Consistency of Sentencing between Welfare Fraud and Tax Evasion: A Longitudinal Comparative Study

53 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2017 Last revised: 16 May 2017

See all articles by Alice Austin

Alice Austin

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

Date Written: September 1, 2016

Abstract

This essay compares welfare fraud and tax evasion sentencing outcomes over the period 1989-2016. Previous research suggested there was a significant discrepancy in treatment by the New Zealand courts. This research analysed data from 83 welfare fraud offenders and 53 tax evasion offenders. On the basis of the data in this study, the overall sentencing discrepancy was not as severe as the prior research suggested. However, the data did confirm that welfare offending was, on average, punished more harshly dollar-for-dollar than tax offending. Analysis of several other variables was used to attempt to quantify and explain the identified discrepancy. The study found key differences in sentencing outcomes according to welfare and tax offending of a comparable monetary value, with welfare offending generally receiving harsher punishment. However, tax offenders convicted under the Crimes Act were sentenced to imprisonment at a higher rate than welfare offenders convicted under the same section of the Crimes Act. Further research is needed using prosecution case files as well as more non- appealed cases in order to evaluate the discrepancy using the data not included in this study.

Keywords: Welfare fraud, Tax evasion, Social Security Act 1964, Tax Administration Act 1994, Crimes Act 1961, Sentencing consistency

JEL Classification: Z10, P10, G10, K14, I30

Suggested Citation

Austin, Alice, Consistency of Sentencing between Welfare Fraud and Tax Evasion: A Longitudinal Comparative Study (September 1, 2016). Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper, Student/Alumni Paper No. 3/2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2959913 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2959913

Alice Austin (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, Victoria 6140
New Zealand

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