Do EVs need free ride?

19/01/2023

The government has declared its EV subsidy a success – but is it really making a difference and do electric vehicles need the free ride they’re getting?

. . . The Government is claiming victory for the popularity of low and zero-emissions cars, having heavily incentivised their uptake with policies like the clean car discount, which takes as much as $8625 off the price of a new clean vehicle – a discount paid for by levies of up to $5175 on the price of a polluting car.

The policy is so successful at driving the uptake of EVs and suppressing the uptake of petrol vehicles, the Government may have to rethink the level of discounts and fees – lowering one or raising the other. . . .

How do they know the subsidy is persuading people to switch from petrol or diesel fuelled vehicles to electric ones? How many people bought EVs because of the subsidy and how many would have bought EVs without it?

It’s difficult to get an accurate answer to those questions but a conversation with a dealer soon after the subsidy was announced proves that for at least some the subsidy was a bonus, not a requisite.

The Lexus dealer said he already had a good number of orders for EVs before the subsidy was announced from people willing and able to pay the full price but very happy to find they’d be paying several thousand less when the vehicles arrived.

Farmers, trades people and others who need utes for work for which there are no electric alternatives and who are paying the tax that partially funds the subsidy are not happy. They will be even unhappier if the government decides to increase it to subsidise more EVs.

Aside from this, there are questions over whether EVs are better for the environment, not least because some are being fuelled by electricity generated by imported coal.

Another question is how much is the ute tax fuelling inflation by increasing business costs at least some of which will be passed on in higher prices?

The bigger question is, what difference is the subsidy making to decisions to purchase EVs and how many who buy them need it, especially when they pay no road user charges as diesel-fuelled utes do?

They’re getting a free ride on the roads and a subsidy, at least some don’t need,  paid for by an illegitimate tax on legitimate work vehicles.


Highest priority for $211m a year

08/11/2022

Jacinda Ardern was asked what she’d do if money was not a factor.

Her answer, to make all pre-school education free was, as Lindsay Mitchell points out addressing a symptom, not a cause:

Why pose such a redundant proposition when governments are scrambling to spend less? Well, most governments.

But then I thought the answer might shed light on just how naive and ineffective the PM is.

Her big idea? Free early childhood education. 

“I’d make it completely free. Completely free. And when I say completely free, I’d also give choice to families about at what point and stage their child accesses it. Because for some we know it provides stability to kids that they might not have in their home life.”

Hang on. Back up. Isn’t this putting the cart before the horse?

Perhaps you need to address why ‘some’ kids don’t have stability in their home life.

You’ve already thrown a whole lot more money at the problem due to the first wrong diagnosis and now there are thousands more children in unemployed homes. Dare I say it, unstable homes. 

But let’s look at the evidence the PM might be inclined to take heed of. Evidence produced under her own administration.

Whether or not early childhood education improves outcomes for children is at best controversial. . . 

No-one can fault the goal of improving outcomes for children but free ECE wouldn’t be the best way to do it, even if money wasn’t a factor.

No doubt the PM was thinking about the announcement she made later on about increasing childcare subsidies.

The package included increasing thresholds for the subsidies and adjusting Working For Families for inflation.

That does beg the question of why increasing those thresholds and adjusting those payments for inflation is good when, they say,  increasing thresholds for tax brackets and adjusting them for inflation is not.

It also raises questions about priorities for Labour and its leader when money has to be a factor.

One of its priorities appears to be merging RNZ and TVNZ, the rational for which has yet to be properly explained, the cost of doing which is higher than the combined value of the two entities, and now we learn TVNZ will lose $100 million in advertising a year.

The Government’s new public media entity will witness the loss of a third of TVNZ’s existing commercial revenue, equating to about $100 million a year, within five years, according to advice from officials.

This lost revenue will need to be supplemented by taxpayer funding from the Crown, which is forecast to contribute $211m a year to the entity over 30 years, roughly half of which will be used to plug the shortfall in advertising.

The commercial details were revealed in a late draft of a business case for the Government’s RNZ-TVNZ merger, obtained by the National Party.

The party’s broadcasting spokeswoman Melissa Lee said the documents showed the Government was wilfully destroying TVNZ’s commercial model and forcing the taxpayer to pick up the tab. . . 

It’s difficult to believe anyone in the government can think this is a good use of so much money and it would be hard to find anyone in the general public who would think it is, even if it wasn’t going to be borrowed money.

It would be very easy to think of much higher priorities for $211m a year over 30 years – helping people on benefits who could work into work, which would help improve outcomes for children,  and increasing health spending to address the many factors contributing to the crisis in that sector would two of them.


A guide to spending other people’s money

03/11/2022

Over at The Common Room, Jordan Williams gives a long and lamentable list of the government’s disregard for value when spending of other people’s money :

Right now, the Government’s spending makes up 42% of the whole New Zealand economy. But are the funders of all that spending getting a good return?

Former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss made the mistake of attempting to cut taxes without cutting spending.

With so much wasteful spending here, it shouldn’t be hard for a National-led government to cut enough waste to enable some tax cuts, at least a change in thresholds so increased earnings aren’t immediately negated by a move into a higher tax bracket.

 


“It is not a levy, it is a tax”

27/10/2022

National’s Selwyn MP Nicola Grigg gets it – when research, science and technology have yet to come up with the means to reduce farm emissions, the government’s proposal to charge for them is not a levy, it’s a tax:

NICOLA GRIGG (National—Selwyn): I was thinking, just earlier, after hearing Damien O’Connor’s contribution to the House followed by Meka Whaitiri’s, that we’d heard two valedictory speeches this evening, and I think I can add a third to that list. Yet another five-minute diatribe just proving nothing but what a tin ear the Ministers of this Crown have. We hear nothing but denial and defence coming out from this Government. They are so, so enthusiastic about rewriting history.

The facts of the matter are the industry, the 11 partnership groups of He Waka Eke Noa, took a proposal to the Government. The Government has come back with its response just last week. It has dumped the parts that the farming sector was prepared to sign up to. That is what the so-called “whinging and carping and griping” that Kieran McAnulty talks about is about, because, once again, this industry has been roundly ignored by this Government. And, yes, we do, on this side of the House, stand by the fact that we will not support a pricing mechanism until the science and technology is in place, otherwise it is not a levy; it is a tax. It is a tax on food while our country is in the grip of a cost of living crisis, and this Government is doing nothing but to fan the flames of that crisis.

The government keeps trying to tell us it cares about the poor and wants to help people out of poverty but either doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care, that taxing food production will push more people into poverty by increasing unemployment and food prices, and reducing export income.

Nobody on that side of the House is talking about the 20 percent of sheep and beef farms that are going to go out of business. By the Government’s own numbers, one in five sheep and beef farmers in this country will go out of business, and they have the nerve to talk about this side of the House criticising them and not supporting this proposal. We would support this proposal if it was fair and if it was equitable. We have said from the outset that the National Party does support emissions pricing for the agricultural sector if there are fair and reasonable sequestration options in place; if there is the science and technology in place. We will not stand by a proposal that puts one in five of our sheep and beef farmers out of business. We will not stand by a proposal that sees our richest industry, the industry that earns this country some money, sent offshore to high-emitting farming countries. We will not stand by it, we will not support it, and I do not apologise for calling the Government out on it.

If you don’t want to hear it from me, Mr McAnulty, maybe have a look at the latest industry rag out this week. Here we go: “Govt ‘fails fairness test’ on HWEN”. “HWEN has farmers upset over offsets”. “Sector flags ‘immediate concerns’ on HWEN”. There is no balancing of the ledger on the levy; take that from the people in the industry, Mr McAnulty. And while Ms Whaitiri crows away about the farmers inviting her on to their place, I’ll tell you what: it ain’t for tea and tinies. It is to try, in a desperate, final attempt—in the six weeks they’ve got left, it is to try and educate this Government as to what it is doing to our most productive sector. Fifteen percent of this country earns 50 percent of its revenue, and you lot over that side of the House should pay wise words to that.

Every single one of the industry groups, the 11 groups that signed up to this thing, have reacted angrily and have opposed the Government’s response to it. Once again: you took their advice back in May; perhaps you best start listening to them now. As you keep saying, they are the industry. They are the ones at the coal face. They are the ones who should know what they’re talking about. Well, they’re telling you now: this thing does not work, and the National Party wants to work with those groups and find something that will work. We are committed to reducing carbon emissions. We do agree the primary sector does need to pay its way, and it plays an important part in designing a system, designing its own process for recording and pricing those emissions. It can only happen, though, if farmers are allowed all options of sequestration. That includes shelterbelts; that includes riparian planting; that includes native bush and reserves.

A National Government would invest in driving technology. It wouldn’t just announce $300 million technology incentives and funds and just write a press release and put it out; it would actually invest. Come down to my electorate. Come and visit Lincoln Agritech and all those solutions are right there. They have been developed. They need some sort of system to commercialise them and incentivise them. I would suggest, Mr McAnulty, if you want me up in Marlborough having a look at the flood damage, come down to my electorate, take a look at the technology being developed down there, put your money where your mouth is, and start investing behind them.


Whose paying for the e-cars?

25/10/2022

The government is taking from tradies and farmers to subsidise buyers of electric vehicles:

The Government has handed out $35 million to subsidise Tesla buyers, while also raking tens of millions from farmers and tradies through Labour’s car tax, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“New data shows that between July 2021 and September 2022, $163 million was paid out in rebates to the buyers of expensive electric vehicles. Of this, $35 million was for buyers of Teslas vehicles, which start at around $70,000.

If you can afford a $70,000 car you don’t need a subsidy.

“It’s clear that Labour’s scheme is subsidising millionaires into brand new luxury cars, but doing nothing to support low-income earners into cleaner vehicles.

“These Tesla subsidies are being paid for by hardworking farmers and tradies who, with no viable electric options available, are being taxed for purchasing the vehicles they need to do their work.

It would be unfair to be taxed to subsidise owners of luxury cars if there was an alternative to diesel and petrol power utes. That there is no viable alternative makes it worse.

“Since the car tax came into effect in April this year, the Government has raked in $63 million during a cost of living crisis.

“The clean car rebate and car tax are essentially a reverse-Robin Hood scheme. Hardworking Kiwis are being taxed for the vehicles they need, only for the proceeds to subsidise millionaires into posh new cars.

A Lexus dealer told me several customers had ordered e-cars before the subsidy was announced.

The wait for the vehicles was so long that the subsidy applied when they finally arrived so the purchasers paid less than they’d been happy to pay when they made their orders.

This is yet another example of the government taking money from people who have no options to avoid it, and giving it to people who don’t need it.

It’s not just ute owners paying.

If the government has taken $63 from the ute tax and paid out $163 million in subsidies, the difference must be borrowed money which will have to be repaid with interest.

That’s adding to the burden on future taxpayers so we’re all paying for e-cars for people well able to buy their own.


Stop the jobs tax

28/09/2022

National has launched a petition to stop the jobs tax:

Labour wants to take more of your hard-earned cash, with a plan to impose a new 1.39% Jobs Tax on every worker and every employer.

The Jobs Tax would make a typical worker (earning $60,000) $834 worse off every year. That’s $834 less for your groceries, your power and other bills, and your own savings. Employers would also be forced to pay the tax for every employee on their pay roll. Yet another cost on business that will put pressure on prices and make it harder to get a pay rise.

The Jobs Tax has been dreamt up by the Government to pay for Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s latest pet project: an “income insurance scheme”. This gold-plated welfare scheme would allow those made redundant to stay off work for up to 6 months on 80% pay. This despite businesses crying out for skilled workers!

The Jobs Tax joins the long line of other taxes Labour has introduced to fleece New Zealanders of their hard-earned cash, all while delivering worse outcomes for you and your family.

Help us stop Labour’s obsession with spending your money. Sign our petition to stop Labour’s Jobs Tax today.

Want to know how much Labour’s Jobs Tax will cost you? See how much worse off you’ll be HERE.

That link takes you to a table that shows someone earning $35,000 would pay $487 a year, the employer would also pay that making a total of $974  taken from the worker and the business in extra tax.

Someone earning $60,000 would have $834 taken from them, so would the employer making a total of $1,668 taken from the worker and the business by the government.

May be an image of 2 people, child and text that says "Labour's Jobs Tax will cost someone earning $60,000... $834 PER YEAR"

Workers earning $135,000 and their employers would pay  $1,820 each, a total of $3,640 taken from those who earned it by the government that promised no new taxes.

That’s a lot of tax that would be taken from workers and employers and who do you think would make better use of the money – the employees and the businesses or the government?

Taking that much tax to redistribute to people who may or may not need it is bad enough. It gets worse when you read Eric Crampton explaining how the scheme would be open to rorts:

A dark part of me hopes the government’s employment insurance scheme is enacted exactly as proposed.

It will be terrible.

But the rorts it will spawn will be the stuff of which economics columnists’ dreams are made.

The scheme really is not insurance. Insurance charges premiums that vary with risk. The government’s employment insurance scheme simply charges a proportion of a worker’s salary.

It’s not an insurance scheme it’s a tax and it’s not needed by many, perhaps most workers.

Has anyone bothered to investigate how many people are really at risk of losing their jobs and how many of those who, in the current environment, would walk straight into another job?

Consider seasonal employment which is only covered if a worker is made redundant before the end of the contracted picking season.

But employers making workers redundant every year will not pay a higher insurance premium.

Clever employers will put seasonal workers on to permanent contracts before making them redundant towards the end of the picking season. Workers in on the bargain will work through the initial four weeks of redundancy covered by the employer if they want to play the game again next season.

And a lengthy period on 80 per cent of their prior salary awaits.

You might even consider it a subsidy scheme for seasonal work. Attracting workers out to the regions is easier if those workers can enjoy six months of government-provided redundancy pay as part of the bargain. . . 

Or consider maternity benefits.

Parental leave provides payments of up to $621.76 per week. But if a parent-to-be were to be made redundant, just consider the benefits for those on higher incomes!

Rather than see their pay drop to a meagre $621.76 per week, they could receive up to about $2000 per week – if they earned $130,000 or more before taking parental redundancy.

It really is brilliant. Labour has come up with a mechanism ensuring higher-earning women face fewer costs when having children, while doing fairly little for women on lower wages.

If a right-wing government had come up with the scheme, it would be accused of doing it deliberately, and possibly with eugenic intentions.

What employer would be so mean as to decline their employee’s request to be made redundant before the birth of their child?

And while parental leave is only available to one parent at a time, both parents in a two-income family could take redundancy. They could enjoy a full year with one parent at home with the new baby, or six months of family togetherness. On an “insurance” payment. . .

Labour has done a lot to make better-off people better-off while the poor have got poorer.

The jobs tax would do more of that and it would foster make-work schemes for employment lawyers:

Under current employment law, it is impossibly difficult to fire underperforming workers in some circumstances. It is too easy for employers to find themselves tied up in personal grievance claims for months – to the benefit of the lawyers.

But if both sides in a fractured employment relationship can agree that the worker will be made redundant, with an “insurance” scheme picking up months and months of redundancy payments at 80 per cent of the worker’s salary, everything becomes easier.

The employer neither needs to come up with a very expensive golden handshake, nor deal with months of workplace toxicity as a personal grievance case works its way through.

The worker can simply be made redundant.

You might even view it as a tidy second-best workaround to dysfunctional employment legislation. It will be far easier for employers to fire problem workers, with their agreement, when the scheme is in place. . . 

If there’s ever a good time to add a new tax, it’s not when all but the wealthy are struggling with the impacts of steeply rising prices.

If there’s ever a good time to make it easier for people to not work, it’s not when there’s a nation-wide shortage of workers.

This is a bad tax made worse by the potential for rorts and really bad timing.

 

 

 


Public support spending cuts

18/08/2022

Yesterday’s increase in the official cash rate (OCR) was expected and unwelcome::

In a massive blow to homeowners, out-of-control inflation has pushed the Reserve Bank into once again hiking the Official Cash Rate by a dramatic 50 basis points, National’s Finance Spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“Today’s statement is yet more bad news for New Zealanders, confirming inflation is set to stay higher for longer, growth will be lower and interest rates will have to be hiked even higher to bring things under control.

“The cost of living crisis is hitting everyone across the country and it’s not going away anytime soon. Runaway prices are crushing household budgets. Rapidly rising interest rates are crushing mortgage-holders. Today’s statement confirms both these things are set to persist for many months ahead.

“Concerningly, today’s forecasts from the Reserve Bank suggest inflation now won’t return below 3 per cent until the middle of 2024 and won’t get back to its target midpoint until 2025.

“Instead of throwing up their hands and blaming international factors, the Government needs to take action to bring inflation under control. Broken immigration settings and runaway spending are choking off supply while overheating demand – a recipe for more inflation.

“The Reserve Bank acknowledged ‘labour shortages are a major constraint on business activity’, but the Government is still failing to fix our broken immigration settings. Businesses and consumers will continue to be squeezed by widespread skills shortages until that changes.

“The Government should adopt National’s five point plan to fight inflation – return the Reserve Bank to a single focus on price stability, reduce costs on businesses, remove bottlenecks in the economy, rein in government spending, and prioritise tax relief for workers.”

Labour MPs are always critical of National’s calls to rein in government spending, but the policy has public support:

The Taxpayers’ Union says that cuts to Government spending are a far better way to deal with the inflation crisis than the Reserve Bank of New Zealand hiking the Official Cash Rate – and the public agree. Kiwi voters understand the drivers behind inflation and the latest Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll demonstrates that they want cuts to Government spending.

Responding to today’s OCR announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said:

“As part of this month’s Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll, we asked New Zealanders if the Government should be increasing, decreasing, or maintaining spending levels in response to high inflation. The most popular response – 45% of respondents – was that Government should decrease spending.”

“Only 12% of respondents thought increasing spending was the right idea and 27% said spending should be kept the same.”

“Next time Labour MPs try to troll National Party leader Christopher Luxon with claims he will ‘cut spending’ Mr Luxon should say he will. This poll shows that it is precisely what most voters want him to do!”

“We also asked about tax cuts and 59% of voters support a temporary 10% reduction in overall income tax for all families to help with the increased cost of living.”

“As Grant Robertson recently acknowledged, tax relief is less inflationary than Government spending. Swapping out Government spending to leave more money in taxpayers’ pockets would both help with the costs of living and ease the pressure on inflation.”

“Something that the Beehive should take note of is that Labour voters are the most in favour of a temporary package for across-the-board tax relief!” 

The results for the August Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll can be found here – https://www.taxpayers.org.nz/inflation_polling

This government has demonstrated time and time again that more spending doesn’t always result in better outcomes.

Time and time again they’ve shown that they are not good managers of other people’s money.

The TU poll shows the public understand that and favour being able to keep more of their own money.

 


‘Tax is love. Enjoy its fruits.’

18/07/2022

Dr Oliver Hartwich writes, we are paying the price for economic mismanagement:

We can reasonably expect New Zealand’s economy to enter recession after the Reserve Bank raised its Official Cash Rate again by 50 basis points.

No one likes being in recession, but current circumstances make it almost desirable. Accelerating price increases and tight labour markets are both signs of an overheated economy. 

The Reserve Bank therefore wants to engineer an economic downturn to let off some steam. This would relax both the labour market and consumer price inflation. . .

That’s what it wants, but it won’t be easy with a very tight labour market.

With Kiwis leaving and fewer migrants coming here, labour constraints could therefore remain, even in the face of a recession. That would make the Reserve Bank’s job much harder.

However, our central bankers will be concerned about more than just the labour market.

Because next year is an election year, the Government will be tempted to soften the downturn. This might take the form of fiscal stimulus and transfer payments – but both would counteract the withdrawal of aggregate demand the Reserve Bank wants to achieve.

It is possible that the Reserve Bank would struggle to meet its goals despite sustained increases in the OCR. 

Instead, it would see the economy showing simultaneous signs of overheating in the labour market, declining economic activity and consumer price inflation. In a word: stagflation.

Some will argue that it is mainly the Reserve Bank’s fault for having led us into this mess. And they would be right. This is a recession we did not have to have. . . 

It could have been avoided had the Reserve Bank not flooded the country with cash, and the government been disciplined in its spending.

The Reserve Bank can only do so much. The best it can do is emphasise the return to price stability as its main goal.

The remaining responsibility for economic management, however, rests with the Government.

Demand-side management must be avoided, no matter how tempting it may seem. And in order to boost the supply side, the Government must make doing business easier and cheaper.

The Government’s economic competence will determine how long and how deep our economic downturn will be. 

How much confidence can we have in the government’s economic competence?

Worry not, Dr Bryce Wilkinson writes ‘from’ the Beehive to rebut our misplaced fears:

We in the Beehive are aware of some unfounded dissatisfaction amongst the great unwashed.

There are stories of a health system in crisis. This is not so. If it were, we would have told you.

The real emergency is, as everyone knows, climate change. Think not of hospital shortages today. Think instead of all those who are going to drown in 2100 because they did not notice sea-level rise. Subsidies for electric cars are more important than yet more money for hospitals.

There are also stories that the amalgamation of Polytechnics has destroyed their creativity and independence.

This is absurd. Our new structure has at least 21 people with “chief executive” in their titles. The 21 oversee the chief executives of the 16 polytechnics. What chief executive would not welcome such support?

Some are complaining that the top boss is earning $13,000 a week while on ‘special’ leave. That is what we call a fair go for the ordinary bloke. Others can learn from it.

School truancy. Another problem inherited from the other lot. What everyone is missing is how much worse it would be if parents were paying directly for their truant children. Private schools are the pits.

Some are concerned that around 40% of school leavers are barely literate. Will they be able to pay enough in taxes to support our retirement? Perhaps not, but again think of how much worse it would be if parents had greater school choice.

We had to shut down partnership schools because too many parents did not understand that state schools were best. Imagine if we told parents which schools were poor performers. There would be chaotic disruption. People need government to protect them from themselves.

There are stories that people are feeling unsafe in the streets. There are shootings. It is said that police are powerless to prevent reoffending by ten-year olds because of the laws protecting minors. Nor can they do much about hardened criminals given our lenient courts. Our judges even struck out Parliament’s three strikes legislation, before we did. If they do not understand our constitution, who does?

All such complaints are unkind. You are paying for approaching 450,000 public sector employees who wake up each morning thinking only of how they can best help you each day.

Our excellent governance arrangements ensure nothing stands in their way.

Tax is love. Enjoy its fruits.

Feeling reassured now?

Enjoying the fruits?

Or worried that the fruits are rotten?


Public funding of political parties political poison

26/05/2022

The Taxpayers’ Union says the idea of public funding of political parties must be nipped in the bud :

Responding to the terms of reference for a new review into electoral laws, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on politicians to rule out supporting taxpayer funding for political parties.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Taxpayer funding for political parties is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, the criteria for allocating funding will necessarily benefit incumbent political parties, amplifying those already in power and drowning out political outsiders. This goes against the spirit of our liberal multi-party system.

How would the funding be calculated – the vote at the previous election, the number of members  . . .?

There is simply no way taxpayer funds could be allocated fairly.

“Secondly, shifting away from private funding towards public funding will shield party leadership from accountability to their grassroots supporters who currently pay campaign bills. In other words, politicians will get sucked further into the Wellington bubble.

Good MPs value and listen to party members, understanding the important role they play in helping them win elections and also keeping them in touch with issues and concerns in the real world.

“Thirdly and most simply, taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund the promotion of views they disagree with or find abhorrent. It’s one thing to fund MPs to do their jobs in Parliament – it’s another thing entirely to fund their propaganda.

If parties can’t attract sufficient funds from people who support them, there are absolutely no grounds for giving them funds from people who don’t through taxes.

“Instead of pouring more public money into the political process, we should be taking this opportunity to scrap the archaic ‘broadcasting allocation’ which funds election night broadcasts from fringe political parties too hopeless to fundraise for themselves.

Yes. If parties wish to broadcast advertisements they should be able to do so but only at their own expense.

On the potential for restrictions on private donations to political parties, Mr Houlbrooke says:

“Limiting donations to political parties won’t stop the wealthy from influencing elections. It risks the rise of American-style ‘super pac’ organisations with shadowy funding sources campaigning on the parties’ behalf. At the very least, wealthy donors may simply redirect donations to advocacy groups like the Taxpayers’ Union or Greenpeace. Even if we would benefit from such a change, we cannot in good conscience support it.

Current disclosures of larger donations from groups of individuals is part of an openness and transparency in the democratic process, but as long as that is robust, there is no need to place limits on the donations, especially when, as is the case now, there are limits on how much parties can spend in the regulated pre-election period.

Contrary to the concern that money can buy elections, post-election disclosures show that often more money per vote is spent by parties which lose.

Political parties are voluntary organisations.

There are no more grounds for taxpayer funding of them than there would be for funding service clubs or religious groups.

If National and Act are true to their principles they will be opposing this vehemently.

I have no doubt they will because the idea is political poison.

Opponents to it have only to rank the many, many high priorities for taxpayer funding, including the frontlines of health and education, and then ask where taxpayer funding of political parties comes in.

It won’t even make the list.


Takers or makers

24/05/2022

This is a government of takers.

They took away our freedom and while the first Covid-19 lockdown was excusable, subsequent ones that were due to the delay in the vaccination rollout were not.

Matthew Hooton writes of the cost of last year’s extended Auckland lockdown:

. . .Then, in late August, our still largely unvaccinated population was hit by Delta. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had no choice but to order what became the long lockdown of 2021/22. It contributed to yesterday’s Budget Economic and Fiscal Update (BEFU) estimating Robertson will end up spending $128.4b to get us through 2021/22.

That’s $13.7b more, or over $7000 for each of New Zealand’s estimated 1.9 million households. The “good news” is that Robertson expects to collect an extra $10.6b in tax this financial year compared with the forecast a year ago, or around $5500 more per household.

Inflation is one reason why, fuelled by both monetary and fiscal stimulus being needed for much longer than if we had been vaccinated before Delta arrived.

That, of course, is only the start of the cost. In Auckland in particular, the preventable lockdown also drove more family businesses broke, ruined a second school year for tens of thousands of students and worsened already fragile mental health.

Yet no one in the Beehive or the bureaucracy has even apologised for the failure to begin our mass vaccination programme six months earlier. . . 

The late rollout also took some of the freedoms we were promised over summer, people without vaccine passes were barred from a lot of places, numbers were restricted for weddings, funerals and other events; and we were all still supposed to sign in.

And let’s not forget taking the freedom to come and go from New Zealand that grounded so many Kiwis overseas, kept others here,  locked out families and friends, is still keeping some migrant families apart and restricting employers ability to get migrant workers.

Then there’s Three Waters and the very real threat that they’ll take away both the assets and control from local authorities and rural water schemes.

And the biggest take away is money  in higher taxes, higher costs through more regulations, and worst of all the loss we’re all having to bear because of inflation that’s adding to the cost of everything and eroding the real value of savings.

Not content with that the government is looking at how to take more from the wealthy, in spite of a promise there would be no new taxes and no wealth tax.

Just think how much better off we’d all be, individually and collectively if they put as much thought in how they could help us to make more instead of how they could take more.

This is a government of takers. The country desperately needs one that understands and supports makers.


Bad timing for bad tax

23/05/2022

Just a day after announcing they’ll let people earning less than $70,000 keep $27 a week more of their own money temporarily, Labour pushed legislation that will take much more off all of us permanently.

The Government is using dirty tactics as it pushes through enabling legislation to increase PAYE revenue by 10% under the cover of yesterday’s Budget, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union in response to the Income Insurance Scheme (Enabling Development) Bill.

Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “This is a tax branded ‘insurance’ by spin doctors to try and make it palatable. They are polishing a stinker. The ‘premium’ is not risk-based or reflective of individual circumstances. It is in practice a massive extension of PAYE, increasing revenue from the PAYE system by 10%.”

“The audacity of the timing cannot be understated. Labour is pushing it through first reading in a special Friday session of Parliament, less than 24 hours after a massive Budget that taxpayers, the media, and the Opposition are still busy digesting. This is cynical politics – Labour is playing dirty to push through a tax it knows will not stand up to public scrutiny.”

“Even worse, the Government is pushing this new tax as the costs of living spikes. The tax on workers will reduce take-home pay by up to $1,820 a year – far more than the temporary cost of living handouts announced yesterday. The additional tax on employers will in practice be passed on to workers, or translate to higher prices adding fuel to the inflation fire.”

“‘Unemployment insurance’ might be the name the PM’s media advisers have come up with, but Kiwis are smart enough to see right through it. It’s a nasty tax on employment, at the worst possible time. It’s also a recipe for rorting: family businesses will manufacture redundancies to take advantage of the generous handouts; and people on salaries as high as $131,000 will take six month sabbaticals between jobs, on 80 percent pay, courtesy of tax-paying workers.” 

Just one day later, Saturday, was tax freedom day and it came 10 days later than last year.

. . . Baker Tilly Staples Rodway has calculated New Zealanders will pay 10 days’ worth of taxes more in 2022 than they did last year, largely because of last year’s reintroduction of the 39 percent top tax rate.

It says the tax increase works out at 15 percent more than last year and brings tax freedom day back to where it was in the early 2000s.

Another significant concern is “bracket creep”, where an individual receives an increase in their salary, pushing them into a new higher tax bracket on their marginal earnings.

“The effects of bracket creep are becoming more obvious as more Kiwis receive pay rises,” Baker Tilly Staples Rodway tax director Mike Rudd said.

“That’s having flow-on effects such as Working for Families payments essentially being paid directly back to the government after tax.” . . . 

That’s two working weeks’ of tax paid before subtracting even more for the insurance scheme, the merits of which are questioned by many accountants:

. . . Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand said about half of its members supported the scheme as it could help people in sectors where redundancies were not offered and give people who had lost their job more time to find another role that matched their skills.

But members also had major concerns about the proposed timeframe, its cost, its effects on low-income families and the potential for the system to be gamed, he said.

“Many of our 31,000 Kiwi members have significant reservations about whether the scheme should go ahead, regardless of whether they support the policy rationale in principle,” CA ANZ New Zealand country head Peter Vial said.

Accountants had also been unable to review any of the detailed data and modelling for the scheme, or how it would be funded, Vial said.

“That’s a pretty concerning lack of transparency for a scheme that will impose significant costs on all New Zealand employers and employees – and considerable cost to the public purse. . . 

Vial said it would be “ambitious” to try and have the scheme up and running by the end of 2023 and suggested it would take a couple of years to develop the program to work out details, such as how it would work for low-income employees who would be least able to afford the levies.

“If the government does introduce a scheme, it needs to be as fair and efficient as possible, and economically viable, and must be careful that the proposal does not act as a disincentive for people to go back to work.”

Vial said there were alternatives that could be considered, such as expanding the scope of the Accident Compensation Act to include insurance cover for health events and disabilities that people away from work, as well as implementing an Australian-styled system which would provide minimum redundancy entitlements. . . 

We’re already paying more tax through bracket creep and inflation’s impact on GST. The flawed, compulsory insurance scheme will take even more from us.

It’s doubtful there’s ever a good time to impose a new tax on people.

Doing it now when the economic impacts of Covid and inflation are overstretching so many budgets for households, businesses and charities, would be bad enough. Doing it for a scheme that is unfair on people on lower incomes and so open to rorts is even worse.

This is bad timing for a bad tax that demonstrates yet again how out of touch the government is with how difficult finances are already for so many.


The case against meddling with GST

16/05/2022

The steep increase in the price of food has led to inevitable calls to exempt at least some foods from GST.

Good tax is oxymoronic but simple taxes are better taxes and GST is simple.

Australia’s isn’t and here’s a good argument for not following them by complicating ours:


Majority want to keep own money

05/05/2022

More than two thirds of New Zealanders want to keep more of their own money:

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll has found an overwhelming majority want a tax cut from the Finance Minister in this year’s Budget 2022. 

Labour’s dramatic drop in Newshub’s poll has the party under pressure and it’s showing. Meanwhile, the National Party is celebrating.  . . 

The poll put National ahead of Labour. It’s only one poll but does continue the trend of National support growing while Labour’s falls.

It gets worse for Labour because the poll also showed overwhelming support for tax cuts.

It’s bad news for them though, because the Finance Minister appears allergic to the idea. But perhaps the latest results of the Newshub-Reid Research poll will make him reconsider.

It asked: Do you think the Government should give New Zealanders a tax cut in the upcoming May Budget?

A clear majority – 68.7 percent – say yes, hand back over the cash, while only 23.7 percent said no. Even a majority of Labour voters – 54.2 percent – want a tax cut, with 35.7 percent saying no. 

But it’s not going to happen. 

“We do not agree that tax cuts that favour those who earn the most are the priority right now,” Robertson said in Parliament on Wednesday.

The political pressure is piling on from National.

“Kiwis are doing it incredibly tough in this cost of living crisis because of inflation and really what we want to do is be able to give more of their money back to them to spend and save it as they wish,” National leader Christopher Luxon said. .

That’s an important point.

This isn’t the government’s money, it’s the earnings of the people and it’s no surprise they want to keep a bit more of it.

Having the government which is wasting so much taking more of what you earn, or keeping a little more of your own money?

No contest.


Wasting $s on bureaucratic back patting

18/03/2022

Does this government and its agencies hold the record for the most money wasted on propaganda?

The government and Waka Kotahi are wasting money on advertising what amounts to an admission of failure.

They’re failing to make roads safer and so in an effort to reduce the road toll they’re resorting to reducing speed limits and trying to convince us that’s good.

The advertisement isn’t the only money being wasted on transport mistakes.

The Auckland tram might cost $29.2 billion.

That is $15,000 for every household in New Zealand. So every family in Gore and Hastings and Levin will be paying $15,000 more tax so Auckland gets some trams to the airport!

If it costs $29.2 billion, then that is a cost of:

  • $1.22 billion per km
  • $1.22 million per metre
  • $12,167 per cm
  • $1,217 per mm

Think of the opportunity cost. A new four lane motorway costs around $50 million per km. For what the Government may spend on trams in Auckland you could construct a 630 km long four lane motorway. That is approximately the distance from Auckland to Wellington. . . 

Back to annoying advertisements, Waka Kotahi has another that starts by showing a driver swerving to avoid a possum.

It is, as Camryn Brown writes,  a case study in obliviousness :

. . . Consider the TV ad for the new “Road to Zero” campaign. What does that ad want you to do? A typical road safety ad wants you to slow down, be sober, or wear a seatbelt. This ad has nothing for a road user to act on, it simply promotes the idea of an all-of-system approach to road safety. It tells you that road safety depends on coordinated work across enforcement, road design, regulation, and so on.

It shares this big idea that has excited the bureaucrats so you may see how clever they are and so that you may appreciate them more.

That’s what the ad wants you to do – it wants you to know what the bureaucracy is doing to do and it wants you to think better of them for it. The beneficiary of the ad is the public service, not the public. . .

Compounding the waste of money is the stupidity of showing a driver swerving to avoid a possum, which is dangerous.

If the advertisement pointed out that drivers should never swerve to avoid a small animal and that running over a possum would be doing a service to conservation because they’re pests which carry TB and prey on native fauna and flora it might be acceptable.

But it doesn’t to that and it’s not acceptable use of scarce money that would be far better spent on making roads safer.

Instead, they’re wasting millions on an expensive exercise in bureaucratic back patting.

It does nothing to encourage safer driving and it reinforces the growing chasm between the government, its agencies and the public who finance their wasteful spending.


Another economic blunder

11/01/2022

The government’s plan to introduce an unemployment insurance scheme is, Dennis Wesselbaum says, another of its blunders:

We do not have details about its precise design, but what we hear is that the new scheme will pay up to 80 per cent of income for up to half a year, if an employee loses their job. In any case, the reform will be a historic turning-point.

This policy, however, will reduce welfare (wellbeing would be more politically correct), increase unemployment, increase the duration of unemployment, reduce income, increase inequality, and lead to higher inflation. This outcome is robust and well-known in the field of macro-labour economics.

Recent experiences in Spain and Germany have shown that increasing the duration of unemployment insurance increases level and duration of unemployment. The probability of being unemployed for 12 months, for example, increases from 15 per cent to 40 per cent, if you move from a no unemployment insurance scheme to a one-year unemployment insurance scheme.

Hence, this leads to more (long-term) unemployment. . . 

The longer people are unemployed, the harder it is for them to re-enter the workforce.

Anything which encourages longer term unemployment is economic and social sabotage.

In Opposition Labour was highly critical of increasing inequality but this policy will make it worse.

Those workers who are employed enjoy a higher wage, but there will be fewer of them. This will increase income inequality in the economy. Importantly, overall welfare in the economy decreases.

Firms face higher labour costs which increases prices and creates inflation.

With less consumption, production falls, and overall income in the economy drops. . . 

More unemployment requires more to be spent on benefits and fewer people working leads to less tax being paid.

This will reduce fiscal space to deal with future recessions and restricts spending for important long-run factors such as infrastructure, education, or health.

Even worse, be prepared to have lower incomes, because all of this will be financed via an income tax increase. Taxes will increase by about 3-4 per cent. This tax hike will damage economic growth, by reducing incentives to invest and work. This will additionally shrink the supply side, which further fuels inflation.

In conclusion, you will be paying higher income taxes, have lower income, and pay higher prices such that the Government can implement a policy which will be harmful for the economy in many ways and reduces welfare – which this Government claims to be its raison d’être.

This reform is against every lesson economists have learned.

In my opinion, this shows the Labour Government does not care about designing useful economic reforms that would lead to better outcomes, but rather does whatever is required to transform Aotearoa into a socialist welfare state with a central government controlling all aspects of life.

Few, if any, people would never have an accident which is a good argument for ACC.

Few, if any, would never need hospital treatment which is an argument for a health insurance scheme, perhaps similar to Singapore’s.

But very few people are made redundant which makes the unemployment insurance scheme just a tax by another name that will do far more harm than good.

The blundering doesn’t stop there.

The proposal to impose UnFair Pay Agreements on employers and their staff  will compound the economic and social damage the government is inflicting on the country.


Taxing times

16/12/2021

This really is a taxing government:

The Government’s biofuel mandate will be another cost that will see motorists paying twice at the pump for carbon emissions, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Every litre of fuel Kiwis use already faces an 18 cent cost under the existing Emissions Trading Scheme. Adding a biofuel mandate on top of that will simply be another cost for the same outcome already being achieved by the ETS.

“MBIE stated that the introduction of the biofuel mandate will increase the price of petrol by 0.4 cents per litre, diesel by 7.1 cents per litre, and jet fuel by 7.1 cents per litre (or 11.2 per cent).

“Overall, it is estimated the economic cost of the policy will be over $1.2 billion. Yet as New Zealand already has a cap on our emissions, there will be no reduction in New Zealand’s total emissions.

“Essentially, this is a policy to make it more expensive for New Zealand to achieve emissions reduction targets, and to make petrol and diesel more expensive at the pump.

“At a time when Kiwis are paying more for petrol at the pump than ever before, the Government needs to grant relief to motorists by removing the Auckland regional fuel tax at a minimum.

“The mandate will be particularly hard for farmers who are already facing the introduction of the new ute tax, as the biofuel mandate could increase the price of diesel by 7 cents per litre.

“While National is supportive of biofuels and reducing our carbon emissions, the Government cannot double dip into Kiwis’ pockets by taxing them through the ETS and the biofuel mandate.”

The taxing doesn’t stop at the petrol pump:

Grant Robertson is riding inflation to execute an unjustifiable tax grab, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union in response to today’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update.

Speaking from the HYEFU Treasury lock-up, Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke, “The Government is set to increase its tax take by an extra $7 billion each year for the next five years. That’s perverse in the context of a pandemic that has left businesses reeling and households facing rising living costs. New Zealanders deserve tax relief, but Grant Robertson seems proud to be taking more and more.”

“A major cause of Grant Robertson’s revenue bonanza is inflation, which is now forecast to hit 5.6% next year. Inflation this high should be intolerable – there’s a reason the Reserve Bank targets 1-3%. But rising living costs are made even more painful by the Government’s refusal to adjust income tax brackets to keep up.”

“Someone on the average salary ($58,836) is set to pay an extra $955 in income tax next year, assuming they’re lucky enough to get an inflation-level pay rise. Of course, their real pre-tax buying power will be no higher, so eitherway everyone is left poorer.”

“In response to a question from Brad Olsen of Infometrics, Grant Robertson flatly ruled out the adjustment of income tax brackets, and made no apology for his Government’s contribution to inflation via massive spending.”

“Tax brackets haven’t been adjusted for a decade. National and Labour might have thought taxpayers wouldn’t notice slow, inflation-driving tax creep, but with inflation curving up, the elephant in the room is now impossible to ignore.

“Taxpayers need relief from the corrosive effect of inflation. Grant Robertson’s refusal to acknowledge this is cruel.”

The government’s refusal to adjust income tax brackets adds more tax insults to the other taxing injuries it is inflicting on us:

Today’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) confirms that despite a hot economy where everyone is competing for scarce labour and resources, Finance Minister Grant Robertson isn’t easing off his big debt-funded spend up and that will fuel inflation and hurt Kiwis, National’s Finance spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“Improved macro fiscals like a higher tax take and lower expected net core Crown debt are all well and good, but that doesn’t wash with Kiwi families who are being burnt by price rises that far outstrip wage increases.

“Core government spending is forecast to run a whopping 68% higher since Labour took office this year. The HYEFU reforecast shows government spending remaining high even post-Covid.

“While elevated spending levels were appropriate through much of the pandemic, many economists and the likes of the Reserve Bank now confirm its an overheating economic picture where adjustments and some easing off is required. Otherwise Labour is just outbidding private players for land, building supplies, and motel rooms, and forcing prices up across the board.

“Not all spending is good investment and you can have too much of a good thing. What’s more, an awful lot of it is being funded by borrowing, which means it has to be paid back eventually.

“The real kicker though is that this spending is pushing inflation higher and that in turn is forcing the Reserve Bank to keep hiking up interest rates. More than half our inflation is from the non-tradables sector and so home grown, and at 4.9 per cent its growing faster than it has in over 30 years, much faster than in Australia (3 per cent), and much faster than wages at 2.4 per cent.

“Inflation is literally taking money out of Kiwis’ pockets and making us poorer. Whether it’s the mum at the supermarket, the tradie at the petrol station or the young person trying to buy a first home, inflation is making things much, much harder.

“With all Grant’s spending, it’s up to the Reserve Bank to come to the rescue, pushing interest rates higher than they might otherwise need to go.

“We are saying ‘rein it in a bit Minister’. Take off some of the pressure on inflation and interest rates and give Kiwis an economic fair go. Your hot economy is burning us.”

Inflation is theft – it steals the real value of money including wages and savings.

The government’s low value spending is adding fuel to the inflationary fire and the increase in interest rates that will follow will turn up the heat even more.


Now they’re coming for the dead

20/07/2021

Labour broke it’s no-higher-taxes promise with the extension of the bright line test.

It broke its no-new taxes with the one on utes.

Now it’s looking at bereaking the no-new taxes promise again by taxing the dead :

 There are a couple of pieces of evidence to suggest may Labour may want to go to the next election proposing an inheritance tax.

The first is the Government’s decision to allocate $5 million over two years to Inland Revenue in the Budget to assess the income and wealth of high-wealth individuals.

An IR spokeswoman confirms that work should shed light on issues including the amount of inherited wealth.

If the Government is going to consider an inheritance tax, commissioning such research was probably going to be a necessary first step. . . 

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Louis Houlbrooke lays out five reasons against the idea:

Incentives: A death tax would discourage New Zealanders from saving and investing their earnings. Less capital would be built up as older New Zealanders choose to spend their savings instead of building an economic legacy for future generations.

Fairness: A death tax is a double tax. Someone would spend a lifetime giving up their earnings via income tax, only to have their remaining earnings taxed again as savings upon their death.

Complexity: The biggest beneficiaries of a death tax would be accountants and tax lawyers, who would be engaged by the wealthy to thread investments through complex exemptions and loopholes in the tax, such as exemptions for farm assets, trusts, and gifts prior to death.

Gift tax was axed a few years ago because it garnered so little.

Revenue: Any revenue from a death tax would be meagre. Of the OECD countries to have implemented death or gift taxes, an average of just 0.5 percent of total tax revenues is generated by those taxes. This means that even if our government decided to make a death tax revenue neutral by cutting income tax, the income tax cut would be nearly imperceptible.

Problem definition: A death tax, or indeed any kind of wealth tax, fails to address the actual causes of rising inequality: specifically the shortage of housing which has pumped up the value of assets held by the upper and upper-middle class.

Sigh.

If only the government put some effort into carefully managing the money it already gets rather than devising additional ways to part us from more of ours.

Instead of looking at ways to take more money from taxpayers the government should be analysing its own spending and reducing the burden of tax, reducing the amount needed in the public purse and leaving more money in the public’s pockets.


Rural round-up

17/07/2021

Farmers tell government ‘enough is enough’ – Wyatt Ryder and Shane McAvinue:

Farmers across New Zealand have told the Government “enough is enough” and are giving it a month to address their concerns.

This afternoon, farmers, tradies and agricultural sector workers began protesting in cities and towns across New Zealand against several Government reforms.

Thousands turned out in the South, with huge turnouts in Gore, Dunedin, Alexandra and Wanaka.

Utes, tractors and farm dogs descended on towns across New Zealand, with a plane and four helicopters taking part in the Gore protest. In the aftermath of the protests traffic is moving slowly throughout Dunedin and in other parts of the South. . .

‘Just bloody over it’: Rural New Zealand makes itself heard – Alex Braae:

More than 50 protests are taking place around the country today, with rural people in particular getting out to oppose the government’s environmental policy. Alex Braae went north to Dargaville.

The roads get a bit more bouncy when you turn off State Highway 1 to head out to Kaipara. Perhaps it was just because I was driving what might be the worst van in the country, but all of a sudden the shallow potholes started to look a lot more threatening. 

Part of that is because the primary industries are succeeding. Milk tankers, stock trucks and logging trucks all put pressure on the roads, and constant maintenance is needed to keep them in shape. Locals believe these repairs have fallen by the wayside. 

The destination was Dargaville, to report on a protest – one of more than 50 taking place around the country, organised by a group called Groundswell. They were bringing together as much as they could of the rural world – “farmers, growers and tradies” – as they put it, to protest government regulation and highlight a sense that too many costs are being imposed on rural businesses too quickly.  . . 

Farmers protest across New Zealand against government regulations

Traffic was disrupted around the country today, with convoys of tractors and utes with dogs on board arriving in dozens of centres around New Zealand, as farmers protested against government regulations.

Groundswell NZ organised the ‘Howl of a Protest’ in more than 40 towns and cities over recent environmental regulations, the ‘ute tax’ and a seasonal worker shortage.

Co-founder Laurie Paterson said the “ute tax” was the issue people pointed the finger at, but farmers were also unhappy with the bureaucratic approach to the national policy statement for fresh water management.

From July this year, people buying new electric vehicles (EVs) could get as much as $8625 back from the government. The scheme will be funded through levies on high-emissions vehicles from 1 January 2022. . .

Clear message for govt. – MP – Sudesh Kissun:

 MP for Southland Joseph Mooney, National, says farmers sent a clear message to the government by taking to the streets in huge numbers at Groundswell NZ protests across New Zealand today.

Mooney was in Gore with National’s agriculture spokesperson David Bennett where a big number of farmers took their tractors and utes to town to show their objection to the government’s unworkable regulatory approach in the farming sector.

“It is a sad indictment on the government that farmers felt they had to take their tractors and utes to town to be heard,” says Mooney.

“But with the government unwilling to listen to farmers’ concerns they’ve been left with few other options.

Farmers bring cities and towns to a standstill with mass protest over Government regulations – Nadine Porter:

In Auckland tractors drove down Queen St. In Christchurch they circled the cathedral.

In cities and towns across the country, farmers brought traffic to a near standstill as they turned up in their thousands to demand the Government’s ear.

At the largest protest in Christchurch, curious onlookers smiled and cheered as 2000 farmers in utes and tractors filed through Cathedral Square.

Chants of “enough is enough” rang out and the sound of dogs barking reverberated through the square as protesters voiced their concerns.

Groundswell NZ protest co-ordinator Aaron Stark said he had earlier received death threats, but the protest was peaceful. . .

Howl of a Protest: Thousands of tractors, utes descend on cities as farmers rally against Government regulations:

Thousands of farmers and a fair number of their dogs descended on towns and cities across New Zealand yesterday to protest at increasing interference by the Government in their way of life.

From Kaitaia to Invercargill, convoys of tractors, farm vehicles, trucks and utes took part in the Howl of Protest event, organised by Groundswell New Zealand, against what they say are unworkable regulations and unjustified costs.

The protest was organised against policies like the Clean Car Discount, which will subsidise clean vehicles by charging fees on high-emissions vehicles.

Protesters were also anxious about the eventual pricing of agricultural emissions, which will happen by 2025 – a decade after agriculture was first slated to enter the Emissions Trading Scheme. . . .


Broken promise bad precedent

08/07/2021

Labour doesn’t understand tax fundamentals:

Today we accepted a petition from Lindsay Calvi-Freeman signed by nearly 15,000 people. The petition calls for the Government to reverse their decision to remove tax deductibility of interest for landlords, National’s Shadow Treasurer Andrew Bayly and Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis say.

“Labour are misrepresenting interest deductibility by calling it a ‘tax loophole’. They make it seem underhanded and that is not fair to the thousands and thousands of mum and dad landlords who are entitled to deduct their costs from their revenue,” Mr Bayly says.

“This is a fundamental tax principle. New Zealanders should be able to trust that the Government will tax them on their profits. If costs cannot be claimed back, revenue is being taxed.”

There is no loophole. Interest is a legitimate cost of doing business regardless of what the business is. Singling out landlords in this way, breaks Labour’s pre-election no-more-taxes, no-tax-increases promise and sets a very bad precedent.

If the government can tax this legitimate cost, what other costs and businesses will it pick on next?

“This policy will be bad for tenants and landlords alike,” Ms Willis says.

“Ministers were warned by their officials that the changes to these tax laws could cause increased churn in the rental market, meaning there is a risk ‘that households may need to rely on transitional housing or emergency housing, special needs grants’, and that we could see an increase in ‘the numbers on the public housing register’.

Just like the new large vehicle tax, this will hit the poor hardest.

“Perhaps it is time this Government starts listening to the advice of officials and experts as they have proven themselves inept at delivering housing solutions.”

“We thank Lindsay Calvi-Freeman for bringing this petition to us. We wholeheartedly support this call to the Government and will continue to advocate on behalf of mum and dad landlords,” Mr Bayly says.

“The housing market needs rental properties and demonising landlords is unfair and counterproductive. They are selling a service like any small business and to punish them by removing interest deductions is a bizarre singling-out by the Government that does nothing to make house prices more affordable.”  

The government is attempting to paint landlords as villains but it’s the government that is being the baddy – breaking promises, distorting tax law and imposing costs that will feed through to rents and exacerbate the housing crisis.


Complicating tax won’t build houses

13/04/2021

Norman Gemmell writes that New Zealand’s new housing policy is really just a new tax package:

Economists like to talk about “optimal policy instruments” – essentially, policies that achieve their objectives more effectively or efficiently than the alternatives, and have minimal unintended consequences.

Judged by those criteria, the New Zealand government’s recently announced package of housing policy instruments is a long way from optimal. You might even call it a shambles. . . 

The aim of the policy is fine, but like so many of this government’s policies, it has several unintended consequences which will almost certainly make matters worse.

Arguably, the primary target of this policy package is stopping the inexorable upward march of (mainly Auckland) house prices. Failing to achieve that would simply put it among a long line of attempts by previous governments (National and Labour) over the past 20 years at least.

In all cases, the biggest problem has been insufficient political commitment to boosting housing supply. . . 

And in spite of its supposed focus on wellbeing, reducing poverty and solving the housing crisis, this government is not tackling the root causes of too few new builds.

All taxes cause “distortions”, mostly unintended, which need to be mitigated. Furthermore, policies that have conflicting objectives are “incoherent” and typically among the most distorting. This applies to the housing package’s removal of interest deductibility. . . 

That wasn’t, as the government claimed, closing a loophole. It was treating landlords differently from every other business which can claim interest as a tax deductible expense.

Making matters worse is extending the bright line test to 10 years.

It would be rare to find a liability based on transactions and timing among the principles of a good tax policy. But the bright-line test manages both – it incentivises delaying property sales to avoid the tax even when selling would otherwise be in the taxpayer’s best interest.

It was originally introduced in 2010 with a two-year threshold, without supporting evidence, supposedly to stop so-called speculators from flipping properties for quick profits. A 10-year threshold cannot be branded an anti-speculation policy, it is simply a back-door CGT.

As with most back-door policies, this CGT is inevitably less transparent and coherent than a policy designed to tackle the problem head-on would be. . .

It might, as taxes can, contribute more to the government’s coffers but it won’t build more houses.

If there are better alternatives, they do not lie in even more ad hoc fiddling with a coherent tax regime.

Instead, like the famous real estate mantra of “location, location, location”, the mantra for New Zealand housing policy should be “supply, supply, supply”. Specifically, supply in Auckland.

Successive governments have aimed policies nationwide when rapid house price inflation is almost exclusively urban and essentially an Auckland phenomenon.

Without policies that reform construction sector regulations and open up more land for urban housing, there is little prospect of Auckland house prices stabilising while current demand-driven trends persist. To make matters worse, the government’s first-home buyer schemes will merely raise demand without incentivising supply.

With too many objectives and the probability of numerous unintended consequences, the government’s housing policies risk being seriously incoherent.

What would help are policies which make it easier, less expensive, and less time consuming for new builds.

Complicating the tax system won’t do that but it will  increase rents thus making life even harder for the poor and those already struggling to save enough for a deposit to buy their own homes.


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