Do you know who can sign your corporate tax return?

Tax Alert - May 2021

By Justine Reed and Aryana Nafissi

The lead up to the 31 March tax filing deadline can be hectic. The last thing on anyone’s mind is who is responsible for signing the final tax return but every year it is one of the most common questions we get asked. It can lead to delays in filing the return as companies try to track down a director or executive office holder to sign the return. This is more common for companies who operate their New Zealand business from an overseas jurisdiction, particularly if there is a legal requirement to appoint a specific person, and they are the only person who can sign the return. Case in point, companies in Australia are required to appoint a public officer for this task.

Luckily, in New Zealand there is no legal requirement to appoint a specific person. A company has the option of electing a nominated person to sign on the company’s behalf, otherwise the return can be signed by whoever the company deems to be an authorised person.

So how do you decide who can be an authorised person?

Unfortunately (or fortunately), there is no definition of “authorised person” in the tax legislation. The Tax Administration Act 1994 just states that a return signed and filed by a person is deemed to have been made by that person or by their authority, unless proved otherwise.

Over the years, IR has taken the view that anyone can sign a tax return if they have the authority to do so. The company can expressly provide authority, or it can be implied by virtue of the position that the signer holds. So, this means that anyone that a company authorises to sign off the tax return has the authority to do so. It could be the CEO, General manager, CFO or even the tax manager along with the more usual directors or executive office holders of the company.

It should be noted that tax returns do not have to be physically signed, they are able to be e-signed (which the majority of our clients now do) and emailed to us for filing. However, if you do wish to physically sign the return, you do not need to provide us with the original copy, scanned copies are fine.

With the 2021 tax season kicking off, now is a great time to think about who within the company you are comfortable with signing the tax return and putting processes in place to ensure a streamlined approach, to ensure that there are no delays in getting the return signed.

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