sultanas
  • 150 grams of chopped prunes
  • 150 grams of cranberries
  • 200 millilitres of pedro ximenez sherry
  • 100 grams of plain flour
  • 125 grams of breadcrumbs
  • 150 grams of suet (make sure this is real suet not vegetable, talk to your butcher)
  • 150 grams of dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 size 7 eggs
  • 1 large granny smith apple
  • 2 tablespoons of manuka honey

Method:

  1. Put the currants, sultanas, prunes and cranberries into a bowl with the with sherry and steep for 1 week.
  2. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the steeped fruit to the ingredients including all the liquor.
  4. Grease the 1.7 litre pudding basin.
  5. Scrape the mixture into the pudding basin press it down and put the lid on.
  6. Place the pudding basin into a slow cooker with around 1-2 inches of water in the bottom and set to low.  Place lid on slow cooker and cook for around 4-5 hours.
  7. Carefully remove the pudding basin from the slow cooker and leave to rest and cool.
  8. Once the pudding has cooled, remove from the basin and wrap in baking paper and store in your pantry for around 1 year.
  9. Around 1-2 months prior to Christmas take the pudding out of the baking paper, place in a greased pudding basin and drizzle one teaspoon of sherry over the pudding every 2-3 days.
  10. On Christmas day steam the pudding in a pot with the lid on for 3 hours prior to serving.
  11. Serve with vanilla ice cream and/or custard.

Recipe: Spicy BBQ Chicken Nibbles

Since BBQ season is approaching, I have a recipe for a marinade that I like to use for BBQ chicken nibbles/drums that I thought I would share.

Ingredients:
  • 1 kg of chicken drums or nibbles.
  • 1/3 cup of soy sauce.
  • 1/3 cup Kecap Manis (or to substitute 2 parts soy sauce to 1 part brown sugar simmered at a low heat until it obtains a syrup consistency then left to cool.)
  • 2 tablespoons of tumeric powder.
  • 2 teaspoons of chilli powder.
Method:
  1. Mix in a bowl the soy sauce, kecap manis, tumeric and chilli powder.
  2. Mix the chicken drums/nibbles into the marinade.
  3. Leave in the fridge for at least two hours, however, overnight is best.
  4. Ensure to that you stir it a couple of times to ensure the chicken marinades evenly.
  5. Cook over a charcoal BBQ with the lid down.
  6. Enjoy!

 

International Fraud Awareness Week: Inheritance Scams

International fraud awareness week is observed 11-17 November 2018.  Only the week prior I saw first hand a person who has fallen victim to an elaborate international scheme set up by dishonest individuals.  An elderly man popped into our office asking for advice on investing a large inheritance he was going to receive.

The AML/CFT rules now apply to accountants. So I asked him for some further details regarding the inheritance as well as some personal identification.  Apparently, the inheritance was coming from somebody the victim has never known but “shared the same last name.”  The inheritance (which was in the millions) was brought to his attention by a letter received unexpectedly in the post from overseas.  On top of that, the funds were frozen and required a court order to unfreeze them to make them available for distribution to him as the beneficiary of the estate.  In order to do this he was required to pay money by wire transfer to the lawyer who had contacted him to cover the legal costs to do this.  Unfortunately, the man happily obliged and parted with a significant sum of money.  This was done without seeking any advice from any professional in New Zealand such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner.

I advised him that he had probably been a victim of a inheritance scam. Unfortunately, I am under the impression he didn’t believe me.  He didn’t come back with the details I needed so that I could act for him.  When he left the office he said was going to contact the “lawyers” to see if he could provide that information.  I did, however, offer some parting advice. This was to not pay any further money if requested unless he consulted a professional.

So after seeing this first hand I thought I would point out some warning signs of an inheritance scam.  Remember to stay safe out there!

Warning signs:

  • You are contacted out of the blue by a scammer posing as a lawyer or banker and offering you a large inheritance from a distant relative or wealthy individual.
  • There may be requests to pose as next of kin to an unclaimed inheritance.
  • The offer comes on official looking letterhead, however, contains spelling and grammatical mistakes.
  • The size of the inheritance is large.
  • You are provided with fake bank statements, birth certificates and other documents if you question the legitimacy.
  • You are asked to provide your bank account details, copies of identity documents as verification.
  • You are asked to pay a series of fees, charges or taxes to help release or transfer the money.
  • The fees may initially be for small amounts, however, you are then asked for further larger payments.
  • The scammer offers to meet you in person to verify the proposal, but this rarely eventuates.
How to protect yourself:
  • Never send money or give credit card, account details, copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up front payment by money order, wire transfer, pre-loaded card or bitcoin. It is very difficult to recover money this way.
  • Seek advise immediately from an independent professional such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner if in doubt.
  • Do an internet search using the names, contact details or exact wording of the letter/email to check for any references to a scam.
  • If you think it’s a scam, don’t respond.
  • Remember if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
What to do if you have been scammed:
  • Contact your bank immediately and see whether they can cancel or reverse the transaction.
  • Report it to the police.

Yoast SEO Plugin – Provides interesting content analysis

I recently installed the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress. The plugin has provided me with an interesting analysis on how I write content.  I have noticed that I use the passive voice far too much in my posts. Also my sentences and paragraphs are too long, and I use far too many consecutive sentences.  It would also help me if I use more transition words.  Wow! I knew that my English was not great but from the analysis it sounds that my writing is terrible!

This sounds like an opportunity to look at how to write better.  But, as far as this post is concerned it says I don’t have too much to be worried about!

The First Post!

Welcome to my blog.  I am writing this sitting in my office waiting for a manual backup to complete so I can complete a practice management software upgrade.  In the past I wanted to get into blogging to teach myself how to set up and use WordPress as a content management system.  Also it is an opportunity to provide comment on the things that interest me.

I’ve had plans to set up a personal blog for some time. However, over the last 3-4 years time constraints due to work and my family life have been prevented from doing this.

I wanted to register knobby.co.nz or knobby.nz as a domain name.  However, an Australian underwear club managed to register all those domains in tharlt time as part of their “intellectual property.”  Therefore I have settled for a Belorussian domain name.

You are probably wondering why I want a domain name with knobby in it.  Firstly, it was the nickname I was called at school and through the sports I played. Secondly, my wife hates the nickname for some reason and has never called me by it :).

Offshore Bank Account and Credit or Debit Card

New Zealand tax residents are generally taxed on their world-wide income you derive. This includes foreign income even if it is simply funding an offshore credit card or is deposited in an offshore bank account. The types of funds that are deposited into these bank accounts vary and include income paid by a non-resident employer, overseas life insurance policies, superannuation schemes, or equity investments held in portfolio accounts. The fact that foreign withholding tax may have been deducted on foreign income does not mean that this income is no longer taxable in New Zealand.

The income is calculated under the New Zealand rules and must be returned as offshore income. In most circumstances, this calculation is conducted on a cash basis. However, if it exceeds certain thresholds as set out in the Income Tax Act 2007, the income might have to be accounted for under financial arrangement rules on an accrual basis.

If interest is being paid to an offshore lender withholding tax might be payable in New Zealand. This does not apply if the offshore lender has a branch in New Zealand.

Be aware that IRD are looking at undeclared offshore income.

As these are complex areas, you may wish to seek professional advice if you have offshore bank accounts.

Changes to Financial Reporting Requirements

There have been discussions about the changes to the financial reporting requirements for small and medium-sized companies (SME’s) for some time now. It was announced on 13 March 2014 that these changes will come into effect on 1 April 2014. The changes are meant to save compliance costs significantly for most SME’s in New Zealand, that is, companies with annual revenue of less than $30 million or assets less than $60 million.

Compliance costs increased significantly for companies in 2007 when accounting standards, based on international reporting standards, required them to have detailed and extensive accounting disclosures. This provided a platform for those companies, mostly large, that were looking for offshore funding in the international markets but SME’s operating in the domestic market did not get a comparable benefit.

The new legislation provides relief for SME’s in that only large companies, as defined, are required to comply with the accounting standards.

For accounting periods beginning on or after 1 April 2014, small to medium-sized companies will no longer have a statutory obligation to prepare general-purpose financial statements required under the Financial Reporting Act 1993 , ie financial statements complying with accounting standards. They will however be required to prepare special-purpose financial statements for income tax purposes.

Inland Revenue issued guidelines late last year setting out the minimum information companies will need to provide for the special-purpose financial statements but these proposed minimum reporting requirements appear to be lengthy and unfortunately may negate most of the savings in compliance costs for SME’s.

Some of the Inland Revenue requirements include:

  1. A balance sheet setting out the assets, liabilities, and net assets of the company as at the end of the income year;
  2. A profit and loss statement;
  3. The financial statements must be prepared on the Double-entry and Accrual accounting principles;
  4. Values used may be tax values, historical costs, or market values as long as they are consistent with the accounting principles above;
  5. Other information that must be disclosed in the Financial statements:
    • a statement of accounting policies;
    • Comparatives;
    • Taxable Income Reconciliations;
    • Detailed, taxation-based, schedule of the company’s fixed assets and depreciable property;
    • Associated person transactions; and
    • Additional disclosures for companies with particular types of business;
  6. Reporting of certain items of income eg dividends and interest grossed up for tax credits.

The New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA) will also issue guidelines, in conjunction with Inland Revenue, so entities will have the option of choosing between Inland Revenue and NZICA frameworks.

If you want to discuss how the changes affect you please contact my accountants in Manukau.