New Zealand
At a glance

About New Zealand 

New Zealand is ranked the easiest country to do business in by the World Bank 2020 index. Additionally, it is ranked second in the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation. 

Flexible licensing and established labour laws and regulatory frameworks have positioned New Zealand as one of the world's most efficient and competitive entrepreneurial environments. This is further enhanced by a competitive financial sector which offers advanced, sophisticated financial instruments to boost business activity. Trade openness, supported by low tariff rates and few barriers to foreign investment, have also made New Zealand an attractive destination for trade and investment. 

The historic signing of the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations (CER) Trade Agreement strengthened economic ties between the two countries across innumerable sectors. Labour market regulations have been eradicated between the two countries, allowing free labour mobility, while many other areas of regulation – aviation, healthcare and food safety, for example – have been standardised to form a Single Economic Market (SEM). New Zealand's largest export partners are China, Australia and the US. 

Corporate Treasury in New Zealand 

New Zealand has well developed financial markets, sound banks and a business-friendly economy. In this section, we highlight some of the key benefits relevant to treasury and cash management. 

Financial Market Development 

  • Wellington is ranked 46th in the 2021 Global Financial Centres Index by Z/Yen Group.   
  • New Zealand has good business infrastructure, an educated English-speaking workforce and a sound legal environment. 
  • There are no foreign-exchange controls in New Zealand. 

Sophistication of Banking Systems 

  • There are 27 registered banks in New Zealand, 12 of which are branches of foreign banks. 
  • The size of New Zealand’s debt market has more than doubled in the past decade, with both government and corporate bonds available. Non-resident entities can also issue bonds in New Zealand dollars, known as Kauri bonds. Outstanding bonds with a value of NZD41.69 billion are listed on the NZX Debt Market.  

Regulatory Bodies 

  • The banking industry is regulated by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, which is the country’s central bank. Regulations are in line with international standards. 

 Tax 

  • The corporate income tax rate is 28%. 
  • Resident companies are taxed on worldwide income whilst non-resident companies are taxed on New Zealand-sourced income.
  • Profits from the branch of a foreign company are taxed at the same rate as a resident company’s profits. There is no branch profits remittance tax on the remittance of profits to the head office by the branch of a foreign company. 
  • The standard rate for Goods and Services Tax (GST) is 15% with certain goods and services being zero-rated whilst others are exempted. 
  • All interest derived by a company is treated as corporate income. 
  • Interest expenses that are used for business purposes are generally tax-deductible. However, the deductibility of the interest is restricted when the company’s allowable debt level exceeds the safe harbour debt-to-asset ratio. 
  • There are no stamp duties in New Zealand. 
  • Income or expenditure from financial arrangements, such as debt and debt instruments, including foreign exchange gains and losses, must be recognised on an accrual basis. When an arrangement matures or is disposed of, the holder must calculate a base price adjustment.  
  • Withholding tax (WHT) is charged at 33% on certain types of dividends, and at 28% on interest earned by resident companies. For non-resident companies where no tax treaty is in place, WHT of 0%, 15% or 30% is charged on dividends and 15% on interest. Where a tax treaty is in place and the non-resident can provide the Certificate of Residence, WHT ranges from 0% to 25% for dividends and 0% to 15% for interest. 
  • New Zealand has tax treaties with 40 countries and territories. 
  • New Zealand is a signatory to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, through which information is exchanged between tax administrations, to provide a single, global picture on some key indicators of economic activity within multinational enterprises. 

Benefits for Regional Treasury Centres 

  • New Zealand has well-developed financial markets and offers proximity to fast-growing Asian markets with no currency controls. 
  • New Zealand has one of the least regulated free-market economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with a sound business infrastructure and a strong rule of law. 
  • It is a member of the Asian Payment Network, a common payment settlement platform within the Asia-Pacific region. 
  • Domestic and cross-border notional pooling and cash concentration is permitted. 
Banking  

 Bank Accounts 

  • Residents and non-residents may hold foreign and domestic currency accounts both domestically and overseas. Domestic currency accounts are freely convertible into foreign currency. 
  • Interest is available for savings and current accounts as well as demand deposit accounts. 

  Legal and Regulatory 

  • The Reserve Bank of New Zealand's Prudential Supervision Department oversees the banking sector. 
  • The core payment systems are regulated by a self-governing body, Payments NZ Ltd, an industry-led regulator set up by New Zealand’s main banks. The payment systems it governs are the bulk electronic clearing system (BECS), consumer electronic clearing system (CECS), high value clearing system (HVCS) and paper clearing system (PCS). There are currently 13 participant banks and 35 members who are payment providers. 
  • A company is resident if it is incorporated in New Zealand or is managed or controlled in New Zealand. 
  • Foreign-exchange controls are not applied in New Zealand. 
  • Anti-money laundering and counterterrorism-finance legislation is in place and investigations are overseen and conducted by the New Zealand Police Financial Intelligence Unit (NZP-FIU), which is also a member of the Egmont Group. New Zealand is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). 
Payments

Payment Systems

Exchange and Settlement Account System (ESAS)  Exchange and Settlement Account System (ESAS) 
  • Operated by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Reserve Bank). 
  • ESAS 2.0 went live in early 2020, providing a secure platform aimed at the future of 24/7 banking innovations. 
  • There are 20 participants, including the Reserve Bank. 
  • Licensed banks require ESAS accounts with the Reserve Bank. Non-bank financial institutions may be permitted an ESAS account, subject to conditions. 
  • Settles transactions in real time and with immediate finality across participant banks' ESAS accounts at the Reserve Bank. Settles transactions using SWIFT from the HVCS in real time through ESAS. 

High-Value Clearing System (HVCS)

Electronic high-value exchange and settlement system 
  • Operated by Payments NZ. 
  • There are 13 participants, with support from the Reserve Bank. 
  • Processes high-value and urgent NZD-denominated electronic credit transfers. 
  • The Reserve Bank supports the use of HVCS for transactions exceeding NZD1 million. 
  • Settlement of transactions processed by the HVCS is done across participants' ESAS accounts at the Reserve Bank through ESAS. Settlement requests are sent between HVCS participants through ESAS-SWIFT using SWIFT FinCopy. 
Bulk Electronic Clearing System (BECS)  Bulk electronic-exchange and settlement system 
  • Operated by Payments NZ. 
  • There are 10 direct bank participants, with support from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. 
  • Processes low-value electronic-retail transactions (such as recurring direct debits). 
  • BECS is a Settlement Before Interchange (SBI) system. 
  • Transactions are processed in the next clearing period. Five daily settlements between banks ensures payments are settled on the same day and through ESAS before they are exchanged between the sending and receiving bank. 
Consumer Electronic Clearing System (CECS)  Exchange and settlement system 
  • Operated by Payments NZ. 
  • There are nine direct bank participants, with support from the Reserve Bank. 
  • Processes banks' proprietary debit card payments/ Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) as well as mobile payments utilising the SBI infrastructure. 
  • CECS is a SBI system. 
  • Transactions are processed in the next clearing period. Five daily settlements between banks ensure payments are settled on the same day and through ESAS before they are exchanged between the sending and receiving bank. 
Paper Clearing System (PCS)  Paper-based exchange and settlement system 
  • Operated by Payments NZ. 
  • There are two direct bank participants, with support from the Reserve Bank. 
  • Processes cheque payments and all Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR)-encoded paper-based payment instruments. 
  • PCS is a SBI system. 
  • Transactions are processed in the next clearing period. Five daily settlements between banks ensure payments are settled on the same day and through ESAS before they are exchanged between the sending and receiving banks. 

 

Payment Instruments 

Credit Transfers 

  • Automated only. 
  • High-value and urgent credit transfers are cleared and settled through HVCS in real time. 
  • Low-value, non-urgent and bulk-credit transfers are cleared through BECS on the same day. 
  • Used for payroll, supplier and third-party transactions. 

Direct Debits (auto debits) 

  • Available for low-value, regular payments such as utility bills. 
  • Processed through BECS on the same day. 

Card Payments 

  • Credit and debit cards are the most popular modes of payment by volume, with contactless payments – ‘tap and go’– experiencing the strongest growth with use by 73% of New Zealanders. 
  • The main credit card brands are Visa and MasterCard, with American Express and Diners Club also in circulation. They are cleared by their own international card schemes. Debit and credit card payments are cleared through CECS. 
  • Credit card transactions value outpaces that of debit cards, with credit cards now being used for 62% of all card transactions in Q2 2021. 
  • There are two EFTPOS network providers: Paymark (which processes 75% of EFTPOS transactions) and EFTPOS New Zealand (which processes the remaining 25%).  
  • Paymark is the national payment network operated by the big four Australian-owned banks: Westpac, ANZ, BNZ and ASB. 

Online Payments 

  • The Financial Markets Conduct Act (FMC Act) took an early position on financial technology (fintech) companies by allowing flexibility and innovation and supporting online capital-funding options within the financial markets. This relinquished the need for a regulatory sandbox. 
  • The Financial Markets Authority is overseeing developments in the fintech sector.  
  • Digital wallets are increasing in popularity, but credit and debit cards continue to be the most common mode of payment, with 56% of e-commerce payments being made by bank card and 22% by digital wallet. Popular digital wallets are Android Pay and Apple Pay, and local providers are ANZ’s goMoney Wallet and ASB Virtual Wallet. 
  • Mobile payments have had a relatively slow initial uptake; however, they are fast increasing in popularity with payments made by mobile apps, such as Square and Apple Pay, and wearable devices, such as FitBit Pay and Garmin Pay.  
  • New Zealand’s e-commerce market was worth NZD5.35 billion in 2020, a third of which was mobile commerce. 

Digital Currencies 

  • Persons working in New Zealand cryptocurrency markets or services are required to abide by the FMC Act and, with respect to anti-money laundering, the Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act. The Financial Markets Authority classifies exchanges, wallets, deposits, broking and ICOs as financial services that fall under the FMC Act.  
  • Cryptocurrencies are not legal tender.  

Cash, Cheques and Money Orders 

  • According to the Reserve Bank, contrary to cashless trends, the amount of cash in general circulation continues to grow. Cash is used by 96% of adults, with 40% preferring to use cash for small transactions. 
  • However, cheque usage is in significant decline as electronic payments become increasingly popular for both high- and low-value transactions. As such, Kiwibank and NZ Post stopped accepting cheques from February 2020, while ANZ, Bank of New Zealand, ASB and Westpac have plans to phase cheques out over the next year or two. 
  • Cheques are truncated and then processed through the PCS. 
  • Intrabank cheques can be cleared in real time or within 24 hours (depending on the bank) and interbank cheques can take up to three days. 
  • New Zealand’s PostShop offers Western Union remittance services for international money orders, but no longer sells domestic money orders. 

Sources (Intro & Corporate Treasury):
World Bank, Heritage Foundation, CIA World Factbook, World Economic Forum, PwC, NZX Debt Market, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Bank for International Settlements 

Sources (Banking & Payments):
Deloitte, DBS, Payments NZ, Mastercard, J.P. Morgan, Stats NZ, Cash Matters, Stuff.co.nz, NZ Herald, ecommerceDB. 

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