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Andrew Dickens: Supporters of a capital gains tax should be angry

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Thursday, 7 March 2019, 12:53PM
If I was a supporter of the Capital Gains Tax, I would very angry at the government right now. Photo / NZ Herald

Well, I have really, really, really tried but I have failed. The same way I failed last year’s Dry July. I had the best intentions but it’s just too tempting. Or maybe I’m too addicted. Or maybe it’s too infuriating.

I honestly thought I might get through this week without discussing the recent findings of the Tax Working Group. I imagined and visualised never uttering the words “Capital Gains Tax”. But I have now fallen.

I was tempted to talk about it after Jacinda Ardern got stuck into the people who write columns in the Herald. People like me. The inference being that we were all ganging up against the CGT. That the proposals were slowly being picked apart like pulling at a loose thread on a jumper. The tax was dying a death of a thousand cuts. And that was unfair. And of course, this whole thing is about fairness.

I took exception to that because what she was really complaining about is that nobody was coming out in favour of the tax. Apart from a few people writing emotional pleas about fairness and how it just feels right.

Ask yourself. Who have you seen crusading for the biggest shakeup of our economy in a generation? Where are the crowds marching in the street? How many water cooler conversations have you had about the taxes? The only ones I’ve had is about how we could avoid paying any. Perhaps on factory floors and minimum wage sweatshops, there are mobs of supporters, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that.

What the Prime Minister is really upset about is the Working Group’s ideas do not have a champion.

Which brings me to why I’ve broken my silence.

This week the government extended Sir Michael Cullen’s contract as Chairman of the Tax Working Group so he can defend the ideas his group presented to the Government. That’s a sweet gig. A grand a day to phone talkback stations or write letters to the editor to dispel any scaremongering that may or may not be going on.

I’m afraid this is just not right. Sir Michael was paid to collate expert advice, which he’s done. Job over. His ideas need to defend themselves. If he wants to defend them now the job’s finished he can do it on his own coin.

Then we come to David Seymour’s criticism today that this demonstrates the inability of Finance Minister Grant Robertson to articulate and defend his Government’s tax plan.

That’s not strictly true because the Tax Working Group’s plan is not yet the government’s plan. They’ll tell us what their plan is next month. And that’s their political failure. To be honest they’ve lost this already. By failing to come out immediately and say what they like and don’t like about the groups that plan the government is just sitting there like a big lump, saying nothing and getting kicked. If I was a supporter of the Capital Gains Tax, I would very angry at the government right now.

What all this is really saying is that the supporters of the Capital Gains Tax are so few and far between that this government is now paying people to support it and that just sounds a teensy bit corrupt.

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