Retired lawyer cops suspension for tax evasion

The Christchurch practitioner has been struck off the roll for nine months

Retired lawyer cops suspension for tax evasion

A retired Christchurch lawyer has copped a nine-month suspension from the roll of barristers and solicitors as a result of failing to pay $223,000 in taxes, reported the NZ Herald.

Christopher Persson was suspended by the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal. In addition to the suspension, he has been ordered to pay almost $5,000 in legal expenses to the Law Society.

Persson pleaded guilty to 22 counts of tax evasion because he failed to file 11 years’ worth of tax returns, and he was convicted in the Christchurch District Court in 2022. Despite resolving the outstanding amount prior to the commencement of his court hearing, he was still sentenced to five months of home detention.

“Mr Persson’s repeated failure to keep promises to the IRD to file returns and pay his taxes is reprehensible and an aggravating feature, particularly for a lawyer. Mr Persson’s approach to his tax problems was one of avoidance, which we also regard as a disturbing reaction in a lawyer. Although he had the funds available to make any payments that were due, he made no responses to the 70 approaches made by the IRD”, the tribunal said in its decision.

Although Persson was already “enormously in debt to the taxpayer”, the tribunal indicated that he had also claimed a COVID-19 wage subsidy. The tribunal also noted that he had already previously faced conviction for tax avoidance in 2006.

During the tribunal hearing last year, Nicholas Till KC, who represented Persson, said that the Canterbury earthquakes had impacted Persson's personal and professional life. Till explained that these events led to Persson "burying his head in the sand" regarding his tax responsibilities.

Till argued against the necessity of a suspension for Persson given that he had already stopped practising in February 2022 and surrendered his practising certificate. Instead, he suggested a suspension in principle.

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