More welfare for well-off

July 6, 2018

KiwiBuild is yet more welfare for the wealthy:

KiwiBuild promised to deliver 100,000 affordable houses to help first-home buyers realise the Kiwi dream.

It promised to help average Kiwis into their first home.

But the income test is anything but average. The income caps are so high they may as well not exist.

KiwiBuild promised to deliver 100,000 affordable houses to help first-home buyers realise the Kiwi dream.

It promised to help average Kiwis into their first home.

But the income test is anything but average. The income caps are so high they may as well not exist.

A solo buyer can earn up to $120,000 a year. A couple can earn up to $180,000.

The median income in New Zealand is just under $50,000, and median household income is just over $82,000. . . 

If the government was serious about helping people buy houses it would address the underlying causes of the shortage – the RMA and zoning constraints; the consent requirements and processes; and the high cost of building materials.

Buying houses that would have been built already, selling them to anyone but the top 8% of income earners, regardless of their asset backing and allowing them to sell again and pocket the windfall gain after only three years is economic and political stupidity.

If the well-off can’t afford to buy houses without assistance there’s something wrong with their money management and/or the housing market.

Providing more welfare for the wealthy won’t solve either of those problems.

As the Taxpayers’ Unions shows, the government promised a masterpiece and has delivered a doodle.


Dowry update

July 4, 2018

The Taxpayers’ Union says Winston’s dowry continues to grow:

It was revealed last week, that the tax break for racing industry bloodstock is expected to cost significantly more than previously anticipated. The tax breaks for the racing industry have faced ridicule as the only tax cut in Budget 2018. 

That’s not surprising: the racing industry has historically been a strong supporter of New Zealand First. The Electoral Commission recently found that Sir Patrick Hogan was in breach of the Electoral Act when he funded a full page ad in support of the party prior to the General Election last year. 

At Budget 2018, the cost of the tax break was expected to equal $4.8 million over the next four years, however IRD officials expect the tax break will cost up to $40 million – a 733% increase in the cost of the policy. That means taxpayers will be on the line for an additional $35.2 million over the next four years, which is all added onto Winston’s Dowry!

Winston’s Dowry as at 2 July: $5.168 billion ($2989 per household)

The total cost so far is $5.168 billion – or $2989 for the average New Zealand household, although if officials continue to increase the expected cost of policies, this figure will grow. 

“The Dowry” to date:

  • Provincial Growth Fund: $3 billion or $1735 per household
  • Additional funding for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: $1.144 billion or $661 per household
  • Additional funding for the Ministry of Defence: $426 million or $246 per household
  • Additional funding for learning support: $272.8 million or $157 per household
  • Additional funding for Oranga Tamariki: $269.9 million or $156 per household 
  • Adjusted ‘Hot horses’ tax break, the new Forestry Hub, and a rename for the Ministry of Children: $55.4 million or $32.05 per household

Some of that spend could be necessary and provide value for money.

But hot-horse tax breaks? Neigh!


Poor pay less and more

June 29, 2018

Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the poor will pay less fuel tax than wealthier people.

He’s right in dollar terms but if he’s worried about the impact that’s not what matters, it’s the proportion of income that counts:

“Transport Minister Phil Twyford is either very brave or very stupid in arguing that fuel taxes are easiest on the poor,” says Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke.
 
“He is doggedly focusing on the dollar impact of the fuel tax, and ignoring the cost as a proportion of total income.”
 
“It’s no surprise that rich people buy more fuel – they buy more of everything. But people on low incomes spend a far larger proportion of their income on fuel, meaning a tax hike will have a far bigger effect on their real quality of life.”
 
“It only takes five minutes to graph Twyford’s figures and see the real impact of fuel tax.”

“The verdict is clear: fuel taxes whack the poorest almost four times as hard as they whack the richest.”
 
“It’s stunning to see such selective ignorance from a centre-left Minister who is meant to understand issues of fairness and equality. Isn’t this stuff Labour Party 101?”

As David Farrar points out, the poor consume less of almost everything (except tobacco) but spend a higher proportion of their income on it

The cost of the fuel tax will be greater for higher income people but the poor will pay more of what they earn on it:

Now let’s look at the average incomes for each decile

  • Decile 1 – under $23,900
  • Decile 5 – $64,400 to $80,199
  • Decile 10 – over $188,900

So the extra fuel tax as a percentage of income is:

  • Decile 1: 0.52%
  • Decile 5: 0.27%
  • Decile 10: 0.14%

Let’s not forget it’s not just the direct cost that will hit the poorest hardest.

Every service and all goods with a transport component (and can you think of anything that doesn’t have one?) will be impacted by the tax and that will, sooner or later, lead to price increases, inflationary pressure and interest rate rises.

The Ardern/Peters/Shaw/Davidson coalition government, all parties in which purport to represent and work for the poor, is adding to the cost of living and making life harder for them.

And adding to that is yesterday’s announcement we’ll all be paying an extra 10.5 cents a litre over the next two years in excise tax.

P.S.

Michael Redell writes on regressivity, petrol taxes, and ministerial PR at Croaking Cassandra.

Thomas Lumley examines the issue at Stats Chat.

Sam Warburton tweets on it here.

 


How much more will you pay for food?

June 27, 2018

The fuel tax legislation the government has just passed to allow Auckland Council to compensate for the mayor Phil Goff’s inability to rein in costs will hit us all.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says:

“Aucklanders will get a rude awakening at the pump from Sunday, thanks to a big-taxing government bailing out a big-spending mayor.”
 
“The Government’s rhetoric about funding transport infrastructure is just a distraction from Phil Goff’s failure to deliver the Council savings that he promised. He’s saved around 0.3% in operational spending, when he promised to save three to six percent.”
 
“This fuel tax will hit the poorest hardest, especially those who live in outer suburbs and drive older vehicles.” . . 

It won’t just hit Aucklanders, it will hit us all because it will add to the cost of transport on all goods and every service.

But wait, there’s more bad news that will directly impact on the cost of food:

Confusion reigns after Labour passed its Regional Fuel Tax (RFT) law yesterday, says Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman.

“This tax comes into force in Auckland on Sunday, yet there is no system in place for off-road ‘behind the farm gate’ vehicles and machinery used by the 441 fruit and vegetable growers in Auckland that we represent,” Chapman says. “Growers should not have to pay the RFT for vehicles and machinery that are supposed to be excluded from this tax, yet on Sunday they will have to. We are talking about considerable numbers of vehicles and machinery used to produce healthy food for New Zealanders, both in Auckland and beyond.

“Having paid this tax that doesn’t apply to off-road use, because there is no exemption process, they will then have to go through a complicated and costly process to get a rebate on that tax. This is just not logical. The Government has spent seven figures developing a rebate system without ever talking to future users, or considering that they shouldn’t have to pay the tax in the first place.

“It makes no sense, nor is it fair, that this money will sit in a government bank account earning interest for at least three months, when it has been unreasonably collected before possibly being eligible for rebate. This tax is designed to improve Auckland’s transport system, and therefore must exclude vehicles not used on those roads. Food production also uses a lot of diesel-fuelled machinery that gets captured by this tax unnecessarily.

It’s not just fruit and vegetable growers that will be hit.  All farmers and fishers in the Auckland region will be hit by this and cost increases will spread beyond the region and that will inevitably lead to increases in the price of all food – fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, fish, poultry, eggs, bacon, ham, pork, beef, lamb and milk.

“This process has been so rushed to meet Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s announced 1 July deadline, that we feel that we have not been listened to and the full democratic process has been unnecessarily truncated – to the point Labour suggested the committee stage of the Bill did not even need to be debated, in the interests of time.

“This will affect growers’ businesses and costs considerably, to the point of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Those costs will be passed on to consumers, making healthy food more expensive at a time when many households are already struggling.

“We are not at all consoled by New Zealand First’s Shane Jones’ comments in the third reading debate of this Bill yesterday:

“That’s why we thoroughly endorse what the Minister said during the second stage when the House considered this bill. He is bringing forward, in short order, a body of work that will enable the inefficiencies and the areas that have to be refined in terms of a broad rebate system. It will deal not only to the challenges of implementing this particular impost, but also the entirety of the country.

So I say to the potato-growers, onion-growers, not only will I look forward to defending your elite soils, destroyed by Nick Smith under the last regime, but there will be an efficient process to ensure that people who feel that too much of the fuel that they’re purchasing with this impost they cannot claim back through a robust rebate system. So the bill does deal with that, and the Minister is going to go on to make further announcements.” – From Hansard.

“This will not happen by Sunday,” Chapman says. “We are very disappointed in this process. We can only hope that the ‘inefficiencies and the areas that have to be refined in terms of a broad rebate system’ will be dealt with using the same speed that was used to force this ill-conceived Bill into law.

“We do not want a rebate system, we want proper exemption. We do not believe growers should have to pay the tax in the first place and lose this money for a full three months before they can claim it back. It is ridiculous double handling, cost, and extra jobs for the public service to have to pay a tax and then claim it back. There is no logic, efficiency, or fairness in that.” 

Fine words don’t feed families and this tax, rushed through parliament will make it harder still for those already struggling to put healthy food on their tables.

The government is crowing about the help it’s giving with its Families Package and winter fuel payment but that will be no compensation for the increased costs of everything because of the fuel tax.

Increased costs will fuel inflation which in turn will put pressure on interest rates which will put more pressure on prices . . .

The fuel tax will fuel a vicious cycle of cost increases which will hit the poor hardest, all because Goff and his council can’t control their spending.


Peak tax

June 25, 2018

Last time I bought petrol it was nearly $2.30 a litre – ho much of that was tax?


Public servants paid too well?

June 21, 2018

The Taxpayers’ Union has some facts to dampen public sector wage claims:

Over the last 25 years, public sector incomes have grown much faster than the private sector, while public sector employees also enjoy a higher rate of sick leave costing taxpayers $173 million, according to Public Sector Wage Gap: The taxpayer-funded premium for working for the government, a new report we’ve released today.

If you work for the Government, you earn a third more on average, with taxpayers footing the bill.

This report seriously undermines the public sector unions’ claim for 9-15 percent pay hikes for their members. It blows to bits claims the last Government did not pay bureaucrats enough.

The public sector pay gap nearly doubled since the 1990s. If anything, a wage freeze, not hikes, would be fairer.

Left wing activists and unions would have the public believe that the public sector has undergone nine years of neoliberal hell. But this shows that to be a lie.

Public servants generally have better job security than those in the private sector.

They are also supposed to have a commitment to public service.

Both these factors ought to be reflected in lower pay rates than in the private sector.

Key findings of the report:

  • The gap in weekly earnings between the public and private sectors has grown since 1990, from 18.9% of private sector earnings to 34.6% in 2017. The gap peaked in 2010 at 38.4%. The premium is even higher for hourly earnings (as public sector employees, on average, work fewer hours).
  • If the Government had retained a public sector earnings premium of 20%, taxpayers would save $2.5 billion per year, or $1,445 per household in lower taxes or reduced Government debt.
  • The public sector took an average of 8.6 and 8.4 days of sick leave in 2016 and 2017, compared to the private sector average of 4.7 days per year.
  • If the public sector reduced its rates of sick leave to private sector levels, the taxpayers would save $173 million per year, or approximately $100 per household per year in lower taxes, or reduced Government debt.

Is there something in the public sector that causes more sickness, are public servants less healthy than those in the private sector or is there another explanation?

The Taxpayers’ Union recommends:

  • The Government should set a goal of returning to a 20% public sector earnings premium by placing constraints on public sector wage growth and focusing on growing productivity.
  • If private sectors stagnate or decline (such as in a recession) the Government should be willing to cut public sector wages to match.

The public service is in competition for staff with the private sector.

If it wants high calibre staff it needs to pay them well but this report suggests it’s paying too well.


Our money not theirs

May 18, 2018

Taxpayers’ Union chair Barrie Saunders calls it a classic Labour Budget:

Robertson’s first budget was written in extraordinarily benign circumstances. The economy is growing at a sustainable rate of around 3%, tax revenues for the June 2018 year will exceed Budget 2017 estimates, unemployment is down to 4.5%, employment levels are very high at 73.1%, and public debt at 21.7% of GDP is low and trending downwards. 

The economy is in vastly better shape than any new Government has inherited since 1972. That year Labour leader Norman Kirk won with a thumping majority and an inexperienced team. Labour lost to National’s Rob Muldoon, with a similar majority in 1975, and no more clues as to how to manage structural problems with the economy, which led to the economic crisis of 1984 and the Lange/Douglas reforms. 

Prime Ministers Bolger, Clark and Key would have been over the moon if they could have assumed office with today’s economic fundamentals.

The TU notes two wins for taxpayers.

  1. Fiscal responsibility

It is very encouraging that the Government is remaining within the pre-election ‘Budgetary Responsibility Rules’.  We think Steven Joyce’s allegations that Labour had an $11.7 billion hole (which Labour vehemently denied) had also been helpful in keeping the Government restrained in the face of criticism from some on the left who say they should borrow more. 

  1. Independent election policy costing office

Budget 2018 announced that “public consultation will be launched in August on establishing an independent body to better inform public debate in our democracy.”   This is something the Taxpayers’ Union has been pushing for since 2014 – for transparency and accountability of what political party policies will cost taxpayers.

For decades political parties during election campaigns have made allegations about expenditure policies of others.  That’s why we worked so hard last year with our election “Bribe-O-Meter”.  . .

National left the economy in very good shape and the government has at least budgeted to retain surpluses.

But let’s not forget it’s our money not theirs and that a surplus means it’s taking more in tax than it needs.

Had National still been in power all of us would have been able to keep a little more of what we earn.

This red-green-black government couldn’t even increase tax thresholds to address bracket creep which Treasury predicts will put average taxpayers into the top tax category by 2022.

. . .Taxpayers’ Union Economist Joe Ascroft says “This is the eighth successive Budget that has not delivered income tax relief. While most New Zealanders expect only the most well off should pay the top rate of tax, if the current trend continues, even the average taxpayer will be paying the top rate.”

“In fact, much of the wage growth over the last eight years has actually just been keeping up with inflation, so while many families don’t feel much better off, they are paying more in tax than ever before. Inflation will similarly push families into the top tax bracket over the next four years.” . .

The only tax cuts in this business were for hot horses.

In terms of tax relief, unless you breed horses you are out of luck. Winston Peters has announced $4.8 million in tax reductions for ‘high quality’ horses (defined in the media release as being based on bloodlines, looks, and racing potential!).

 


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