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Can AIM taxpayers use tax pooling?

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A taxpayer cannot use tax pooling to defer payment of, or settle, provisional tax instalments calculated under the accounting income method (AIM).

However, Tax Management NZ (TMNZ) can help AIM taxpayers with terminal tax or when they receive a notice of reassessment.

What does tax pooling legislation say about AIM?

Legislation in the Income Tax Act 2007 clearly states that a taxpayer can use tax pooling funds to satisfy “a provisional tax liability other than under the AIM method”.

Please refer to sections RP17-RP21 of the Act for further information.

Why IRD doesn’t allow tax pooling to assist with AIM payments?

Inland Revenue (IRD) says tax pooling manages taxpayers’ uncertainty around provisional tax payments and their exposure to interest.

Consistent with this objective, pooling is not currently available for tax types where someone has certainty of their liability at the time of payment (for example, GST).

Given the payments made under AIM are calculated on actual accounting profit, taxpayers will have certainty about what's due.

As such, it's IRD’s view that it's not appropriate to allow tax pooling for provisional tax payments calculated under AIM.

What does that mean for you?

IRD will reject the use of any tax pooling funds to satisfy an underpaid AIM instalment. As a result, late payment penalties and interest will continue to show on a taxpayer account.

They will, however, accept the use of tax pooling funds to settle a terminal tax liability. The same applies if an AIM taxpayer has additional tax to pay after receiving a notice of reassessment.

Please be mindful of these facts when entering arrangements with TMNZ.

It’s also an important consideration before electing to use AIM to calculate provisional tax.

That's because paying tax when income is earned is not necessarily the same as when cash is received.

If someone is unable to pay an AIM instalment on time or in full due to cashflow constraints, the safety net of tax pooling will not be available to reduce their exposure to interest and eliminate late payment penalties.

You're more than welcome to contact TMNZ if you have any questions.

IRD payment allocation rules explained

Provisional tax payments made on or before the date of the final instalment for the year are applied to the oldest overdue tax amount first while payments made after the date of the final instalment are applied to the interest owing on any overdue tax first, then the overdue tax amount.

The IRD payment allocation rules – which are found in s120F and s120L Tax Administration Act 1994 – also apply to payments made via a tax pooling provider such as Tax Management NZ (TMNZ).

It’s important to understand how they work and differ from one another.

Detailed explanation

Section 120L covers provisional tax payments made on or before the date of the final instalment for the year.

It requires IRD to apply a payment to unpaid tax in order from oldest to newest. Please note the unpaid tax amount(s) include late payment penalties.

Section 120F deals with payments that are made after the date of the final provisional tax instalment for the year.

It requires IRD to apply payments, in the following order, towards:

  • The interest accrued on the oldest unpaid tax amount until that interest is paid.
  • The oldest unpaid tax amount until that tax is paid.
  • The interest accrued on the next oldest unpaid tax amount until that interest is paid.
  • The next oldest unpaid tax amount until that tax is paid.
  • To each subsequent arising interest and unpaid tax amount using the pattern above, in time order that relevant unpaid tax arises, until they are paid.

Again, the unpaid tax amount in s120F includes late payment penalties.

The ramifications

These allocation rules mean a taxpayer may well find a tax payment they intended to be destined for a particular instalment date is allocated by IRD’s system to earlier unpaid amounts first.

For example, let's say they may make a $10,000 payment on time and in full on 15 January 2021. However, if they failed to pay their 28 August 2020 (P1) provisional tax, then their $10,000 payment will be applied as per s120L to the overdue tax amount (including late payment penalties) at P1 first.

As such, this leaves them exposed to additional (and unexpected) late payment penalties and interest.

It does not matter if the $10,000 payment they made on 15 January 2021 is a date-stamped transfer from the account of a tax pooling provider. Please see sRP19 (1B) Income Tax Act 2007.

In other words, you need to clear the tax liability at all earlier instalment dates first.

How TMNZ can assist with missed provisional tax payments

It's best to purchase from TMNZ the backdated tax to cover the shortfall at the earlier instalment date.

This achieves two things.

Firstly, it eliminates late payment penalties and significantly reduces the interest cost on the underpaid tax.

That’s because the tax you are purchasing from TMNZ was paid to IRD on the date it was originally due. IRD will treat it as if you have paid on time once it processes your transaction with TMNZ.

Secondly, it ensures that any other payment that was otherwise made on time and in full will be allocated to the particular provisional tax date for which it was intended.

A taxpayer has up to 75 days past their terminal tax date for that tax year to purchase the tax they require.

For example, if you have a terminal tax date of 7 February 2021, you will have until mid-April to settle your 2020 income tax with TMNZ. Those with a 7 April 2021 terminal tax date have until mid-June.

Please contact us if you have any questions. We're happy to help.

Increased provisional tax threshold: Legislative application

The rules that determine whether someone must pay provisional tax are still the same in terms of how IRD applies them.

However, what’s not the same for the 2021 and future tax years is the point at which they are applicable to a taxpayer.

That’s the important thing to remember if you’re struggling to wrap your head around how the increase to the provisional tax threshold works. (Don't worry, you're not the only one given the number of questions TMNZ has fielded recently from accountants in relation to this topic.)

Indeed, the legislation regarding whether a taxpayer has an obligation to pay provisional tax – particularly the rules found in sections RC3, RC6, RC9, RC13 and RC14 Income Tax 2007 – is essentially read and applied by IRD in the same manner it was before this change happened, albeit residual income tax (RIT) of $2500 has now been replaced with RIT of $5000.

That’s it. Nothing else is different.

To illustrate that point, let's look in more detail at how the provisional tax threshold increase impacts the 2021 tax year.

How it works in practice

Under the standard uplift method, provisional tax for the upcoming year is based on either:

  • The RIT for the 2020 tax year uplifted by 105 percent (CY-1); or
  • The RIT for the 2019 tax year uplifted by 110 percent (CY-2) if the 2020 tax return has not been filed and doesn't need to be until 31 March 2021.

If a taxpayer is basing an instalment for the 2021 year on CY-1 – or CY-2 if they have yet to file CY-1 – and the RIT in the return that is being used to work out what is due and payable at that point in time is $5000 or less, then they will have no obligation to pay provisional tax at that particular instalment date.

It does not matter one iota if, during the prior year that is being used for the uplift calculation, they were a provisional taxpayer due to their RIT in that year exceeding the old threshold of $2500.

The new threshold is all that matters.


Meet Karen. She is a taxpayer with a 31 March balance date who has used the standard uplift method to calculate her provisional tax for the past two years.

She has the following RIT and filing date information.

Tax Year RIT Date tax return was filed
2019 $4500 31 March 2020
2020 $35,000 Yet to file

Her accountant has an extension of time arrangement with IRD and tells her he won’t be filing her 2020 tax return for at least another six months. As such, he is going to use her 2019 RIT as the basis to work out her first payment for the upcoming year.

Karen’s first provisional tax instalment for the 2021 tax year is due on 28 August 2020 (P1).

However, because her RIT for the 2019 tax year was $5000 or less, she won't have to make a payment at P1. The uplift amount due and payable will be $0.

The fact she was a provisional taxpayer during the 2019 tax year, albeit under the old threshold, means nothing.

If Karen gets to 15 January 2021, the date of her second provisional tax instalment (P2), and her accountant has still not filed her 2020 tax return, then she will not have to make a payment at P2 either. Again, the uplift amount due and payable will be $0.

Only when her accountant files the 2020 tax return will she become a provisional taxpayer. This is because the RIT for that year exceeds the $5000 threshold.

Karen’s accountant must legally file the 2020 tax return by 31 March 2021.

Assuming this is the date they intend to file the previous year’s return, then she will need to pay something at 7 May 2021 (P3).

What is the amount she should pay P3?

That's a good question. What Karen should pay at P3 really depends on how her 2021 tax year unfolds.

It will be ONE of the following:

  • Nothing – if the 2021 RIT is going to be 5000 or less. This is because Karen is not a provisional taxpayer under section RC3 (1) Income Tax Act 2007 for that year. Any income tax she does owe for 2021 tax year will be due and payable at her terminal tax date because she meets the safe harbour interest concession rules found in section 120KE (1) and (2) Tax Administration Act 1994.
  • The 2020 RIT uplifted by 105 percent – if she thinks the 2021 liability will be less than $60,000. Any remaining balance to settle what she owes for the 2021 tax year will be due and payable at her terminal tax date, again because she meets the safe harbour interest concession rules mentioned above.
  • The expected 2021 RIT – if Karen expects this to be $60,000 or more. This is because she would fall out of safe harbour and into the rules found in section 120KBB Tax Administration Act 1994. These rules see someone who pays the uplift amount on time and in full at P1 and P2 only incur IRD interest from P3 if they have not settled their liability for the year in full by this date.
  • The expected 2021 RIT – if Karen expects this to be LESS THAN the uplifted 2020 RIT. Again, the interest rules in section 120KBB will apply if what she pays at P3 turns out not to be enough to settle the actual liability for the year.

Please contact us if you have any questions about the increase to the provisional tax threshold.

We're happy to help.