Peters the elephant in Labour’s CGT room

Labour told the Tax Working Group what they couldn’t do, and the Tax Working Group final report seems to be largely a Labour prescription. It even uses Labour-like terms such as Future of Work as well as Future of Tax. This isn’t all that surprising given the involvement of Michael Cullen.

But while the Group’s recommendations, especially on Capital Gains Tax, may look like a Labour wish list, the elephant in their room is Winston Peters and NZ First. With National saying they are against the CGT Labour will need NZ First support to get anything done.

Greens have already said that the Government won’t deserve to be re-elected unless they introduce a CGT – see James Shaw slams tax timidity, calls on Labour, NZ First to be bold with CGT.

An exchange in Parliament yesterday after the release of the report gives a good indication of where Peters is at on the CGT.

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with comments by the Rt Hon Winston Peters in regards to capital gains tax that, “They won’t work in this country. They won’t work in any other country. They never have worked.”?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the responsibility of the Prime Minister is for comments made by Ministers when they were Ministers, not beforehand. And, on behalf of the Prime Minister, I should not have to tell that member that.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with comments by the Rt Hon Winston Peters that, “You can’t possibly go into an election saying, ‘My tax policy will decided by a committee.’ “?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, for the second time now, I am not responsible for comments made by members of Parliament before they held a ministerial warrant under my premiership. That’s the substance of the matter and whether she agrees or not here’s the fine point about a democratic constitutional Government: that is, we’re going to consult with the people of this country in the next two weeks. [Interruption] I tell you what we can trust: somebody that hasn’t got a massive vested interest in this case, somebody that hasn’t got a massive vested interest in property, and is not now thinking about the country but just her narrow, selfish, egotistical self.

SPEAKER: I am going to remind the Deputy Prime Minister that he is speaking as the Prime Minister.

Hon Paula Bennett: No, no, let him go. Does she agree with the comments by the Deputy Prime Minister just yesterday who said, “The farming community, they are in for the long haul and there is no way a capital gains tax would have any effect on them at all.”, when today’s report says it will cost farmers $700 million a year?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I have read the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments on the farming show. I know that he comes from a seriously agrarian background and understands the long-term ownership aspirations and intergenerational aspirations of farming families around this country, and not one of them who aspires to that will be affected by any capital gains tax.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: That’s not right. That’s not right. Read it.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, I’ve done some work in my time, son, not like you.

SPEAKER: Order! The pair of you.

Hon Paula Bennett: If the Prime Minister is correct in her comments, then why on earth would they be saying that it would cost $700 million a year if a capital gains tax is applied to farms?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, there is the rub. Who is saying that and what do they mean by “if”? I mean, the criteria would be whether or not this is an expanded tax, and at this point in time it is not. It’s merely a report with a number of options—all 99—and what I’d like to know on behalf of the Prime Minister is: how come they had only four hours to study this and yet had already put out their views before the report came over their desks?

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the comments by the Hon James Shaw recently who said, “The only question we should be asking ourselves is: do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t.” with regards to implementing a capital gains tax?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that is a fact, and I’m glad about that. This is the first fact I’ve heard thus far in question time—that Mr Shaw said that. Mr Shaw’s a visionary Minister and is looking to the full debate and discussion that’s going to take place over the next eight weeks. Why don’t we all show some patience and be prepared to consult with the public of this country, the businesses of the country, rather than give your own narrow venal views.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can she confirm that any changes as a result of the recommendations in the Tax Working Group’s report will be revenue-neutral?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, it’s very difficult to come to a report—

Hon Paula Bennett: Grant just told you to say that you haven’t made any decisions.

SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Unlike that member, doesn’t need instructions, able to think for himself, doesn’t need a speech writer, not embarrassed by being shown up every day—no. On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister and her colleagues are not going to come to a decision until they have had the full consultation. And I must say, the most interested person in this is the Minister of Finance—the consultation process—and when that consultation is finished, we will share with the public our findings.

Hon Paula Bennett: You got that right.

 

Rising to challenges, now

The world has always been changing, but in the last couple hundred years it has changed enormously, and the rate of change is increasing. Somehow we have to adapt to these changes without stuffing up the economy or the planet.

Rod Oram (Newsroom):  Be bold to thrive in a changing world

As it happened, 1980 was also the year we Kiwis began to realise our tried and true economic orthodoxies were failing us. So, we made radical changes in that decade, which helped us prosper in the following two.

This year we must make even bigger decisions about our economy, society, environment and international relations. But the orthodoxies we learnt in the 1980s and 90s continue to largely define our debates today. Thus, we believe some tweaks to business as usual will keep us going.

Yet evidence from around the world shows us the present, let alone the future, is no approximate continuation of the past. Economies are stagnating, politics are polarising, societies are shattering and environments are degrading. Only fundamental changes will turn those around. Any nation failing to respond constructively will be far worse off.

Social change has been pronounced too. We’re less conservative and more ambitious; we’re more ethnically diverse, yet more confident in our ethnicities and our Treaty relationships; and MMP has made our politics more representative and our governments and policies broader-based, and in some ways more effective.

We’ve considerably degraded our ecosystems, as Environment Aotearoa 2015, the Government’s first comprehensive report across land, fresh water, air and marine domains showed us. Many measures continue to deteriorate, subsequent updates confirm.

The world keeps changing. We have little influence on those changes, so New Zealand has to try to adapt to those changes.

Resolving the big debates

Setting us on the right course will take innumerable initiatives by individuals and myriad strategies by organisations, with the help of many key policies by Government. In turn, effective policies are best shaped by rigorous, broad and informed debate involving all the people affected by them.

We need urgent resolution of many of those debates. Here are snapshots of six of them:

Capital gains tax:

Any economy is distorted if one source of wealth generation is favoured over others. In our case, the lack of tax on most capital gains feeds the housing market, starves business investment and disadvantages wage earners.

Fair pay agreements:

Our businesses and their employees need to become far more sophisticated and flexible so they can keep up with, or better, exploit warp-speed changes of business skills, technology and markets. A fair pay agreement is a bottom line in a sector which encourages employers and employees to be ambitious.Good companies and their people will far excel the low bottom line of a fair pay agreement.

Wellbeing budget:

In May our government will announce its first cut at a Wellbeing Budget, based on the Living Standards Framework Treasury has been developing since 2011. There’s a fair measure of support for this from some business leaders.

No doubt, though, this partial and rather simplistic first version will be criticised as being far too complicated, a distraction from pure economic measures, and an unrealistic attempt to measure the unmeasurable.

All good progress is hard.

Zero Carbon Act:

To tackle our monumental challenges of climate change and related aspects of unsustainability we need a very long-term goal for drastically cutting greenhouse gasses, a system for setting interim targets and a way to measure our progress towards them.

My column last week described the unassailable logic of this and the great benefits other countries are reaping from it.

Resource management reforms:

When we passed our Resource Management Act in 1991 it was world-leading for its twin goals of promoting economic development while protecting the environment. Many amendments since have improved it in some respects and hindered it in others. Overall, though, it has failed to adequately deliver on either ambition.

Given our vastly increased economic activity and the resulting escalation of demands we’ve put on our environment in the past almost 30 years, further attempts to modify the RMA simply won’t work.

…we need a fundamental redesign.

Relations with China:

China has changed hugely over the past decade. Its economic scale and technological prowess, and its global influence and sense of power have grown dramatically. Yet, it has become more authoritarian in political and social terms, while reasserting the clout of state-owned or influenced corporates over private enterprises.

Consequently, economic and political tensions between China and the US, EU and many other countries are escalating fast.

Now and for evermore we need to be very clear what our values are and who we share them with; if that causes some slowdown in our growing ties with China that will help us from becoming too dependent on China; that in turn will make us less vulnerable to adverse pressures from it and will help preserve our options and resilience.

The first five sound like a pro-Government manifesto. China is a problem the Government has in part created and has to find a way of dealing with.

Housing is barely touched on under CGT and not even mentioned under the RMA.

Rising to all of the challenges above, and many more, is utterly daunting. If we are so timid as to believe tweaking business as usual will get us there, we’ll fail. But if we boldly embrace the wonderful opportunities for us in this fast-changing world, we’ll succeed.

So if we do what Oram and the Government says they want to do we should be good.

James Shaw slams tax timidity, calls on Labour, NZ First to be bold with CGT

In his opening speech for the year in parliament yesterday Green co-leader James Shaw slammed timid tinkering with tax, and, confronting pontification about whether the current Government can “politically afford to do what no other Government before it has done” and introduce a Capital Gains Tax asks “Can we afford not to?”

That must be aimed at Labour and NZ First, who have to agree with Greens on any tax changes following the Tax Working Group process.

First Shaw illustrated the tax disparity issue wit no tax on the capital gains of property.

Karen is a renter. She’s got a career, and she earns roughly the median wage. Over the last 10 years, she’s earned about $450,000 and she’s paid, roughly, $70,000 in tax. She budgets well, she can manage the rent, and she can manage the other expenses, but she can’t quite have enough left over to save.

And then there’s Paul. Paul also earns the median wage. He’s a bit older than Karen, and Paul got lucky and managed to buy some rental property before house prices really started rocketing—about the time that Karen came into the workforce, about the time that John Key became Prime Minister. On the day that Paul sells that rental property, he makes as much as Karen has in the last 10 years, and he pays zero tax on that income

Now, what does Paul do? He uses that as a deposit to buy two more houses. That is the rational thing to do. And what does Karen do? Well, Karen keeps renting because there is no way on God’s green earth that she’s going to be able to scrape together a deposit on $45,000 a year.

And that, in a nutshell, is why we have a large and growing wealth gap in this country, and it is undermining our ability to pay for the public services that we all rely on, including Karen—including Paul.

There is something missing from this illustration.The implication here is that ‘Paul’ paid no tax, but ‘Paul’ must be earning something to live on for the ten years before scoring a capital gain, and after reinvesting capital gains on more property, so could have been paying some tax.

Now, the Green Party has long been calling for that fundamental imbalance to be addressed, and every single expert working group in living memory has agreed with us, but no Government—no Government—has been bold enough to actually do it. But if we are to be the Government of change that New Zealanders wanted and elected, we must be bold.

The crises that we face on multiple fronts—the wealth gap, climate change, the housing crisis—we cannot solve without fundamental reform. These crises have been allowed to metastasise because generations of politicians have timidly tinkered rather than actually cut to the core of the problem.

And the consequences of that timidity—the consequences of that timidity—are being felt by Karen and by hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders just like her, trapped in “Generation Rent”. So when the commentators pontificate about whether this Government can politically afford to do what no other Government before it has done, I ask “Can we afford not to?”

Can we afford not to?

We were elected on the promise of change. If we want to reduce the wealth gap, if we want to fix the housing crisis and to build a productive high-wage economy, we need to tax income from capital the same way that we tax income from work.

The very last question that we should be asking ourselves is: can we be re-elected if we do this? The only question we really ought to be asking ourselves is: do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?

Shaw is effectively throwing down the tax gauntlet to Labour and NZ First, suggesting they don’t deserve to be re-elected unless they introduce a CGT.

I have to say, boldness is needed everywhere, everywhere.

That is a challenge to the other parties in Government with the Greens. The re-election comment is particularly pertinent for NZ First, who were well under the threshold in the latest poll.

Tax reform and capital gains tax still unresolved

According to media claims the Cabinet has received copies of the Tax Working Group recommendations, but it could take some time to find out what they are going to decide to run with. – or what the are allowed to run with by Winston Peters.

Group chairman Michael Cullen has suggested that tax changes could be decided in Parliament this term ready to come into effect in April 2021 providing Labour gets a mandate in next year’s election. But Grant Robertson has warned that it could take some time to work through the recommendations with Labour’s partner parties in Government.

Audrey Young (in Major challenges for ‘exasperated’ Ardern):

Robertson played Robin to her Batman at the post-Cabinet presser, initially fronting on the Government response to the insurance industry inquiry.

The subject quickly changed to the final report of the Tax Working Group and its promised capital gains tax which is due to be handed to the Government this week.

Robertson patiently continued his mission to change the language over the tax by calling it a “capital income tax” rather than a “capital gains tax” — an attempt to equate it to all other income.

Ardern became impatient when questions turned to the undisputed veto that NZ First will have on any capital gains tax — the Greens have been unequivocal supporters and NZ First longstanding opponents.

Apparently a capital gains tax is just like every other issue the Government debates, and requires the agreement of all three parties.

Not just apparently. Tax reform is far from a done deal. It is a Labour only promise, but with no public agreement with either NZ First or the Greens.

Stuff:  Decision on capital gains tax will take a wee while, Grant Robertson warns

There will be no quick decision from the Government on whether to implement a capital gains tax, Finance Minister Grant Robertson has signalled – noting Labour would have to work that through with its coalition partners.

The Tax Working Group (TWG) chaired by Sir Michael Cullen is understood to have completed its report for the Government, with a “clear majority” favouring subjecting capital gains from the sale of property, shares and businesses to income tax.

But Robertson told RNZ the Government would need to take its time to read the TWG’s report “work through the details of it and work out what package we can agree to as a coalition government”.

Remarkably the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement did not mention the Tax Working Group, nor CGT, and neither did Labour-Green Confidence & Supply Agreement, so the recommendations of the TWG and what Labour would like to do will all need to be negotiated with Winston Peters and NZ First, as well as with the Greens. This alone is likely to take time.

Inland Revenue said on Tuesday morning that the report had not yet been delivered to the Government, and no date has been set for it to be made public, but sources said the report was being read in the Beehive.

Robertson said he expected to get the report by the end of the week but he and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did not rule out a coalition partner vetoing any legislation.

“There is a wee ways to go before the final decisions about this report will be made,” Robertson said.

“As we do with all these reports, we will take a look at it and put it out with a few interim comments from us,” he said.

So it could be some time even before the report is made public. Labour want to work out how to try to sell it before they advertise it.

Cullen said in December that he believed Parliament would have time to pass legislation paving the way for any proposed tax changes before the election, so those changes could take effect from April 2021.

Theoretically Parliament may have time, but Labour won’t want to take any tax changes to Parliament without agreement from NZ First, and the Greens.

Politik: And now the hard part; getting Winston to agree to a capital gains tax

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed yesterday that iot was still the government’s intention to bring forward legislation for any tax changes before the end of its current twerm though those changes would not come into effect until after the enxt election.

But whether it will propose a capital gains tax will now depend on whether it can persuade NZ First to agree.

Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson were coy yesterday on whether they thought they could win that derbate.

Meanwhile NZ First Leader, Winston Peters, is not saying much beyond repeating his 2017 assertion that we already had a capital gains tax.

“What i tried to point out then was that we had a cpaital ghaimn tax and that we had had one for a long time,” he told POLITIK last night.

“Now the question is are you talking about broadening it.

“The position of New Zealand First is that we will wait for the report, we will evaluate it and then we will give our view.”

Tax reform has already limited by Labour in their terms of reference for the TWG. They will presumably also want any changes to fit within their wellbeing agenda.

It will only happen if it also fits with the electoral wellbeing of Winston Peters and NZ First

Major challenges for ‘exasperated’ Ardern

All governments have challenges. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her current government have quite a few major challenges stacking up. Ardern seems to rise to international occasions – where all she has done is make grand but very general proclamations – she is not so happy when confronted with real problems dogging her back in New Zealand.

Whether it was this reluctance to front up over domestic difficulties, or jet lag, (and being away from her baby for a week for the first time would likely have been difficult for her), Ardern was reported to be ‘exasperated’ at questions about real issues that need to be dealt with and should be explained.

Audrey Young: Eight big problems for Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern has made a less-than-grand entrance back to mundane domestic politics after her whirlwind visit to Europe last week reinforced her status as a rising star on the international stage.

The Prime Minister delegated her regular Tuesday morning media appearances to Finance Minister Grant Robertson and who could blame her? He was forced to spend most of his time defending the failure of KiwiBuild targets and preparing the groundwork for the delivery of the capital gains tax report.

These are things that the Government cannot hide from, and Ardern should be showing some leadership on.

At her first post-Cabinet press conference she announced she would be delaying any Cabinet reshuffle until after the May Budget.

Perhaps this makes some sense in leaving current ministers to work out how they are going to frame their budge requests as fitting with Arderrn’;s ‘wellbeing’ agenda, and maybe there aren’t a lot of options for replacing poorly performing ministers. There are quite a few who have been disappointing, but there is  even less experience amongst those waiting for promotion.

In the substance of the press conference, Ardern sounded exasperated at questions about the failure of KiwiBuild to meet its first milestone of 1000 houses by July, and by questions about the capital gains tax report.

Ardern’s tetchiness perhaps reflects a raft of challenging issues facing the Government. After a year of settling in, reviewing the past and setting priorities, 2019 will have to be a year of delivery.

It should be a year of delivery, but yesterday Grant Robertson indicated that it may take some time for them to make up their minds about the Tax Working Group recommendations, especially the controversial hobbled CGT.

Robertson patiently continued his mission to change the language over the tax by calling it a “capital income tax” rather than a “capital gains tax” — an attempt to equate it to all other income.

Ardern became impatient when questions turned to the undisputed veto that NZ First will have on any capital gains tax — the Greens have been unequivocal supporters and NZ First longstanding opponents.

Apparently a capital gains tax is just like every other issue the Government debates, and requires the agreement of all three parties.

That is probably correct. See next post.

She also became exasperated when questioned about the failure of KiwiBuild targets — so much so that she could not bring herself to actually say “No” when repeatedly asked if the July target would be met.

A tough day at the media conference, unlike her wowing of international media on her trip to the UK and Europe.

Young details the major issues that Ardern should be dealing with (and fronting up on):

Capital gains tax:

Michael Cullen’s final report is due to be delivered to the Government this week and promises to be the best weapon National will have at next year’s election.

Kiwibuild: The flagship housing policy of 100,000 houses in 10 years is heading for the rocks. A perfect lesson in why political parties should resist over-promising.

Fair Pay Agreements: The Bolger report revisiting national awards has not yet been published but the campaign against it by employers has already begun.

Mental health report: Done and delivered to the Government but the next Budget in May seems a long time to have to wait until this area is properly addressed, having had years of delay under National as well.

Tomorrow’s Schools: The Government has yet to respond to the Bali Haque report restructuring school administration.

Social welfare review: Due to be delivered next month, this report on the treatment of beneficiaries including penalties and incentives has the potential to create tension between Labour and New Zealand First.

Prison reforms: The 2018 conference may have had some great ideas from which to construct a reform package to cut the prison population but getting the public onside is the challenge.

Karel Sroubek: National chipped away for months on the decision to grant and rescind citizenship for this convicted offender and they are not going to let up.

Prime Ministers have to deal with the bad as well as with the good PR.

And one of Ardern’s biggest challenges is to prove that she can walk the walk to live up to her own hype talk. That applies to her ministers and Government as well – this year they have to prove they can deliver on at least some of their promises.

Labour, Capital Gains Tax, ‘fairness’, 2020 election

Labour have promoted a more comprehensive Capital Gains tax for years, and set up the Tax Working Group 14 months ago with a CGT as a major focus. However they have ruled out some capital gains from being taxed, particularly ‘family homes’.

Labour seem to be caught between two forces – a stated desire to reform the fax system and make it ‘fairer’ (which in reality means taxing some people less and some people more), but also an obvious wish to get re-elected next year. They have said they will campaign on whatever tax changes they come up with in the 2020 election to get a mandate to implement them.

Labour’s tax policy: https://www.labour.org.nz/tax

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff):  Is capital gains tax a hill that Labour is willing to die on?

National wants Labour to go into the next election proposing a capital gains tax because the Opposition believes such a move will be something close to political suicide.

After close to a decade in the wilderness, during which Labour continuously preached about the inherent unfairness of New Zealand’s tax system, the largest Government party must ask itself: is this a hill worth dying on?

Although supporters tend to oversimplify the case, there is a strong, possibly compelling, argument for capital gains to be taxed.

If a person is taxed for what they earn from their work, it seems only reasonable that they also be taxed for what they receive from their assets.

Equality writer Max Rashbrooke went so far as to suggest capital gains tax should be called a “fairness tax”.

But the problem is, no-one is proposing the type of tax which this implies.

Labour has already ruled out a capital gains tax on the family home, and  an inheritance tax. Both exemptions have massive implications for how much the tax would raise and the extent to which the wealthy can manage to avoid it.

Both are also political promises which have implications for whether the tax is, indeed, fair.

Whatever is promised by the Tax Working Group report will leave Labour in an invidious position.

Capital gains taxes are inherently complicated and New Zealand’s existing tax system is designed around not having one in place.

During the election campaign in 2017, Labour was constantly on the back foot amid an intense campaign by National’s “let’s tax this” attack advertising.

Jacinda Ardern was eventually forced to rule out major changes before the 2020 election, but, according to pollsters, the damage was done.

Unless Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson are ready to continually make the case for whatever changes are proposed, the Government’s proposed capital gains tax will be whatever National says it is.

So far NZ First has remained silent on its policy on capital gains tax, but if Winston Peters can be convinced to support it at all, he is certainly unlikely to do so without extracting some tangible win for the party to promote to his supporters.

All of this comes amid high uncertainty about what a capital gains tax would raise in the coming decade, in an environment where low interest rates have pushed asset valuations to levels which may not be sustainable, especially if the economy slows.

For all of its belief that there is a major problem in the tax system which could be fixed through a change in mindset, the reality is likely to be dawning that the tax will be politically challenging unless major changes are made, which will undermine how much is raised as well as how much “fairer” the tax system will become.

It will also be so easy for its opponents to demonise that the Government must wonder whether it’s worth the risk of trying.

But if Labour decide that progressive tax reform is ‘not a priority’ they will be demonised as well, for talking up tax reform and a CGT and then backing down. They have to come up with something substantive on tax reform.

John Cuthbertson (Stuff) – Capital gains tax: What’s fair for one person may hurt another

In the 14 months since the Tax Working Group terms of reference were published, there has been a lot of talk about fairness, particularly the fairness of a capital gains tax (CGT), but not much talk about balance.

Fairness means different things to different people. It can mean a different thing to an individual at different times depending on their situation.

To keep as many people as possible happy, and tax revenue flowing, over millennia, tax authorities have come up with a number of, often competing, tests of a “good” tax system, including fairness, efficiency, certainty, minimising avoidance and compliance costs, coherence and last, but not least, raising enough cash to meet the Government’s needs.

At the same time, taxpayers have developed one simple principle – not in my backyard. If the tax collector is to reach into my backyard, then the pain and the gains should be equally shared relative to ability to pay.

That expectation gap – as old as tax itself – is one the working group is hoping to balance with its proposal to tax capital gains on assets not already caught by the tax net, what some are calling a new capital gains tax.

Its interim report warns that inconsistent taxes on gains from sales of capital assets, which favour the wealthiest, make our tax system less fair and risks undermining public acceptance of the system.

So consistently taxing capital gains will make our tax system fairer, right?

Well, it might not be that clear cut.

A truly fair approach would be to tax all asset classes, however, as the Government has told the working group that the family home must be exempt, this broad approach is hamstrung from the get-go.

Chartered Accountants ANZ’s view is that if introduced, a CGT should include land, residential investment, commercial property and farms, shares and business assets.

The Government has told the working group to have specific regard to housing affordability. If this is the case, we question the outright exemption of the family home given the strong prevalence (65 per cent) of owner-occupied housing in the overall housing market.

An alternative approach would be to include a dollar-value exclusion threshold and only tax gains above this threshold – targeting overcapitalisation. This approach has been used successfully overseas and would minimise distortions.

The working group’s key question is whether “the fairness, integrity, revenue and efficiency benefits outweigh the administrative complexity, compliance costs and efficiency costs” of introducing a CGT.

A CGT is a particularly complex issue and CA ANZ’s recommendation to ministers and to the Tax Working Group is to ensure policy designers have enough time to strike the right balance between what assets are included and what roll over relief is available when the asset changes hands and, at the same time, fully integrating changes with existing income tax legislation and stakeholder systems.

Our tax system has got to be perceived by taxpayers as broadly fair to achieve their buy-in.

It must be easy for people to comply with and difficult to avoid. It also must ensure the tax base is sustained and broad enough to support our health system, national infrastructure, schools and social assistance.

Labour has to try and balance the tax system so that taxpayers see it as broadly fair. But taxpayers are also voters, and next election may come down to how fair they see Labour’s tax proposals, versus National’s.

Q+A – Michael Cullen on the Capital Gains Tax and TWG

Chairman of the Tax Working group, Michael Cullen, was interviewed on Q+A last night on Capital Gains Tax and water.

He was also interviewed on the Nation on Saturday.

Scoop: On Newshub Nation: Simon Shepherd interviews Tax Working Group Chair Michael Cullen

  • Sir Michael Cullen says there’s currently under-taxation at the top end of the income and wealth scale, and under his working group’s recommendations “people who have substantial capital assets in one form or another” would end up paying more.
  • Sir Michael disputes the effect Labour’s capital gains tax policy had on the party’s 2011 and 2014 election losses: “There was no real sign, actually, that that had any great impact in shifting votes around.”
  • He says some charities getting tax breaks might not be using their income for charitable purposes: “Some of those charities – at least on first examination – appear to not be passing on much of their income out to the supposed intended beneficiaries.”
  • Sir Michael says proposed environmental taxes on things like waste dumping would be aimed at changing behaviour, not increasing revenue: “Hopefully behaviour changes, so that the amount of money that you collect at the end of the day may not be much more… there’s just a lot less waste going to landfill.”
  • He says tax cuts for lower income earners would be an effective way to offset increased user-pays charges: “Actually reducing the bottom tax rate, or having even a tax-free area at the bottom, is more effective in compensation.”

Full transcript (Scoop)

The Q+A panel on Cullens interview and tax.

 

For and against a CGT and Michael Cullen interview on the Nation

Michael Cullen, ex finance minister and now chairman of the Tax Working Group, will be interviewed on Newshub Nation this morning at 9:30m am (repeated Sunday morning 10 am).

Following the release of the Tax Working Group’s interim report, Simon Shepherd sits down with its chairman Sir Michael Cullen to look at how tax changes could increase income equality and help the environment.

Future of Tax: Interim Report (PDF)

The contentious hobbled CGT should be a talking point.

Stuff:  Ministers issue fresh request to Tax Working Group to ‘consider inequality’

The Government has given the Tax Working Group a prod along after it stopped short of reaching a recommendation on the merits of a broad-based capital gains tax in its interim report.

It set out two models for what a broad-based tax on capital gains could look like in its interim report published on Thursday.

Chairman Sir Michael Cullen said “the key issue” it had looked at was tax on capital income, but said it was not a “no brainer”.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash immediately released a letter they had sent to the TWG.

The letter asked the TWG to “consider a package or packages of measures which reduces inequality, so that New Zealand better reflects the OECD average whilst increasing both fairness across the tax system and housing affordability”.

The ministers also asked the TWG to examine which of two models for taxing capital gains that the TWG considered “would be best to ensure the tax system was … fair and balanced”.

A source close to the TWG said the letter sent “a strong signal” about the Government’s desire for a broader capital gains tax.

Max Rushbrooke for a CGT and pro-equality tax changes: Tax report highlights NZ’s inequality issues

Though it may not have settled on an answer yet, yesterday’s interim report by the Tax Working Group was crystal clear about the problem: we have a tax system that does very little to enhance fairness and reduce inequality.

The need to restore fairness runs like a silver thread throughout the working group’s analysis. Hence one of its preferred options is to tax nearly all the gains that people make from selling assets.

…it would also help reduce inequality, because these so-called capital gains will be largely the preserve of the very well-off. Indeed, many of these people have become adept at disguising their income as capital gains in order to avoid paying tax.

There are, of course, some downsides to introducing a thorough tax on capital gains. It creates more reporting requirements, and could encourage people to hold on to assets for longer. But these seem like minor problems when set against its major benefits.

Peter Dunne is against it: It’s time to bury the capital gains tax

The spectre of a capital gains tax on residential property sales and other substantial assets has loomed large over the New Zealand tax scene for about fifty years now.

Government is a little different, but the outcome seems likely to be the same. While this time the Government has left open the possibility of a capital gains tax, it is the Tax Working Party that looks likely to rule it out, saying the issue is ultimately a political one. And, given the Government’s commitment not to introduce such a tax before it gets a specific renewed electoral mandate, the prospects look as distant as ever. Very few governments win elections promising to introduce more taxes.

All of which raises the question as to why the capital gains issue keeps getting raised, especially since the arguments in favour from both a revenue gathering and efficiency perspective are not that strong.

Advice I received when Minister of Revenue was that it could be over a decade from the time of introducing a broader based capital gains tax until it produced any significant revenue gain for the Government.

Also, it has been long accepted that the family home would have to be exempted from any such regime, further diminishing its likely impact. Even in the rental sector, the impact would likely be negative for tenants, with landlords boosting rents to offset any negative tax impact when those properties are sold.

… the application of a capital gains tax to other substantial items would be just as fraught, as items will appreciate over time at different rates, while some will depreciate. The administration of such a tax will impose additional strains and complexities on an already struggling tax system for not much revenue gain.

When tax policy moves too far into the area of engineering income redistribution or social equity complicated issues invariably arise at the margins, which the tax system, by virtue of its blanket approach, is not well designed to cope with.

All of which means that the Government would do far better to focus its ongoing attention on ensuring that the greatest amount possible of all taxes currently levied is collected before embarking on the imposition of new or additional taxes.

For all these reasons it is time to bury the capital gains tax argument for good, and focus afresh on tax policy that works, rather than just feels good.

 

UPDATE:


Audrey Young: Capital gains tax defining issue for Labour, NZ First

Tax could make or break Government at the next election. Illustration / Guy Body

One thing is clear after this week’s tax report – tax could make or break the Government at the next election, and a capital gains tax (CGT) will be a defining issue for the relationship between Labour and New Zealand First.

The tax blunder last time taught Jacinda Ardern and then finance spokesman Grant Robertson that the “how” of progressing a policy is as important as the “what”.

Capital gains tax has been an integral part of the post-Clark Labour story. In a sense, Robertson owes his job as Finance Minister to it.

It may be that New Zealand First sees CGT as such a defining issue for Labour that it is obliged to support it as an article of good faith.

Both parties will also be mindful of the integrating effect of the policy on the Coalition.

Because the capital gains tax would not take effect until after the election, it would bind the Coalition partners, Labour and New Zealand First, closer together and require Peters and Ardern to campaign jointly under their tax policy.

That will fundamentally change the dynamics of the next election, whatever the merits and disadvantages of a capital gains tax itself.

 

 

Cullen confirms CGT will not be addressed in interim TWG report

Michael Cullen, chairman of the tax Working Group, has confirmed that the interim report due to be released this month will make no recommendations on a Capital Gains Tax.

Stuff: Absence of tax recommendation means ‘more uncertainty for longer’, says National

The Tax Working Group will not recommend whether or not New Zealand should get a broad-based capital gains tax, in an interim report due out this month, chairman Sir Michael Cullen has confirmed.

Stuff had previously reported that any recommendation on the controversial tax would be deferred until the working group publishes its final report in February.

Cullen said on Wednesday that he was “happy to confirm that”.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has played down the implications, saying the work the Tax Working Group was involved in was “always supposed to be a two-stage process”.It seems remarkable that one of Labour’s most prominent policies and their big tax policy, CGT, would not be addressed on the first report.

Surely for a tax package to make any sense it would include the major components, in general terms at least.

As Amy Adams says, this won’t do anything to address uncertainty in the business community.

It seems to confirm that what the TWG would like to recommend on a workable CGT is outside the parameters given them, or Labour have indicated is not something they want to hear at this stage.

 

Greens will push Labour to advance CGT

James Shaw has just said that the Greens would push Labour to bring forward a Capital Gains Tax in post-election coalition negotiations, in an interview on Q+A.

This came just after Jacinda Ardern reiterated her back-flip on pushing any possible CGT out until after the next election in 2020.

Shaw said that the CGT would be one of a couple priorities in coalition negotiations.

This won’t help alleviate uncertainties about what a Labour led government might do on tax next term.

This also highlights the uncertainties voters face when presented with individual party policies when what we end up getting is negotiated compromises – or small party policies are potentially used as an excuse to sneak in different policies.

In a following interview Winston Peters stated that CGT would be off the table as far as NZ First was concerned.