Cook Islands: Ministry of Finance

Cook Islands Ministry of Finance News


On 19 June 2015 the Parliament of the Cook Islands passed amendments to the Income Tax Act 1997.


From 1 January 2016 the Cook Islands will reduce personal income tax.

                                          Current Rate         From 1 January 2016

             -        11,000                  0%                         0%

  11,001        30,000             18.5%                  17.5%

  30,001        80,000             27.5%                  27.5%

  80,001        and over         30.0%                  30.0%

Minister for Finance, the Honourable Mark Brown pointed out the Government’s desire to reduce income taxes on income earners in the Cook Islands.  

“The Government is keen to reduce income tax in a considered manner, a person on $26,000 per annum (or $500 a week) will receive a further reduction on their annual personal income tax burden by 150 dollars a year on 1 January 2016 and a further 75 dollars on 1 January 2017. 

By 1 January 2017 that individual would have received a total reduction of $1,450 per annum since the commencement of our tax reforms began.”

Minister Brown pointed that the Cook Islands was a low tax jurisdiction on any measure and the Government will continue to aim to keep overall taxation levels low and aim to ensure the burden is spread evenly across society. 


In his speech to Parliament the Minister pointed out that the Cook Islands would move towards signing the OECD's Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement which will see the Cook Islands move towards the automatic exchange of taxation information.  

Financial Secretary, Richard Neves outlined the importance of the Cook Islands signing the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, which was recently signed by both New Zealand and Australia.

“The Ministry of Finance and Economic Management will outline to Cabinet a proposed timeline, but that the Cook Islands will be exchanging information prior to September 2018.  There will need to be significant effort in modernising systems and processes which we need to start planning for now and technical assistance and increased investment will be required.” 

Currently, the Cook Islands has twenty Tax Information Exchange Agreements (‘TIEA’)s signed with a number of nations, including a number from the European Union and these are listed on the MFEM website.


It is a requirement for anyone with a bank account to provide the bank with an RMD number. From 1 January 2016 a withholding tax of 30 per cent will be applied on interest paid to account holders who have not provided an RMD number to their bank.  This is not a final tax, the taxpayer will be able to offset the tax paid against their annual income tax assessment.

Additionally, banks will now be required to provide to their customers no later than 15 February of each year, an interest earnings certificate for the previous income year (i.e. 1 January to 31 December) showing all amounts of interest paid to the individual customer.


Amendments to the Income Tax Act 1997 clarify that income from a Cook Islands administered trust is taxable only to the trustees and not again, once distributed, to the beneficiaries. Income from foreign trusts will continue to be taxable to Cook Islands beneficiaries.



Signing of TIEA between the Cook Islands and Canada

On Monday, 15th June 2015 the Cook Islands and Canada signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) in Wellington. The Cook Islands High Commissioner His Excellency Tekaotiki Matapo signed the Agreement on behalf of the Cook Islands, with the Canadian High Commissioner Her Excellency Caroline Chretien signing on behalf of Canada.

The signing is testament to the commitment of both countries to working with the global community to promote international cooperation in tax matters. The TIEA allows for either Party to request information from the other country where a specific taxpayer is under investigation, and where there is reason to believe that relevant information is held in the other country. The Agreement strikes a balance between privacy and the need for jurisdictions to enforce their tax laws.

These signings were an important step for the Cook Islands in demonstrating its international cooperation on tax matters and to the principles of transparency and effective exchange of information. The entering into of this agreement is further evidence of the Cook Islands’ commitment to the OECD’s efforts in creating a level playing field in the international arena, encompassing the principals of transparency and effective exchange of information for tax purposes.

This signing makes a total of 20 TIEAs entered into by the Cook Islands, and demonstrates that the Cook Islands has become a leading jurisdiction in the fight against tax evasion. The Cook Islands recently underwent a Phase 2 Peer Review by the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, which resulted in a positive report for the Cook Islands.

Photo 2 of TIEA signing


The suite of 2015/16 budget papers is now available on the MFEM website – these include:

  • The Budget Policy Statement
  • Budget Book 1 – Appropriation Bill (Appropriations and Commentary
  • Budget Book 2 – Ministry Budget Statements
  • Budget Book 3 – Capital Plan


Standard and Poors are a global rating service agency who provide sovereign ratings services.
Standard and Poors have provided ratings of the Cook Islands for a number of years and these reports are normally available through a subscription service.
The Cook Islands Ministry of Finance and Economic Management has recently come to an arrangement with Standard and Poors Inc. to provide their full analytical report on the Cook Islands on the MFEM website.
The Standard and Poors Credit ratings are an independent assessment on the public financial position of a sovereign, with a particular focus on credit worthiness of the jurisdiction.  
Such reports provide an independent overview of a country’s public finances and inform potential investors and can influence confidence in an economy.   
The last sovereign credit rating of the Cook Islands rating was provided on 29 March 2015 and remained unchanged at B+/Stable/B.
The reports are kept at, and a historical series will be updated shortly.
The Standard and Poors website provides further details on the manner by which ratings are conducted and what they mean

Quarterly Financial Report March 2015

The Quarterly Financial Statement for March 2015 is now available on the MFEM website. 

For the March 2015 Quarter the net operating balance of the General Government Sector as at 31 March 2015 was a surplus of $8.5 million, made up of

  • Operating revenue was $94.9 million; and
  • Operating expenditure was $86.3 million.

The overall fiscal balance which excludes theeffectsof depreciation, but includes capital expenditure was a surplus of $3.6 million.  The full Quarterly Statement is annexed to the Submission

Total revenue collections for the quarter ending March 2015 were higher than the Budget estimate and were mainly attributable to higher than estimated tax and fishingrevenues. Fishing revenues for 2014/15 are estimated to reach $12 million.

Total operating expenses for the quarter ending March 2015 were lower than the Budget estimate and were mainly attributable to lower levels of spending by agencies, the underwrite of the long haul Sydney (cost to March $2.154 million) and Los Angeles (Cost to March $3.799 million) routes and the TOA Apex Guarantee. 

 Welfare payments remain also below budget by 7 per cent.

 Minister for Finance, the Honourable Mark Brown was pleased with the general direction of the accounts. 

 “I am confident that the 2014/15 we will have a significant underlying operating surplus due to the performance of revenues and our lower expenditure overall.  It is likely that we will also have fiscal surplus which takes into account all our cash expenditure on the operations of Government and capital.”

 Minister Brown noted in particular that the performance of the underwrite to date continued to be a positive. This is an excellent lead in to the 2015/16 Budget which we will be presenting in June. 

 Gross borrowings of the Crown were $97.782 million, net borrowings of the General Government Sector (excluding loan reserves and borrowings by SOEs) were $54.712 million.  The net cash reserve which is essentially unencumbered increased by $0.26 million since last quarter to a total of $16.218 million.

As at 31 March 2015 the Crown held $54.7 million in cash which was held in various term deposits, against this amount were $35.2 million of commitments, leaving a balance of $19.5 million. 

Table 1 Overall Budget Balance













Operating Revenue





Operating Expenditure





Net Operating Balance





Add Crown Depreciation





Add Ministry Depreciation





Add Pa Enua Depreciation





Less Capital Expenditure - CI Govt Funded





Fiscal Balance





 Table 2 Total Gross Borrowings



   Total Gross Borrowings


      Loan Reserve


   Net Borrowing by the Crown


      Avatiu Port Development


      Airport Authority


  Total Net Borrowings by the Crown





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