The Soap Box: Taxation never far from political debate

Author
Newstalk ZB staff,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 13 September 2017, 5:51AM
Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Grant Robertson. (Photo \ NZ Herald)
Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Grant Robertson. (Photo \ NZ Herald)

Taxation is never far away from the political debate. The pros and cons of how much to tax, what's fair, what can be dodged and whether we're all being hoodwinked going into the election will continue.

It's where National and Labour protagonists, Steven Joyce and Grant Robertson viciously lock horns trying to make each other look like monetary morons.

Bill English, who's essentially been pulling the public purse strings for the best part of a decade, has been doing his best to rattle the loquacious Jacinda Ardern, who for the most part's been hiding behind the taxation working group she's planning to set up after the election, if she gets the chance.

But she does herself a disservice by continuing to declare what's hot and what's not when it comes to tax, with her group's options being diminished by the day. The latest tax to come off their drawing board's inheritance and that follows capital gains on the family home and the land that lies beneath it, even if the property's owned by a trust.

Possible increases to the top income tax rate were canned after the Government's books were opened, and even though she said it would take days to analyse the figures on that one, it took a couple of hours. Then there's the wishy washy water tax, that's as popular as a wet, mouldy blanket down on the farm.

The more taxes she takes off the table, the greater the impression is that she knows exactly what she wants to do with the system and that creates the uncertainty.

But on the other side, National's claim we're being asked to elect a committee rather than a Government in ten days time is a bit rich, given we did exactly the same with them if you accept that contention. Their own taxation working group who (like the Labour one will also do) got their heads together the year after they came to power. The group included luminaries like The Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan and Mark Weldon, who had an inauspicious departure from TV3 last year.

The problems they identified then were very much the same as they're still talking about today, which doesn't say a lot for Governments listening. They identified critical concerns with the system as it was then, saying the major hole in the tax base was the taxation of capital, which is manifest in high investment and low returns in the property market. Little did they know what was about to unfold.

In fairness though, company tax came down, making it more internationally competitive and so did personal income rates, offset by an increase in GST.

There are more changes in store, but don't be scared, whoever it is, they'll want to be re-elected in three years time and a tough tax regime never cuts the mustard.

 

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