Rural round-up

May 1, 2019

Gas tax won’t cut farming emissions – Neal Wallace:

A capital gains tax is off the agenda but farming leaders are warning the imposition a suite of new taxes and regulations is pending.

In addition to farmers paying a greenhouse gas emissions tax of $50 million a year the Government is expected to impose tougher regulations on freshwater quality, aerial cropping, winter grazing and feedlots.

“When you look at everything else coming down the pipeline, if I was asked to pick one we were prepared to lose it would be this one, the one we have won,” Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard said of the capital gains tax.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also ruled out water and fertiliser taxes as suggested by the Tax Working Group. . .

Top dairy title revealed tonight – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy farmer Emma Hammond, of East Limehills, felt honoured when she was nominated for this year’s prestigious Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award.

The only South Island-based finalist, she and the other three women will hear if they are winners during a dinner this evening at the Allflex Dairy Women’s Network’s conference in Christchurch.

”For us to be recognised for what we do and get that acknowledgement is humbling,” Mrs Hammond said. . .

Farm management whizz ‘well on track‘ – Sally Rae:

At 19, James Matheson set a goal of having $1 million equity by the time he was 30.

Now 26, the Gore farm manager is ”well on track” to achieve that, sitting at between $700,000 and $800,000.

It has been a meteoric rise for a young man who had never previously considered a career in the dairy industry.

Now he and farm owner Chris Lawlor were endeavouring to help other young people follow a similar path through an innovative initiative. . . 

Highlife on top of the world – Andrew Stewart:

Setting up a tourism venture on a farm not only provides a second income but also acts as a public relations exercise to help bridge the rural-urban divide. And when it includes luxury glamping and breathtaking views the visitors cannot fail to be impressed. Andrew Stewart took a look.

In terms of spectacular views, Angus and Sarah Gilbertson’s farm is up there with the best. 

Rising to 600 metres above sea level at the highest point, the panorama on a clear day encompasses all the mountain peaks of the central plateau, Mount Taranaki to the west and the clear blue waters of the Tasman Sea far to the south. 

Between these stunning landmarks are great swathes of some of the most productive farming country in New Zealand that connect the landscape in various shades of green. It’s the sort of view you can’t help but stop and enjoy and this is part of the reason the Gilbertsons created their glamping business five years ago. . . 

The 10 biggest stories in farming over the past 25 years – Jamie Mackay:

My final chat on Newstalk ZB with the laconic Larry Williams was a great excuse to take a trip down memory lane.

Larry was stepping down after 27 years at the drive helm on ZB, while I was blowing out the candles on an accidental radio career spanning a quarter century in rural broadcasting.

For our penultimate ZB cross the week earlier I’d turned the tables on Larry and, without warning, asked him some unscripted questions. Much like his metronomic golf swing, he’s sometimes hard to get off script, but on this occasion he took up the challenge with good humour. . . 

Hunt on for ‘M.bovis’ study project manager – Sally Rae:

The search for an assistant research fellow to project manage a study on the impacts of Mycoplasma bovis on farmers and their communities has attracted a high level of interest.

In January, it was announced the University of Otago would undertake a study on the emotional, social and psychological impacts of the bacterial cattle disease on southern farmers and farming communities.

The two-year study, due to start this month, will look at the impact of the eradication programme on farmers specifically and the wider community more generally. . . 

Medicinal cannabis firm Pure Cann New Zealand gets $6 million investment– Rebecca Howard:

Pure Cann New Zealand, which counts former Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe as its executive chair, has secured $6 million from Australia’s Cann Group for a 20 per cent stake in the local medicinal cannabis company.

The investment will be made over stages with the initial 10 per cent to be completed on or before August 30 and a further 10 per cent when New Zealand regulations come into force and Pure Cann’s board approves the construction of its commercial cultivation facility.

The New Zealand government anticipates introducing new regulations, licensing requirements and quality standards governing medicinal cannabis usage by the end of this calendar year. . . 

 


No CGT but . . .

April 18, 2019

The government is not going to adopt a capital gains tax .

The backdown has cost $2 million and 18 months of uncertainty but Simon Bridges point out there will be more taxes:

“While the Government has backed down on a Capital Gains Tax, there are still a range of taxes on the table. They include a vacant land tax, an agricultural tax and a waste tax.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she personally still wants a Capital Gains Tax and that our tax system is unfair. New Zealanders simply can’t trust Labour when it comes to tax. 

“The New Zealand economy has suffered while the Government has had a public discussion about a policy they couldn’t agree on. Put simply, this is political and economic mismanagement. . . 

The government asked a question, the answer to which its three constituent parties couldn’t agree on.

Remember James Shaw saying:

“The last question we should be asking ourselves is, ‘can we be re-elected if we do this?’ The only question we should be asking ourselves is, ‘do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?'”

Labour and the Green Party had to swallow a big dead rat, served to them by Winston Peters:

. . .It wasn’t even an hour after the Prime Minister had put the final nail in the coffin that is the capital gains tax (CGT) when RNZ asked Mr Peters whether Labour will be expecting his party’s support on another issue in return for losing this flagship policy. Mr Peters fired back: “May I remind you, the Labour Party is in government because of my party.”

No reading between the lines necessary. . .

New Zealand First is polling under the 5% threshold, it couldn’t afford to alienate the dwindling number of its supporters.

The capital gains tax, if not dead, is buried while Ardern is Prime Minister, but the threat of other niche taxes is still live.

 


$5b extra cost with CGT

April 7, 2019

BusinessNZ has worked out the proposed capital gains tax would impose an extra $5 billion on the economy :

BusinessNZ has released an analysis of additional costs to the economy that would accompany the direct costs of New Zealand’s proposed capital gains tax.

It shows compliance costs of $1.6 billion, administrative costs of $210 million and deadweight costs of $1.5 – $4.2 billion, over five years.-

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope said the Tax Working Group’s report did not include compliance, administrative or deadweight costs, and these needed to be made explicit to enable public debate about costs before the Government made its decision on a capital gains tax.

Goodness me, how surprising.  The people proposing a tax based on an ideological view of fairness didn’t include the costs.

Compliance costs include Valuation Day requirements for all business assets to gain a valuation to enable the imposition of the capital gains tax.

Administrative costs are IRD’s costs of collecting the tax.

Deadweight costs are the costs of reduced economic output resulting from changes in supply and demand caused by the imposition of a tax. . . 

Those who want the tax keep repeating the same theoretical argument about fairness.

Those opposing it keep finding real, practical reasons why it isn’t fair, will add costs and sabotage the economy.

There’s more on this at BusinessNZ


CGT based on dodgy stats

April 5, 2019

Assertions about the impact of the proposed capital gains tax are based on dodgy numbers.

Troy Bowker writes:

The Tax Working Group (TWG) used an unreliable survey by the Department of Statistics as the basis for its argument that the majority of the proposed capital gains tax (CGT) will be paid by the top 20 per cent of households measured by wealth.

Repeatedly, since the final report was published, Sir Michael Cullen has quoted the “statistic” to the media that 82 per cent of the assets that will be subject to CGT are owned by the top 20 per cent of New Zealand households measured by net worth.

He goes on to state (as factual) the second 20 per cent of wealthy households will be responsible for another 11 per cent , then only 4 per cent for “middle” New Zealand.

In reality, this information is based on what most reasonable people would describe as little more than guess work.

It has been used for political purposes to argue that the majority of the public have nothing to worry about, and it will be mostly the “rich” that will pay CGT.

If it is correct (which it isn’t), it’s a very good argument for Labour and the Greens who desperately want to see a comprehensive CGT implemented.

The problem for those wanting CGT is that the data is completely unreliable and should never have been used. We need to know why public officials used it in the first place when they knew, or ought to have known, it was dodgy statistics. . . 

The stats came from the annual Household Economic Survey (HES) carried out by Statistics NZ.

It was done by conducting interviews of 8000 households, out of approximately 1.7 million households, in New Zealand. That’s only 0.47 per cent of households — s a ridiculously low sample size.

The other reason it is unreliable is most of the information provided is unverifiable. The Department of Statistics asks all sorts of questions about the assets and liabilities of each household and records the answers given. People can guess, underestimate or overestimate or not even volunteer information.

As you can imagine, it’s an extremely invasive and intrusive process that attempts to delve into the most personal financial information of New Zealand homes.

By the Department of Statistics own admission, it contains data that is so unreliable they cautioned against its use. . . 

In spite of the caution Treasury used them in its report to the TWG.

It beggars belief that Treasury decided to use this information in its report to the TWG.

Senior Treasury officials who wrote this report to the TWG obviously knew the information couldn’t be safely relied upon.

Hidden in the fine print of the Treasury report, it states “care should be taken when interpreting wealth estimates because the confidence intervals around any point estimates vary widely”.

In layman’s terms, this is like Treasury saying to the TWG: “You probably shouldn’t be using this information as we really don’t know if it’s accurate and some of it’s completely unreliable.”

This raises some very serious questions about the probity of the process that need answering by Finance Minister Grant Robertson, and the TWG chair Michael Cullen (who is still on the Government pay roll). Hopefully he’s still being paid to answer the question of why the TWG used this data.

Did the TWG specifically request Treasury to dig up statistics to support the political argument that only the top households would pay CGT? Did the TWG know the data they were using was largely unreliable? Treasury obviously had concerns about using it and told the TWG in its report. So why did the TWG use that data? Does the Finance Minister now accept this data is unreliable and shouldn’t have been used for political purposes to justify Labour’s proposed CGT?

These are very serious questions that need to be answered and answered publicly.

The reality is, we don’t have enough reliable information to draw any conclusions at all about which households will pay the most from the proposed CGT.

We do know, however, that there are hundreds of thousands of farmers, business owners, lifestyle block owners, bach owners and sharemarket investors who will pay a lot more tax if Labour are successful in implementing CGT.

There are an awful lot of hardworking ordinary Kiwis who don’t consider themselves wealthy who will pay CGT if Labour are successful in convincing Winston Peters to support it.

For Labour to use these dodgy statistics to mislead the public would be to underestimate the intelligence of the voting public of New Zealand.

The CGT debate has a long way to go. But Labour need to come clean and be honest about the many hundreds of thousands of middle income Kiwis who will pay CGT. They also need to answer some serious questions about how, and why, the HES was used to support the main argument on fairness by the TWG.

This proposal is the most significant tax reform in many years in New Zealand and we deserve better than public officials using dubious and unreliable data to support a preconceived political agenda.

Significant tax reform should not be based on dodgy stats for both ethical and practical reasons.

Ethical because it’s wrong to base assertions on wrong numbers, and practical because if the stats are dodgy there can be no certainty about the outcomes.

It’s not just who would pay how much that matters, but how much tax a CGT would raise.

If the stats on which the assertions of who would pay what are dodgy the conclusions on how much that would raise are also completely unreliable.

The TGW was told any proposals must be revenue neutral – that is, the amount raised by any new tax would be offset by cuts to old ones.

There can be absolutely no certainty about how much it would raise and therefore how much other taxes could be lowered if the whole proposal is based on numbers based on guesswork.

Almost all those favouring a CGT do so based on an ideological and political idea about fairness. 

There is nothing fair about assertions based on dodgy numbers and a tax full of loopholes that would disincentivise investment and sabotage the economy.

 


CGT will hit everyone

April 4, 2019

The Taxpayer’s Union has launched a campaign to axe the capital gains tax (CGT) :

New Zealand’s tax system is admired around the world for its simplicity, affordability, and fairness. The capital gains tax proposed by Sir Michael Cullen’s Tax Working Group would put all of this at risk.

It is bureaucratic, costly, and would be the harshest in the world. It will curtail entrepreneurship and investment, meaning a reduction in all New Zealanders’ economic prosperity.

The rate is one of the world’s highest, it would be unfairly levied on inflation, it would require costly and fraught asset valuation, and in many cases it would break the Government’s promises by targeting the family home.

New Zealanders deserve better than this unfair tax.

    • It unfairly taxes people with assets for inflation
    • It will unfairly tax 350,000 home owners who live on a lifestyle block even if they only have one home
    • It will unfairly impose billions of dollars of compliance costs on 500,000 small businesses
    • It will unfairly tax farmers who sell a farm in order to buy another farm
    • It will unfairly lead to higher rents for over a million tenants
    • It is an unfair double tax on 500,000 business owners who already pay company tax
    • It will unfairly benefit tax lawyers and accountants who can exploit American-style loopholes
    • It will unfairly advantage foreign owners of New Zealand shares and disadvantage 800,000 New Zealand investing in local companies

Who will be affected by the CGT?:

Anyone who owns a business, including a farm, shares, bach/crib/holiday home, lifestyle block bigger than .45 hectares,  or rental property; anyone who claims expenses for a home office; has intellectual property, anyone who owns a home and moves into a rest home without being able to sell it within a year, or buys another and can’t sell the first within a year, or goes overseas for a while; anyone who buys a section for a new home that isn’t completed within a year;  any homeowner who forms a relationship with another homeowner;  and anyone who has taxable assets and migrates.

A lot of people would be hit by the tax directly but everyone will be hit indirectly when costs go up and the economy slows.

Even Inland Revenue advised against it:

Tax officials advised the Government 15 months ago that our small companies, start-ups and innovators were better off without a Capital Gains Tax, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“Even before Sir Michael Cullen and others were named to the Tax Working Group in December 2017, Inland Revenue officials told the Government that the absence of a Capital Gains Tax in New Zealand was ‘potentially advantageous to start-ups’.

“Not having a Capital Gains Tax is ‘advantageous’ to every Kiwi willing to give it a go by starting a small business and creating jobs. People who take risks with smart ideas and build something bigger than themselves shouldn’t be discouraged.

“Governments should encourage innovators because smart people will take us to a better future. We need people who take risks and stretch themselves because the ones who succeed create more jobs.

“The Government was also told that the lack of a Capital Gains Tax ‘indirectly incentivises’ people to put more of their own money into a venture because they have the chance of a better return when they sell. That could be somebody who wants to stop working, sell the business and retire. . . “

That’s another consequence that would hit a l9ot of people – disincentive to invest and carry out succession as aging farm and other business owners hang on instead of selling.

The economy is slowing.

If it’s going to reverse that the government must take a much more frugal approach to its own spending and axe the CGT.


Politics changed, facts haven’t

March 28, 2019

Sir Michael Cullen is being paid $1000 to sell the capital gains tax.

It’s a task made more difficult by records of his views on a CGT  which the parliamentary library holds from his time as an MP:

Stuff reported that although the chairman of the Tax Working Group once called a capital gains tax “extreme, socially unacceptable and economically unnecessary”, he has since changed his mind.

New documents compiled by the Parliamentary Library for the ACT party reveal just how far he shifted since leaving Government in 2008.

The 84 pages of research included every reference Cullen ever made in the House in reference to a CGT between 1987 and 2008. . . 

They include:

. . . “I think it is extremely hard to make that connection between a capital gains tax and the affordability of housing, insofar as there has never been a theoretical argument put forward about a capital gains tax on housing. It is more in the direction of a level playing field around investment; it is not around the notion that it will make houses cheaper. Indeed, it is very hard to see how it would necessarily make houses cheaper,” Cullen said at the time.

On June 20, 2007, when Bill English asked Cullen about explicitly ruling out a capital gains tax, he responded saying: “One of the problems with a capital gains tax – apart from the fact that if it were done, it should apply to all asset classes—is that countries overseas that have capital gains taxes have significant inflation in house prices on occasion”.

Then on June 21, 2007, he was asked about the possibility of combining ring-fencing with a capital gains tax on all investments except the family home, and more Government investment in low-cost rental housing.

He responded saying: “I think it is fair to say that, if one was looking at a capital gains tax, which I am certainly not, it would apply to all asset classes. I think the arguments in favour of such a tax, which probably 20 years ago were quite strong, become much, much less strong in the intervening period of time, for a whole host of reasons. So I think that that is actually not a very worthwhile avenue to explore, not least because it comes, in effect, at the end of a process, rather than trying to address the over-investment at the start of the process”. . . 

He says he was Finance Minister at the time and following the government line.

When asked why he changed his mind, he quoted John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind”.

What facts have changed? It wasn’t a good idea then and it still isn’t, for the same reasons.

As Robin Oliver, former deputy head of Inland Revenue, former Treasury advisor, an expert on the tax system, and one of three dissenters on the Tax Working Group said:

There’s a strong argument for taxing capital gains, as you put it, in theory, the problem is the practicality and of making it work. . .

Kathryn Ryan asked him if, all things being equal and as a tax expert would it be good to do it and her replied:

In the actuality of what you have to do to get such a tax in place, no.

Most of the arguments in favour of a CGT are theoretical ones based on a notion of fairness, whatever that is.

Most of the arguments against it are practical based on facts including that it has done nothing to rein in house prices elsewhere and has led to overinvestment in housing, underinvestment in business, and acts as a handbrake on succession.

The politics have changed but the facts haven’t.

A CGT with exceptions as recommended by the TWG would be expensive to administer, contain loopholes which would only provide work for lawyers and accountants, promote over-investment in housing, stifle investment in productive assets, and result in lower tax revenue in tough times when capital gains fall.


Govt can’t cope with CGT oppositon

March 8, 2019

The normal course of events for government working groups is to do the work, submit a report and leave what happens next to the politicians.

That this government feels the need to keep the chair of the Tax Working Group, Sir Michael Cullen, on at  $1000 a day to explain and defend the group’s recommendations is a sign the politicians don’t think they’re up to explaining and defending it themselves.

Paying a working group chair $1000 a day might be the going rate while he’s actually chairing for a day but continuing to pay him that to lobby is outrageous:

The Tax Working Group process has become blatantly politicised with the Government’s decision to pay Sir Michael Cullen to continue lobbying for a capital gains tax, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The advertised purpose of the Tax Working Group was to deliver an expert-driven appraisal of the tax system along with a series of recommendations. That advice has now been received, but Sir Michael is still being paid over $1000 a day to argue for higher taxes. Funding for expert advice is one thing, but taxpayer-funded public campaigning is outrageous.”

“If the National Party set up a Steven Joyce led Working Group and paid Mr Joyce to get on radio and attack the Labour Party and advocate for lower taxes, the political left would rightly get up in arms. It’s the same principle here: expert advice should not be politicised at taxpayers’ expense.”

“Grassroots organisations like the Taxpayers’ Union campaign using voluntary donations. Proponents of the capital gains tax should try to do the same.” . . 

Paying Cullen is in effect a government vote of no-confidence in themselves and their ability.

Government MPs have had remarkable little to say on the TWG’s report, with the exception of James Shaw who asked if the government deserved to be re-elected if it didn’t introduce a capital gains tax (CGT).

That it needs to hire the group’s chair to speak for it, shows it doesn’t deserve to be re-elected anyway.


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