Consistency of Sentencing between Welfare Fraud and Tax Evasion: A Longitudinal Comparative Study
53 Pages Posted: 1 May 2017 Last revised: 16 May 2017
Date Written: September 1, 2016
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: K00, K10, K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation