Relationships (Statutory References) Bill

2005 amendments remove discrimination on the grounds of marital status or sexual orientation so that revenue laws are consistent with human rights obligations.

Child Support Amendment Act 2005

Estate and Gift Duties Amendment Act 2005

Goods and Services Tax Amendment Act 2005

Income Tax Amendment Act 2005

Tax Administration Amendment Act 2005

Introduction

Changes in Inland Revenue legislation have resulted from the enactment of the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill introduced on 21 June 2004. The bill received its first reading on 29 June and its second reading on 8 March 2005. It was divided into 23 bills, which had their third reading on 15 March 2005. The resulting Inland Revenue Acts listed above were enacted on 24 March 2005.

The amendments remove unjustified discrimination in the application of laws on the grounds of marital status or sexual orientation so laws are consistent with human rights obligations.

In the Inland Revenue Acts, that discrimination sometimes created disadvantages for married people or people in de facto relationships.

The amendments also recognise civil unions, following the enactment of the Civil Union Act 2004. Civil unions now have a similar tax status to marriage, but the amendments maintain the distinction between the different types of relationship by not referring to them by one inclusive term.

The term "de facto relationship" is now defined in the Interpretation Act 1999, and applies across all statutes, except where specified. These exceptions are contained in some of the Inland Revenue Acts discussed below, and have effect until 1 April 2007.

A de facto relationship is one between two people (a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman) who live together in a relationship in the nature of marriage or civil union.

In determining whether such a relationship exists, all circumstances of the relationship are taken into account in the context of the relevant legislation. This allows flexibility to deal with other situations. This might include, for example, when the law casts a wide net, such as the associated persons' rules. Or to a more narrow application, such as the recognition of rights that require a conscious decision to take them up. It may also apply to eligibility tests involving a fair comparison with third parties - the income calculation rules in the family assistance provisions is an example of this.

A de facto relationship involving a person aged 16 or 17 years is not recognised unless that person has obtained consent for the relationship as provided for in the new section 46A of the Care of Children Act 2004.

Couples enter into a civil union in knowledge of the rights and obligations that this formal relationship brings, in the same way that people who marry do. Civil unions are therefore recognised from the enactment date of the various amendments, 26 April 2005. However, there are various rights and obligations that will be imposed on couples already in de facto relationships. These changes will not take effect until 1 April 2007. This will allow de facto couples time to adjust their personal and financial affairs, if necessary.

Background

The Human Rights Amendment Act 2001 requires government activities to comply with the anti-discrimination standards set out in section 19 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 for the prohibited grounds of discrimination in section 21 of the Human Rights Act 1993. The prohibited grounds of discrimination include marital status and sexual orientation

The Relationships (Statutory References) Act 2005 and the related Amendment Acts are a significant step towards achieving the government's objective of having neutral laws on relationships that apply across the board, whether those relationships are marriages, de facto relationships, or same-sex relationships.