26 Jun 2015

Cooks govt stresses pension issue resolved

10:45 am on 26 June 2015

The Cook Islands Finance Minister, Mark Brown, says the government is no longer involved in the issue of pensioners paying back taxes.

Cook Islands Finance Minister Mark Brown

Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown Photo: Cook Islands News

The Grey Power President, Dennis Tunui, says up to 80 members are refusing to pay back their taxes, and are willing to go to jail for it to shame the government.

In 2013, for the first time, the government began taxing about 260 Cook Islanders who receive the New Zealand pension, and ordered they pay two years worth of tax arrears.

But Mark Brown says the government's involvement in the issue was resolved when they refunded the pensioners who had paid those arrears.

"And an agreement was reached that taxation would apply to New Zealand pensions from 2013 moving forward, and as far as we're concerned that matter has ended. I guess what's before the tax department now is individual cases that they are pursuing on tax payers who have either refused to pay their tax or have difficulty or grievances with the tax department. And that's really a personal matter between the tax department and the individuals concerned, nothing that the government should be getting involved in."

Mark Brown says the government is not considering changing the law.

Grey Power members have marched on parliament twice to protest, but its president, Dennis Tunui, says there will be no more marches.

"We decided to suffer the consequences. That is, face court appearances. The whole group are united. We will not march, we'll just wait for them to start taking us to court. We will do that, and then demand that we go to jail. We stand firm against paying back-tax."