Why are amounts received from begging not income for tax purposes but are income for the purposes of income testing welfare benefits?
On 20th February 2017, Frank Lovich was convicted of fraud for begging while receiving a benefit. Among other charges, Mr Lovich was convicted under section 15 of the Summary Offences Act 1981. Under this legislation, a person is ‘liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $1,000 who solicits, gathers, or collects alms, subscriptions, or contributions by means of any false pretence’.
While the Police have indicated they are not going to commence prosecution proceedings against all welfare recipients who may engage in begging activity, an important question arises from this situation: Are we, yet again, treating people on welfare differently from other people in society? Continue reading Begging and Benefits: When Is Income ‘Income’?→
At a time when the media is reporting different outcomes in the justice system depending on the job, family or position in society of the convicted individual, it becomes time to question the transparency of the outcomes in the justice system. If the penalty for a crime was determined solely on factors that are legally permitted to be considered in determining the appropriate punishment – then why the outcry? If the penalty can be defended – why isn’t it? Perhaps it is time for judges to be given the opportunity to explain their decisions and the factors that contribute to the outcomes under question.
My research suggests different outcomes in the justice system for different “types” of people – and by “types” I mean people receiving welfare benefits and other financial offenders (Marriott, 2016a). Welfare beneficiaries are more likely to be investigated than (for example) tax evaders and they are also more likely to be prosecuted than tax evaders for an equivalent level of offending. These two crimes – and they are both crimes – are conceptually identical: they are both deliberate financial offending; they have the same victim; and they result in the same outcome: less resources for the government. Perhaps the key difference is in the economic significance of the two crimes. Typically, welfare fraud is around $30 million per annum, whereas detected tax evasion is usually around $1 billion. Undetected (and therefore uncollected) tax evasion is forecast to be at least $5 billion per annum. To put this into context – that is more than the Ministry of Social Development annual budget for working-age benefit payments. Continue reading Are We All Equal in NZ?→