What’s fair?

February 14, 2019

The government and many of the groups supporting it put a lot of emphasis on fairness, but what’s fair?

National policy is to adjust tax brackets to take account of inflation which Professor Norman Gemmell, chair in public finance at Victoria University, says is only fair:

 Tax economists have long advocated that keeping income tax thresholds constant in real terms (by adjusting them upwards as prices rise) should be the norm. But this indexation is much less important for tax on wages than it is for tax on capital gains – a crucial point in the current climate. . . 

Capital income, such as capital gains from house sales or interest payments on bank accounts, are much more vulnerable to this “indexation problem”.

Consider a simple capital gain example. If house prices rise by 5 per cent but “general” inflation is 2 per cent, the real capital gain for homeowners is 3 per cent, not 5 per cent. Now suppose that a 33 per cent tax rate payer buys a bach for $100,000 and sells it one year later for $105,000. The CGT liability on the sale is $660, due to the general inflation of 2 per cent, plus $990 for the additional house price increase (the “real” gain).

So the extra tax levied on the inflation component is a whopping two-thirds as big as the “real” tax liability (or 40 per cent of the total). In other words, with a CGT, failing to allow for general inflation means a huge additional tax bill.

What does this all mean for the TWG advice and a Government concerned with “fairness”? First, adopting National’s indexing of income tax thresholds would be a good idea, and not just for transparency reasons. It is the fair thing to do for taxpayers right across the income scale, who otherwise pay more tax simply because prices have risen.

Also, if the Government decides to go ahead with a CGT, designing out the “inflation problem” is much more important, due to the size of the tax distortion it creates. It is also important for fairness.

Otherwise, what superficially looks like the same tax rate being applied to all income actually means that the effective tax rate on capital gains (and interest income) is much higher than the same rate on income earned as wages. 

Surely that’s not fair?

Even if a CGT is inflation indexed, would it be fair?

Only if you’re a socialist who think that people who work hard, pay the costs and take the risks,  forgo personal spending, to save and invest, and pay taxes on earnings from that work, savings and investment should then be taxed again.

A CTG is a classic envy tax, aiming to bring middle and upper income people down down rather than helping the poor up.

Is it fair that the government is looking at raising more tax rather than letting people keep more of their own money?

Leighton Smith shows a better way:

 . . . the Swiss government must get approval from its voters by virtue of referendum to give themselves a pay rise or change tax rates. In 1975, the voters declined a government request for a tax increase. A prominent Swiss citizen, responding to a question of what happens next, replied “the government will have to live on what it has, like the rest of us.” But it doesn’t stop there. The Swiss have a separation of powers between taxing and spending, in the belief that temptation to overspend is omnipresent. Unfortunately, we in New Zealand could be returning to the ideology of the politics of envy. The introduction of any tax policy that enriches the accounting industry is bad policy. . . 

A government that keeps telling us its a good economic manager should not need more tax, in fact the reverse is true.

Healthy surpluses are a clear sign it’s already taking too much for us. There is no need for new taxes, and certainly not one that would benefit tax accountants and lawyers most.

Better taxes are simpler taxes. A CTG would be complicated and in spite of the aim of fairness which is behind the motivation for its introduction, would not be fair.

 

 


Tax cuts could cut strikes

January 17, 2019

The Taxpayers’ Union has a simple way to reduce strikes:

Implementing tax relief would relieve the pressure of low take-home pay and resolve much of the current industrial action, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says “It’s understandable that junior doctors and the Wellington bus drivers feel under pressure – no Government has delivered a tax cut since the 2010 Budget. If the Government delivered tax cuts, take-home pay would increase and workers would feel welcome reprieve.”

“Tax cuts would help all workers. The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on our union allies to help back collective action for tax cuts. Acting together, the union movement could put pressure on the Government to boost pay for everyone and end the pressure of industrial action on our heath and transport sectors.”

The Government surplus is running ahead of forecasts which means it’s taking more tax than it needs.

Tax cuts would boost take home pay for workers and increase pensions which are based on after-tax income.

The government should be letting us all keep more of our own money.

It should throw out whatever suggestions the Tax Working Group has for introducing any new taxes – especially a Capital Gains Tax.

It should end wasteful spending.

And if it can’t bring itself to cut taxes, at the very least t should increase tax thresholds so modest pay rises don’t push people into higher tax brackets.

 

 


Rural round-up

December 6, 2018

Dairy product prices climb as whole milk powder gains – Margaret Dietz:

(BusinessDesk) – Dairy product prices rose at the Global Dairy Trade auction, stemming a decline that began in May.

The GDT price index gained 2.2 percent from the previous auction two weeks ago. The average price was a US$2,819 a tonne, compared with US$2,727 a tonne two weeks ago. Some 36,450 tonnes of product was sold, down from 42,966 tonnes two weeks ago.

Whole milk powder climbed 2.5 percent to US$2,667 a tonne. . . 

Dairy bosses are best employers:

In the first-ever Primary Industries Good Employer Awards dairy farmers Ben and Nicky Allomes won the top accolade, the Minister of Agriculture’s Award for Best Primary Sector Employers.

Woodville dairy farmers Ben and Nicky Allomes have been named the Best Primary Sector Employers. 

The couple, who own Hopelands Dairies, also won the Innovative Employment Practices award. . . 

Fonterra reaches provisional deal with Beingmate:

Fonterra Cooperative Group has reached a provisional deal with Chinese partner Beingmate Baby & Child Food to unwind their Darnum joint venture in Australia.

The joint venture – 51 percent owned by Beingmate and 49 percent Fonterra – produced infant formula products at the Darnum plant in Australia for Beingmate’s Chinese customers, and was a key component of Fonterra’s plan to expand its reach into China’s second and third-tier cities. . . 

Voting for the 2nd Fonterra Directors’ Election is underway:

Voting is now open for the 2018 Fonterra Board of Directors’ Second Election.

Only two candidates from the first election, Leonie Guiney and Peter McBride, obtained more than 50% support from voting shareholders. The Rules of the first election state that if not enough candidates obtain more than 50% support, there must be a second election. . . 

Dairy loan done on a handshake, details to follow:

It beggars belief that the Government has dispensed a $9.9 million low-interest loan to a dairy company without having finalised the terms, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Minister in charge of the Provincial Growth Fund couldn’t tell the House what terms he had in mind when he undercut commercial lenders to provide debt funding for a new processing plant.

“I wouldn’t blame any business like Westland Milk for accepting a cheap loan from a secure lender. . . 

Apple producer’s underlying profit looks to be at top end:

Apple producer Scales has had a bumper year with a record export crop lifting profits to the top end of guidance.

The company’s underlying profit was likely to be at the top end, or slightly exceed, the current guidance range of $58 million to $65m, in the year ending December.

Managing director Andy Borland said it was an excellent performance for the group, with all business units performing well over the year. . . 

New Landcorp chair appointed:

Dr Warren Parker has been appointed as Director and Chair of Landcorp, the Minister of Finance Grant Robertson and Associate Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Shane Jones announced today.

Dr Parker is a former Chief Executive of Scion (the NZ Forest Research Institute) and Landcare Research, and was previously Chief Operating Officer of AgResearch. He currently holds a number of board roles including on Predator Free 2050 Ltd, Farmlands Cooperative Society, Genomics Aotearoa and is the Chair of the Forestry Ministerial Advisory Group. Until recently he was Chair of the New Zealand Conservation Authority. . . 

Landcorp out of touch with real farmers:

Landcorp’s submission to Sir Michael Cullen’s Tax Working Group (TWG) is a kick in the guts to rural communities, National’s Nathan Guy and David Carter say.

“Landcorp’s sneaky submission to the TWG proposing a water tax, nitrogen fertiliser tax and not opposing a capital gains tax proves how out of touch the state-owned company is with farmers on the ground,” Mr Guy says.

“With 6700 other submissions, why was Landcorp pressured to put in a submission that was more than a month late? The reality seems to be that the TWG are hell-bent on introducing environmental taxes and a capital gains tax, so they leaned on Landcorp to submit supporting more taxes and levies. . . 

New president and vice president elected to HortNZ board:

The Horticulture New Zealand board elected Barry O’Neil as its new President and Chairman at a meeting today. Mr O’Neil replaces Julian Raine, who has been President and Chairman for six years and who has made a significant contribution to horticulture for New Zealand. Mr Raine has stood down to pursue other business interests.

Bernadine Guilleux was elected Vice-President, with both positions effective from 1 January 2019. . . 

Busy orchardist advises small businesses start payday filing:

A Hawke’s Bay orchardist is advising fellow small businesses to be ahead of the game on payday filing.

This is the mandatory requirement from April next year for employers to file their payroll information to Inland Revenue every time they pay their staff.

Te Mata Figs owner Helen Walker has been paying her five staff fortnightly and sending across their details using the online entry method in myIR. . . 


Why not less tax?

November 27, 2018

The Tax Working Group is trying to find out ways to make tax more fair.

Imposing not just a Capital Gains Tax but the costs of complying with it on individuals and business is anything but fair and, as Hamish Rutherford shows, the attempt by the group’s chair Sir Michael Cullen to shut down discussion in it makes it worse.

. . .After a critic raised concerns of the implications of proposals in the working group’s interim report, Cullen was dismissive.

Critics should wait for the tax working group’s final report in February, he said. The interim report may be the only thing the public has to work off, but Cullen said that the Tax Working Group’s own work had moved on and all the problems are being solved.

This Kafkaesque shutdown came after Wellington businessman Troy Bowker made alarming claims about the possible costs introducing a tax would have on small business, predicting the cost of compliance would be billions of dollars.

Bowker claimed the tax working group’s preferred method for introducing the tax – creating a “valuation day” after which all assets captured by a new tax would immediately be taxable – would create huge compliance costs, with all businesses needing to be professionally valued on a given day.

Valuing things like commercial property is as easy as valuing your home – just look up the rateable value. But valuing businesses, especially small businesses, can be much harder. Much is tied up in the knowledge and contacts of the key employees, which is tough to put a price on.

Although Bowker’s assessment of the possible costs was guesswork, the tax working group’s own interim report appears to back up his argument. . . 

While the exact cost might be debatable, that there will be a cost and it will be high is not and nor is who will pay it – everyone directly or indirectly.

Anything that adds to the cost of doing business and reduces profit, as a CGT will, decreases productivity. That in turn makes the businesses less able to expand and could lead it to contract, threatening jobs and the businesses’ viability. Should the businesses survive, the added cost will sooner or later be passed on, at least in part, to everyone who uses the goods or services that business provides.

Meanwhile, the question that ought to be asked, is what’s fair about more and higher taxes when the government is running a very healthy surplus?

The previous government took the quality of its spending very seriously aiming for better rather than more.

This government is sprinkling money here and there like fairy dust in the mistaken belief that quantity is better than quality.

There is a case for more spending in some areas where spending was too constrained but there is no case of profligacy with public money.

A government with money to waste is a government that’s taxing us too much.

More care about how and on what money is spent would reduce waste and allow us all to keep a bit more of the money we earn.

Instead of looking at ways to impose new and more tax, the TWG ought to be working out how to tax us less.

 


Rural round-up

September 24, 2018

There is support out there for Hawke’s Bay farmers – Georgia May:

Farmers constantly deal with situations that are out of their control, heavy weather, dairy payouts and stock illness. A vulnerability that doesn’t weigh on the minds of many others.

It’s been nearly three weeks since heavy rain struck the Hawke’s Bay region where some farmers lost up to 25 per cent of their newborn lambs.

While attitudes of farmers generally remain stoic through difficult times, others have spoken out, saying that they feel forgotten about. . .

Plant shows Alliance is serious

Processing has begun at Alliance’s new $15.9 million venison plant at Lorneville in Southland.

The first deer went through the plant last Monday. 

Once operating at peak capacity the plant will employ about 60 people.

It has improved handling facilities and an enhanced configuration. 

The slaughterboard, boning room and offal area are larger than those at Alliance’s venison processing facilities at Smithfield and the company’s former Makarewa plant. . .

Comprehensive interim tax report a useful step:

The Tax Working Group’s (TWG) Interim Report provides a useful resource for how New Zealand’s tax system could be improved says Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard.

“It’s a good piece of work. The report clearly articulates and explores the issues we raised in our submission – it’s a highlight when you can see you have been heard.”

A big issue explored in the report is whether to extend New Zealand’s taxation of capital income, says Andrew. “Federated Farmers remains opposed to a significant broadening of the capital gains tax particularly if it taxes unrealised capital gains.”

“The report outlines the value of providing ‘roll-over relief’ for farms sold to the next generation and for farmers wanting to ‘trade-up’ to a bigger more expensive farm.  These were two critical issues we raised in our submission to the TWG back in April so we are pleased that it has listened to us on those points. . .

Tax Working Group findings support private land conservation:

QEII National Trust is pleased to see the Tax Working Group’s recommendations acknowledged the scope for the tax system to support, sustain and enhance land protected by QEII covenants.

QEII National Trust CEO, Mike Jebson says “our covenantors know the value of investing in protected private land and we are pleased to see the Tax Working Group include suggestions that costs incurred in looking after land protected by QEII covenant should be treated as deductible expenses for tax purposes in their interim conclusions.” . .

UK farmers have edge on Kiwis – Jack Keeys:

Over the past 12 months I’ve visited numerous farms and agricultural companies throughout Britain. 

That insight provided an opportunity to observe New Zealand agriculture from an outside perspective and get a clear comparison with those on the other side of the world. 

Driving through Scotland, Ireland, Wales and now England I see the farms here exhibit a large variation in size, topography, climatic conditions and pasture management. 

However, some broad commonalities become very apparent.

The farms have insufficient infrastructure, they are under-stocked and have very inefficient pasture management.

Most farms require subsidies s to be profitable.  . .

Hunters under attack again:

Hunters all over new Zealand feel like they under an intense attack from the Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage who has let her personal hatred of wild animals cloud her judgement.

“This mass killing of up to 25,000 Himalayan Tahr is unprecedented in this country and about one million kilos of meat will be left to rot on the mountains of New Zealand. The stench and pollution of headwater streams will be on the Minister’s head. This is our food basket on which many families rely on.” says Alan Simmons President of The NZ Outdoors Party. . .


Rural round-up

April 26, 2018

Land use tipped to change on Waimea Plains, near Nelson, if dam gets nod – Cherie Sivignon:

Waimea Irrigators Ltd chairman Murray King is putting his money where his mouth is to support the proposed Waimea dam.

The dairy farmer and long-term proponent of the dam project said he had committed to buy more water shares, at $5500 a pop, than he needed for his 57ha block of land on the Waimea Plains.

“We’re fully subscribed, a little bit over actually.”

His “60-something” shares would cost him more than $300,000. . .

Retaining soil carbon the answer to managing agricultural GHG emissions – Gerald Piddock:

A Matamata dairy farm has become ground zero for a team of Waikato scientists searching for ways to lower agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Soil carbon and nitrous oxide losses are being measured on the 200 hectare farm owned by Terry and Margaret Troughton and managed by their son Ben and wife Sarah.

Their findings so far in a project funded by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre were outlined at a field day on the farm.

Better pasture management, genetics, feed and nutrition had been done well, but new strategies were needed to take the project the next step forward, Landcare Research’s Jack Pronger​ said. . . 

Farmers give thumbs down to new taxes:

Any move to introduce a capital gains, land or environment tax will meet stiff opposition from farmers, a Federated Farmers survey shows.

The Federation asked its members for their views last month, to help inform the farmer group’s submission to the Tax Working Group. The nearly 1,400 responses indicated strong opposition to some of the new taxes that have been suggested.

Just on 81 percent opposed a capital gains tax excluding the family home, with 11 percent in support. However, 47 percent would support a CGT on property sold within a five year ‘bright line’ test. There is currently a two-year threshold, and the measure is seen by some as a way of discouraging speculators. . . 

NZ farm sales fall 11% in March quarter as mycoplasma bovis keeps farmers nervous –  Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand farm sales fell 11 percent in the March quarter from a year earlier, as the mycoplasma bovis cattle disease outbreak weighed on purchasing intentions and spanned a period where smaller plots of rural land were captured by the regime to screen foreign buyers.

Some 388 farms were sold at a median price of $27,428 per hectare in the three months ended March 31, down from 438 farms at a median price of $27,509/ha in 2017, Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures show. Fewer dairy and grazing farms accounted for the drop, with gains in finishing farm sales coinciding with strong prices for beef and lamb meat. . . 

Calm ewes produce more than nervous ewes:

A calm temperament in ewes improves ovulation rate and successful pregnancies, according to a study published by The University of Western Australia.

The study, which was conducted in collaboration with researchers from Uruguay, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development WA and UWA, has implications for the impact of stress in human reproduction.

The team investigated the reproductive outcomes of 200 Merino ewes known to have either a calm or a nervous temperament. They found the ovulation rate and rate of successful pregnancies to be higher in the calm ewes. . .

Shearing at the end of the world –  Tomas Munita and Russell Goldman:

Life at the end of the world can be lonely.

For weeks at a time, Roberto Bitsch and gauchos like him might not see another human being. They see horses, both wild and tame. They see the dogs they work with. But mostly, they see sheep — thousands of them.

Locals mark time by the length of the sheep’s woolly coats here on Isla Grande, the largest of the Tierra del Fuego islands at the tip of South America, closer to Antarctica than to Chile’s capital, Santiago. . . 

 


Rural round-up

December 19, 2017

The water is on, now for the hard bit – Hamish MacLean:

The $57million North Otago Irrigation Company expansion is complete — much to the relief of shareholders, with weather forecasters predicting a warm, dry summer. But irrigation is not so easy for farmers as simply turning on the water and watching the grass grow, Hamish MacLean finds out.

It could be a couple of years before North Otago’s newest irrigators get to grips with their new resource, but with a big dry spell predicted this summer, farmers are pleased to have a guaranteed water supply.

While the water on the North Otago Irrigation Company’s expansion began flowing in September, it was the end of November when all 85 off-takes of the expansion were commissioned, reaching the end of the line at All Day Bay. . . 

Rabobank New Zealand announces new CEO:

Rabobank New Zealand has announced it proposes to appoint Todd Charteris to the position of chief executive officer, subject to regulatory approval.

Rabobank New Zealand chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden said Mr Charteris “will bring significant experience with Rabobank on both sides of the Tasman to the role of CEO, as well as a deep knowledge of agribusiness and extensive relationships across the global Rabobank network”. . . 

Jonni keeps quality core at Stirling cheese – Sally Rae:

You could call Jonni de Malmanche a jack-of-all-trades, or more accurately, a Jane of them.

The South Otago woman is one of the long-serving staff members at Fonterra’s Stirling cheese factory, having worked there for the past 23 years.

“I still enjoy coming to work every day. I love the people, I love basically what Stirling stands for which is we make great cheese,” she said.

The factory, which opened in 1983, was built by the Otago Cheese Company, formed after the merger of three small South Otago dairy companies. In 2010, Fonterra spent $7.75 million upgrading the factory. . . 

 

Westland Milk Products soon to announce new products – Alexa Cook:

New Zealand’s second largest milk company is planning to step away from selling dairy products alone and expand into alternative protein and blended products.

Westland Milk Products has bounced back from a $14.5m loss in 2015/16 to break even this year.

Chief executive Toni Brendish says the co-operative worked hard over the past year to become more efficient.

The company’s purpose was now “nourishment made beautifully for generations” which she said gave it freedom to go beyond traditional dairy products. . . 

Dry summer weather prompts farmers to offload stock, AgriHQ – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Dry summer weather is denting grass growth, prompting farmers to reduce their livestock numbers, with the increased volumes of animals hitting the market starting to weigh on prices, according to AgriHQ’s Monthly Sheep & Beef report for December.

“The common factor pulling values down throughout NZ is the weather,” AgriHQ analyst Reece Brick said in his report. “It was a rapid transition from a particularly wet early spring into one of the driest late spring/early summers in recent years, catching many farmers off guard.”

For the sheep industry, below-average growth rates through November kept a lid on the number of lambs being sent to slaughter, keeping prices higher than anticipated. However numbers were now coming forward in significant volume and the long awaited fall in prices has finally begun, Brick said, noting that meat companies had dropped lamb slaughter prices by 15-20 cents per kilogram over the past fortnight, bringing the price to $7.10/kg. . .

Capital gains tax may be on the horizon with the new government:

With the new government reversing National’s tax cuts in April 2018, the government has now announced the items that are on the tax agenda, and have also signalled other potential changes. Tony Marshall, tax advisory partner for Crowe Horwath, predicts how the government’s new tax agenda may affect farmers.

As promised, the government is forming a Tax Working Group and has stated one of the focuses of the group will be looking into capital gains associated with property speculation. Capital gains tax has always been a contentious topic and sends nervous tension through the farming community. . . 

Monthly Dairy production report November 2017:

Key Statistics:

• NZ milk production for November 2017 was up 4.2% (+3.4% on a milksolids basis)
• NZ milk production for the season-to-date was up 1.8% (+1.8% on a milksolids basis)
• NZ milk production for the 12-months through November 2017 was up 1.3% (+1.9% on a milksolids basis)

Full report here.


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