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Opinion: More flowers and chocolates under new tax scheme

Opinion: More flowers and chocolates under new tax scheme
Of all the recession-ending revisions the new government made to New Zealand's tax laws last week, one stood out: the threshold for fringe benefit tax (FBT) paid on minor benefits that can be given to employees such as flowers and chocolates. "The value of minor fringe benefits (such as chocolates and flowers) that can be provided to employees without attracting FBT will be raised to NZ$300 per quarter per employee and NZ$22,500 a year per employer. This will mean fewer businesses will be required to return FBT on certain minor benefits provided to employees," the fact sheet accompanying the announcement said. Although businesses are likely to cut back spending on more needless items (such as pretty presents to employees who should count themselves lucky just to have kept their job during a recession), this revision to the FBT law may come as some relief to business owners who were worried about how they would afford to keep giving gifts to employees. You can just imagine stressed business owners laying awake at night worried about workers refusing to work or even threatening to quit because they didn't receive flowers on their birthday (I didn't), or chocolates when their boyfriend/girlfriend left them. In fact, on a slightly serious note, this tax revision may even be needed in order to keep up staff morale during the hard times, when layoffs might mean less staff with bigger workloads. A (non-taxable) bouquet of daffodils or box of sweets may take one's mind off the fact that they're being exploited by one's boss. But would these gifts be needed at all? After all, with the big, bad R-word hovering above everybody's heads, employees are faced by the fact that if they quit, there's possibly nowhere else for them to go. At least John Key won't be paying as much tax when he hands out Cabinet Easter eggs and Christmas pressies.

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