Starting Out: How Provisional Tax Works in New Zealand

So, you’re starting out on the path to making money for yourself.  If you’ve been paid a salary before you’ll know of that deduction on your payslip that goes to the Inland Revenue, but now this is your responsibility.  

Assuming you’re like most businesses we come across, when starting out you’re likely to fall under the Provisional Tax Regime in New Zealand.  Instead of tax coming out of every pay, you’re going to have to make estimated contributions to your tax three times during the financial year, with a balancing payment at the end of the year.  

Your First Time

A fun fact with provisional tax for startups is that you’re likely to pay income tax for next year before you pay tax for this year.

Here’s an example of someone starting out in July 2015.  They’ll be paying their first income tax on profits next August 2016 (this will be for the next years tax). 

 Your first years tax will be paid in 2017.

Rules to keep in mind

Although the rules may be changing to something more similar to the employee PAYE system, here are some key rules to keep in mind:

Rule One: You only pay tax when you make profit

  • Keep in mind that tax is only paid on profit, and many companies building a product for sale may be unprofitable in their first few years.  This will mean you will have no tax to pay.

Rule Two: Profit is different from cash flow

  • Just because you may not have any money in your account at the end of the year, does not mean you haven't made a profit.  Make sure you're getting sound advice throughout the year to avoid any nasty surprises.


Planning Opportunities

Now that we understand this, what is there to do?

  • You’ll still need to register for GST, and if you’re hiring employees - PAYE
  • Save a portion of your revenues in a savings account so you don’t have any surprises covered down the track
  • You could delay your start date, but this would have to be considered against business reasons - you wouldn’t want to lose any business because you wanted to pay tax a year later!


Please get in contact if you have any queries with the above


EDIT - Making Money Very Early

If your startup is looking to be very profitable from a very early stage make sure to get complete advice from your accounting professional as to when tax is due.


Other stuff you might like:

 - What’s your Monthly Committed Spend? 

 - Don’t be Afraid of Too Many Bank Accounts 

Disclaimer: Tax Rules change frequently.  The above is written for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in isolation, nor is it a substitute for sound advice from your Accounting Professional.  Please consult us should you encounter any of the issues discussed above.