Rural round-up

February 20, 2020

West Coast man decries government’s ‘blatant attack on property rights’ :

An elderly West Coast man has appealed to the government not to take his land, after more than 70 percent of it was classed as a Significant Natural Area.

Tony Barrett, 86, lives alone on his 607ha block on the Arnold Valley Road, east of Greymouth.

Barrett’s grandparents first leased the land near Notown from the government in the 1930s after it was cleared of trees, dug over and mined for gold by returned servicemen.

The Barretts left much of it undeveloped, and a large chunk of the formerly gorse-covered block is now regenerating native bush. . . 

Wild rabbit sellers say cost of audits driving them out of business:

Those trying to make a living from selling wild rabbits to restaurants and for pet food say they are being driven out of business by high compliance costs.

Shooters and processors spoken to by RNZ said audits up to every six weeks were over the top and they should not be treated in the same way as a large scale meat works.

Bob Thomson has run a sole operator rabbit processing plant on the outskirts of Christchurch for the past two decades, supplying wild rabbits to high end restaurants around the country and for pet food.

But he is drowning under a tsunami of paperwork. . .

Helping farmers tell their stories – Colin Williscroft:

There’s an increasing awareness of the need for farmers to tell their stories to help explain to urban New Zealanders the realities of life on the land and the contribution the primary sector makes to the country. Lisa Portas of Palliser Ridge is determined to help get those stories across, as Colin Williscroft found out.

 For farming stories to truly connect with an urban audience they not only have to be told well, they need to be authentic and that means they have to come from farmers themselves, Wairarapa farmer Lisa Portas says.

If that’s going to work farmers need to become more comfortable being their own narrators and not be afraid to use a range of channels from social media to open days to encourage a wider understanding of agricultural industries, the people involved, the processes and the reasons why decisions are made. . .

Around world and back to Synlait – Toni WIlliams:

Lachie Davidson has travelled to the other side of the world, been crowned a world champion egg thrower and has just embarked on a career with an internationally recognised company which prides itself as being an outside-the-box thinker.

The 22-year-old former Ashburton College head boy is one of four to gain a place in the Synlait Future Leaders Programme. More than 300 people applied.

Under the three-year accelerated development programme, developed by Synlait organisational development manager Tony Aitken, he will undergo leadership training as he learns different facets of the company. . .

LIC to seek shareholder approval to acquire 50% stake for $108.7 million in Israeli agritech company Afimilk:

    • The investment will strengthen LIC’s ability to deliver superior herd improvement services and agritech to its farmers.
    • The proposed 50% stake in Afimilk will help LIC keep its world-leading edge in pastoral dairy farming data while broadening access to new information to meet future needs and challenges.
    • Afimilk is profitable, has no debt and has historically paid dividends to its shareholders. . .

Rural market reflects external volatility:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 57 less farm sales (-13.6%) for the three months ended January 2020 than for the three months ended January 2019. Overall, there were 363 farm sales in the three months ended January 2020, compared to 345 farm sales for the three months ended December 2019 (+5.2%), and 420 farm sales for the three months ended January 2019. 1,277 farms were sold in the year to January 2020, 14.7% fewer than were sold in the year to January 2019, with 40.3% less Dairy farms, 3.9% less Grazing farms, 28.4% less Finishing farms and 9.8% less Arable farms sold over the same period.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to January 2020 was $21,221 compared to $27,087 recorded for three months ended January 2019 (-21.7%). The median price per hectare decreased 7.7% compared to December 2019. . .


Rural round-up

January 26, 2020

New policy might limit farming – Neal Wallace:

Farmers fear new biodiversity policy could force councils to make them restore areas of indigenous flora and fauna on their land.

The Government has released its proposed draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, which leans heavily on councils to identify, monitor and manage areas with significant indigenous biodiversity.

Within five years councils will have to identify and map significant natural areas using standard national criteria, manage any adverse effects on those areas and survey native wildlife in and outside the areas to determine if they are threatened or affected by land use activities. . .

Sarah’s Country: Are we fit for a better world? – Sarah Perriam:

Sarah’s Country’s debut episode focuses on the key elements of this vision for New Zealand that includes a swing towards regenerative agriculture, capturing the value of the billion-dollar plant protein trend and offsetting our carbon emissions with environmental integrity, not ‘thin air fake’ credits.

Sarah Perriam, the host of Sarah’s Country, is this week joined by guest co-host Kate Scott. Kate is a director of LandPro and a 2018 Nuffield Scholar living in Central Otago. . .

Farm sales start to look up:

Farm sales were down 21.6% for the three months ended December 2019 versus the year prior ­— but sales look to be lifting.

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows that farm sales increased by 22.3% in the three months ended December 2019 compared to the three months ended November 2019, with 345 and 282 sales respectively. . .

$8 payout possible – Peter Burke:

The guessing game has begun to predict what dairy farmers will get for their milk this season.

The consensus in the sector is that the price will be positive: numbers ranging from $7.15/kgMS to $7.50/kgMS, although ASB rural economist Nathan Penny is sticking his neck out and suggesting it could reach $8/kgMS.

Fonterra says its forecast is in the range of $7.00 to $7.60 with the midpoint being $7.30.

Dr. Mitloehner issues warning on increasing herd sizes – Charles O’Donnell:

While there is not necessarily a need to cut herd sizes for the purpose of climate change mitigation, increasing numbers is also not the way to go, according to Dr. Frank Mitloehner.

Dr. Mitloehner, a well-known professor and air quality specialist, was speaking at an event called ‘Climate Action in Agriculture: A Balanced Approach’ in Dublin today, Tuesday, January 21, which was organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

The German-born Californian-based professor spoke out against the perceived necessity to cut herd sizes. However, when asked about the growing numbers of animals in the dairy industry, he warned that going in the opposite direction by increasing numbers would pose a climate issue. . . 

Government urged to block high carbon food imports :

Britain cannot risk importing food with a higher carbon footprint than food which has been produced in the UK, a new report says.

Released by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), it says British farming produces some of the most sustainable food in the world and that emissions from UK beef is half that of the global average.

Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK presents a detailed range of options to drive emissions reductions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. . . 

 


Rural round-up

December 23, 2019

Wairoa farmland sold for forestry angers 50 Shades of Green as Shane Jones extends olive branch – Zane Small:

Shane Jones is extending an olive branch to the pro-farming community after the Government approved more farmland to be sold for forestry, saying he wants to hear their concerns. 

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) – a Government agency – has approved the sale of 1065 hectares of land in Wairoa from Craigmore (Te Puna) Limited, a company that manages various farm and forest investments in New Zealand.

The land being acquired is currently run as a sheep and beef cattle farm, with small plantings of radiata pine and manuka. The OIO approved the sale of land on the understanding it’s erosion-prone and better suited to forestry. . . .

Skills will help grow careers – Sally Rae:

From fitness to farming, Luke Fisher is relishing his career move into the primary industries.

English-born Mr Fisher, a business manager for Farmlands at its Motueka branch, has been in Dunedin for six weeks as one of two interns in the AGMARDT-AbacusBio international internship programme.

He is joined by Emma Hinton, who is business manager at Farmlands’ Leeston branch in Canterbury.

Sales Slump in the dairy sector:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 54 less farm sales (-16.1%) for the three months ended November 2019 than for the three months ended November 2018. Overall, there were 282 farm sales in the three months ended November 2019, compared to 260 farm sales for the three months ended October 2019 (+8.5%), and 336 farm sales for the three months ended November 2018. 1,295 farms were sold in the year to November 2019, 12.8% fewer than were sold in the year to November 2018, with 44.4% less Dairy farms, 1.6% less Grazing farms, 23.4% less Finishing farms and the same number of Arable farms sold over the same period. . .

River clean-up energises farmer :

Invests $18,000 of his own money to help restore river after realising the impact on waterways.

He’s a “townie” turned dairy farmer and is enthusiastically embracing the clean-up one of New Zealand’s most degraded rivers.

Gerard Vallely, a 65-year-old who, with his wife Ann, runs two dairy farms in west Otago, has set aside a sizeable chunk of his property to be developed into a wetland – and has so far spent $18,000 of his own money doing so.

The farms border two streams, tributaries of the Pomahaka River, and the land he has ‘donated’ is part of an overall project in the district to restore the river, long considered one of the country’s best fishing locations, back to health. . .

Christmas market short of peas, strawberries – David Hill:

Locally grown strawberries and peas could be missing from the Christmas dinner menu.

As he prepares for the seventh annual Sefton Christmas Harvest Market on his farm near Rangiora, North Canterbury grower Cam Booker said Christmas strawberries, raspberries and peas were in short supply.

He said there would be no homegrown strawberries on the Booker Christmas dinner table this year . . .

New Zealand Hops confirms Craig Orr as new Chief Executive:

Food and beverage industry leader, Craig Orr, is confirmed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of New Zealand Hops Ltd (NZHL).

New Zealand Hops is a contemporary grower co-operative, based in Nelson, Tasman, the only region commercially growing hops in New Zealand. The co-operative represents the interests of 28 growers, many of whom are intergenerational families, having grown hops in the region for more than 150 years.

The co-ordination of the industry was first initiated in 1939 with the inception of the New Zealand Hop Marketing Board. . .


Rural round-up

July 25, 2019

Federated Farmers has questions over firearms register:

Misgivings about the practicality and cost of a firearms register is likely to dominate feedback from rural areas on the second round of proposed Arms Act amendments, Federated Farmers says.

The proposals feature a range of tighter controls on firearms ownership and licensing and Federated Farmers rural security spokesperson Miles Anderson anticipates support for many aspects of the changes.

“When firearms are used irresponsibly or illegally in New Zealand, it is often farmers who suffer the consequences through the theft of livestock, poaching of wild animals or the risks of dangerous behaviour. Hopefully some of these proposed changes will help to prevent that,” Anderson said. . . 

The environment comes first – Andrew Stewart:

Running a big station with 3500 owners is a big challenge. But Parengarega Station’s new farm manager Kathryne Easton is adding to the task, with her vision of starting with the environment then working back to the farm with her best-use-of-land philosophy at the same time as coping with pest, pasture and weather issues. She told Andrew Stewart her 
environmental and biosecurity plans include not just the farm but the entire Far North.

It’s fair to say many Kiwis forget how far the country stretches north past Auckland. 

The reality is they can travel another six hours before reaching the tip of New Zealand at Cape Reinga and the further north they go the more diverse and challenging the land becomes. 

Just half an hour south of the Cape lies Parengarenga Station, a diverse, nearly 6000-hectare operation that stretches between both coasts of the country.  . . 

Banks’ caution stymies farm sales – Alan Williams:

Farm sales are at their lowest in the last four to six years, Real Estate Institute figures show.

Turnover for the three months to the end of June was down 24.6% on the corresponding period a year earlier and down 15.3% on the three-month period to the end of May.

The latest June tally was 322, compared with 380 in the May period and 427 for June last year.

The non-dairy farming sector is holding value more strongly than the dairy sector, the institute’s rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said.

Its All Farm Price Index showed a 2.4% rise from May to June and for the year the gain was 7.3%.  . . 

LIC annual result reflects performance, profitability turnaround :

Livestock Improvement Corporation (NZX: LIC) (LIC) announces its financial results for the year ending 31 May 2019.

Reporting a significant increase in profitability, as well as new records in strength of balance sheet, operating cash flow, and total revenue, the co-op will return $15.6 million in dividend to shareholders. This fully imputed dividend equates to 10.98 cents per share and represents a yield of 12.2% based on the current share price of 90 cents. This dividend is up from 1.71 cents last year and is the largest dividend the co-op has paid since 2013.

Board chair Murray King said the result was in line with expectations and reflects a turnaround in the co-operative’s performance and profitability. . . 

Feeding 10 Billion People Will Require Genetically Modified Food – Deena Shanker:

Like it or not, genetic modification is going to be an important tool to feed the planet’s growing population.

If we want to feed 10 billion people by 2050, in a world beset by rising temperatures and scarcer water supplies, we will need to dramatically change the way we produce food. Increased public investment in technologies like genetic engineering is a vital piece of that, according to a report published Wednesday by the World Resources Institute.

Not only must crops be more productive, but the agricultural challenges of climate change—including disease, pests and periods of both drought and flooding—mean they must be more resilient as well. . . 

Future drought fund passes final hurdle in senate – Mike Foley:

After delaying the vote and criticising the policy, federal Labor has provided the necessary support to pass the federal government’s Future Drought Fund through parliament.

The Bill to enact the the Coalition’s rural showpiece policy made its way through the Lower House last night, and today Labor has agreed to approve the legislation in the Senate.

With seed funding of $3.9 billion, the drought fund would grow to $5b by 2030. . . 

 


Push pause til cost benefit known

June 14, 2019

50 Shades of Green is urging the government to pause the carbon zero legislation until a cost benefit analysis is done:

As it stands experts believe it will cost a lot and achieve little.

Conservation group 50 shades of green is asking the government to immediately hit the pause button, check the policy settings and have a full cost benefit analysis.

50 shades of green spokesperson, Mike Butterick said that the legislation as it stood was a recipe for financial and environmental disaster.

“The legislation is estimated to cost the economy up to $12 billion a year or $8000 for every household,” Mike Butterick said. “Try finding another $160 a week to support political ideology when you’re on the minimum wage[1].

“The way the government is trying to mitigate its carbon emissions is nothing more than a band aid which will achieve nothing long term.

“It is incredibly short sighted by our current politicians. Their legacy for future generations will be tarnished.

“50 shades of green want to work to mitigate the effects of climate change but the Zero Carbon Bill won’t do it. It’s not just the opinion of the group but also that of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

“Time now for a pause and a move towards a lasting and long term solution,” Mike Butterick said.

Government incentives are distorting the market, incentivising sales for forestry over farming:

The median price of forestry farms across New Zealand has increased by 45% over the last year from $6,487 per hectare to $9,394 per hectare according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) source of the most complete and accurate real estate data in New Zealand.

This increase may be largely the result of the Government incentives to plant trees making forestry land more desirable and leading to increased sales of sheep and beef farms.
Interestingly, the North Island is seeing a greater impact on forestry prices than the South Island.

Bindi Norwell, Chief Executive at REINZ says: “Over the last few months there has been a growing voice from the rural community that the Government’s incentives towards planting trees are favouring forestry sales and leading to increasing sales of beef and sheep farms. With the price of forestry farms across New Zealand increasing by 45% when compared to the same time last year, the data tends to suggest that the rural community is correct in its assertions. . .

They are also correct about the detrimental impact on rural communities:

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little is nervous.

In the last eight months 10,000ha, 7% of his district’s remaining pasture land, has been sold for forestry and he estimates it will cost 60 direct and indirect livestock farming jobs while creating 15.

Little’s primary concern is the impact on local communities and services but also on the district’s largest employer, Affco’s Wairoa meat works, which gets a third of its stock locally.

“More forestry planting threatens our sheep and beef industry, our local economy and the district’s largest employer.” . .

Little says the pace of land use change worries him and his community and is the unintended consequence of Government incentives for its Billion Trees programme.

The land use change cannot be considered a gradual redistribution of land use as claimed by Forestry New Zealand chief executive Julie Collins in the Farmers Weekly last week, he said.

“For us it is an alarming rate.

“If they keep going at that rate we’ll have no farmland left.”

A briefing paper Little prepared for a meeting this week with Government ministers says 2017 agricultural census figures show 1000ha of forestry directly and indirectly employs 1.5 people. For the same area of sheep and beef farming the figure is 7.6 people.

While supporting the Billion Trees programme Little says the scale and scope of forestry planting poses a catastrophic risk to rural communities like Wairoa. . .

There is a place for forestry but it’s not on productive farmland which threatens food production, export income and the jobs and social fabric for which they provide a foundation.

Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis fears the cumulative impact of fewer children at schools, the loss of volunteers and the impact on local retailers as people leave the area when trees replace livestock.

Collis respects the right of landowners to sell to whoever they wish but the speed of change has surprised her.

In the 2017-18 year four Tararua farms were sold to forestry but in 2018-19 it was 12.

“It’s a large increase very, very quickly.”

Forest companies are buying land with easy access and better quality soils, which is not consistent with the Government mantra of right tree, right place, right time. . .

It’s also not consistent with the Paris Accord which states that climate change mitigation measures should not come at the expense of food production.

If you care about this issue please sign 50 Shades of Green’s petition asking that legislation which incentivises the blanket afforestation of farmland be rejected.

 


Rural round-up

April 9, 2019

Intensive forestry creates ‘too many environmental risks’ – lawyer – Kate Gudsell:

The rules governing forestry are too light and need to be reviewed, environmental groups say.

The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry came into force in May last year but are about to be reviewed by the government.

The Environmental Defence Society and Forest and Bird decided to conduct joint analysis because of increasing public concern about the impacts of commercial forestry in light of events like Tologa Bay last year.

An estimated one million tonnes of logs and debris was left strewn on properties and roads on the East Coast during two bouts of heavy rainfall in June last year.

Farmers put the cost of the damage in the millions of dollars. . . 

Overseas Investment Office approves Craigmore $52m apple orchard investment – Gerard Hutching:

Foreign investors headed by New Zealand management have been given the green light by the Overseas Investment Office to buy two horticultural properties after being rebuffed last year over a bid to buy a kiwifruit and avocado orchard.

Craigmore Sustainables has received permission to buy 479 hectares of sensitive land inland of Waipukurau in Hawke’s Bay and 59 ha near Gisborne. They will invest $52 million to develop apple orchards on the properties. . . 

Mustering tradition continues – Sally Rae:

The likes of helicopters and, latterly, even drones, have replaced horses for mustering on many properties in New Zealand’s back country. But in remote South Westland, traditions remain alive and well, as agribusiness reporter Sally Rae reports. 

Mustering in the remote and beautiful Cascade Valley in South Westland can come with its challenges.

But for Haast-based farmers Maurice and Kathleen Nolan, those challenges were amplified as they prepared for today’s Haast calf sale.

The sale is a major calendar event for the Nolans, a name synonymous with South Westland since the family arrived at Jackson Bay, south of Haast, in 1876. . . 

DairyNZ Schools website launched:

DairyNZ has launched a new website for teachers, giving them free, curriculum-based learning resources to help children learn about dairy farming.

The new website, called DairyNZ Schools, is part of DairyNZ’s in-school education programme. The programme is designed to ensure New Zealand school children get the opportunity to learn about dairying.

Learning resources

The website has learning resources for teachers of children from Year 2 to Year 11. The resources are free to download and teachers can filter resources by year level or subject area. . .

Course closures make farming a tough industry to crack – Esther Taunton:

Young people looking for farm jobs are being hampered by dwindling training options but farmers can help fill the void, Federated Farmers says.

Taranaki teenager Braydon Langton said on Friday he had been turned down by dozens of potential farm employers because of inexperience.

He said it was frustrating to hear farmers repeatedly complaining about a worker shortage but being unwilling to invest time in eager young people.

Chris Lewis, Federated Farmers’ spokesman for tertiary and workplace skills and training, said he sympathised with Langton and other young people in his situation. . . 

Sales of Southland dairy farms down on past years

While there is still a good selection of dairy farms available in Southland, there have only been a limited number of sales in the province compared to previous years, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.

Despite this, the REINZ said in its March monthly sales data release that two sales in Southland of larger dairy units were significant in terms of total price involved and there was a good level of activity on finishing properties

In Otago, there was restrained activity in the drystock sector where prices eased 10% to 15%, with reports of capital constraints from banks making finance difficult to obtain and therefore harder to get transactions together. . . 


CGT would hit middle hardest

February 22, 2019

It there’s such a thing as a fair tax, it’s not one based on misplaced envy as the Tax Working Group’s capital gains tax appears to be.

No photo description available.
Fairness is desirable but not at any cost and  it’s best achieved by helping the poor up not pulling the better-off down, especially when those who will be hit hardest are those with modest investments, not the really wealthy, and worse still, they’d be hit by one of the most penal CGTs in the world:

The Tax Working Group’s report released today proposes a broad-based top rate of 33% capital gains tax (CGT).

The New Zealand Initiative argues in a new policy note, The Pitfalls of CGT, that headline rate would immediately push New Zealand to the top of the international CGT rankings among industrialised economies, just behind Denmark and Finland.

“The proposal is conspicuous by a lack of exemptions and concessions around business investment, so a full rate would arguably qualify New Zealand’s CGT regime as one of the harshest in the world,” said Dr Patrick Carvalho, Research Fellow and author of the note.

“Worse, given New Zealand’s recognisably low-income tax thresholds by international standards, a new CGT would disproportionately hit middle-income earners already struggling to invest for retirement.”

“New Zealand should be cautious about siren calls for a top-ranking CGT. Trying to punch above our weight can sometimes place us in the wrong fight category,” concludes Dr Carvalho.

A good tax would foster investment that would help businesses grow, produce more and employ more.

A good tax would encourage and reward thrift and delayed gratification.

A good tax would improve productivity and promote growth.

The CTG as proposed would do the opposite.

New Zealand needs foreign investment because we don’t have enough of our own capital. The CGT would aggravate that by making investing overseas more attractive than investing domestically:

The Tax Working Group (TWG) proposals released this morning would skew New Zealand investors away from local assets, distort the KiwiSaver market and mangle the portfolio investment entity (PIE) regime if introduced, according to the founder of the country’s largest direct-to-consumer managed fund platform.

Anthony Edmonds, InvestNow founder, said while the TWG final report includes some welcome reforms, overall the capital gains tax (CGT) recommendations would add cost, complexity and confusion to New Zealand’s relatively efficient managed funds market.

“For example, the TWG’s plan to increase tax on New Zealand shares by applying CGT while leaving the fair dividend rate (FDR) tax for offshore shares unchanged would naturally drag capital offshore at the expense of local assets – at a time when New Zealand needs to fund major infrastructure projects,” Edmonds said. “In trying to discourage people from investing in residential property, the TWG has created a tax disincentive for Kiwi shares, which can only distort investment allocation decisions.”

Essentially, the TWG recommendation to tax unrealised capital gains on PIE funds marks a return to the ‘bad old days’ when Kiwis paid more tax on managed funds than direct share investments. . .

Concern over the housing shortage is one of the motivating factors for a CGT but It won’t improve home affordability in the long term:

Bindi Norwell, Chief Executive at REINZ says: “In the short-term there may be some initial relief in house price affordability as investors look to sell their property to avoid paying CGT. This may create opportunities for first home buyers.

“However, in the long term it’s likely to push house prices up as people look to invest more money in the family home, as there will be less incentive to invest in rental properties or other forms of investment e.g. equities.

“This will also have a flow on effect for the rental market with fewer rental properties available for tenants, thereby further pushing up weekly rental prices when they are already at an all-time high.

“The report even recognises that any impact on housing affordability could be small, therefore, we question whether all of the administrative burden and cost to implement GCT is worth it? Especially as CGT coming at the end of a raft of legislative changes the housing market has faced recently including the foreign buyer ban, ban on letting fees, insulation, healthy homes and ring fencing. . .

A tax that results in fewer and more costly rentals and more expensive homes is not a good one.

Nor is a tax that is fatally flawed:

Today’s Tax Working Group report recommendation for a new capital gains tax will not address residential housing affordability but it will penalise business owners and create costly complexity in our tax system, meaning it is fatally flawed, according to Business Central.

“New Zealand’s tax system is envied worldwide. The proposed capital gains tax increases compliance costs without boosting productivity,” says Business Central Chief Executive John Milford.

“Business Central agrees with the conclusions of the minority view on the Tax Working Group.

“A capital gains tax is just another cost on business, nothing more. . .

It would hit small and medium businesses hardest:

Key areas of the Tax Working Group Final Report released today were disappointing, says Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson. . . 

Ms Watson says the proposed capital gains rules should not be implemented because of the significant impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“We support the Government’s review to ensure that our tax system is fit for purpose for a changing business environment. However, there is very real concern that taxing both shares and business assets under a comprehensive capital gains tax regime would create double taxation.

“This could disadvantage New Zealanders owning shares in New Zealand and create inconsistencies around overall taxation on investment.”

Ms Watson says a capital gains tax would be unlikely to achieve the desired outcome for business.

“There is concern around the effect for capital markets in a capital constrained economy with a long-term savings deficit. Adding further tax on the savings and investment of those New Zealanders in the middle-income bracket won’t drive the deepening and broadening of the capital base that we need for business investment, which is higher productivity and wages.

“While the impetus behind the changes are aspirational, there is little to indicate they would significantly reduce overinvestment in housing or increase ‘tax fairness’. In addition, there is concern that additional administration costs and investment distortions could outweigh any benefits and potentially discourage much-needed investment and innovation by locking businesses into current asset holdings.

“It is vitally important that we remain competitive as a country and are not continuing to add further compliance for business and in particular small business, who represent 97% of all businesses in our economy.”

Ms Watson says there needs to be a viable business case for any changes to the current tax system.

“There seems to be a real focus on ‘fairness’ in the system design, as opposed to revenue-building, so we need to be careful that any tax changes are for the right reasons and are backed by a clear, practical and sustainable business case. We currently have a fairly simple and efficient tax system that should be kept and better enforced, with changes to specific rules where needed.” . . 

The costs of a good tax would not outweigh the benefits:

The Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) says the key issue in the Tax Working Group’s proposal released today is that the cost of its capital gains tax rules will outweigh any benefits.

Chief executive Brett O’Riley says any gains from such a broad-based capital gains tax would be eaten up by administration and other costs, leaving little revenue.

“Fundamentally the proposed capital gains rules don’t address the Tax Working Group’s objectives of reducing over-investment in housing and increasing tax fairness,” he says.

Mr O’Riley is also concerned that capital gains tax on business assets could discourage investment and innovation, locking businesses into their current asset holdings. He says there are other policy settings that could be changed to increase investment in different asset classes, away from property.

“I also fail to see how taxing growth on the value of assets from the proposed commencement date of 1 April 2021 would work, because it would be open to conflicting valuations,” he says. “It could also act as a further disincentive to growth when New Zealand already has issues with business not growing from SME’s into larger scale operations and a CGT may also limit the availability of capital to reinvest in businesses as smaller businesses face an additional tax bill.

“It’s difficult to see any benefits for the business community from implementing the proposed capital gains tax rules, as taxing both shares and business assets appears to be double taxation,” says Mr O’Riley.

It is relevant to note that a number of the Tax Working Group do not favour its recommendations on capital gains tax. The minority view summary is available here

One reason for dissension was compliance costs:

Former IRD Deputy Commissioner Robin Oliver was one of the 11 in the Tax Working Group.

Along with two others from the group, he believes the costs and bureaucratic red tape involved in adopting all the capital gains options outweigh the benefits.  

“We didn’t agree that this was in the best interest of the country to go the full extent, particularly in the business area, taxing share gains which result in double taxation,” he said.

“To get a valuation for all business assets in all parts business and all business will easily cost over a billion dollars in compliance costs. The amount of revenue you’ll get is relatively minor.”

As for taxing shares, Mr Oliver said it would result in New Zealanders who invest in New Zealand companies paying more tax when foreigners investing in New Zealand companies will pay no more tax. Furthermore, New Zealanders investing in foreign companies will pay no more tax.

“The obvious conclusion is New Zealanders will own less New Zealand companies and more foreign companies, and foreigners will own our companies,” he said. . . 

The proposed tax is no panacea for fairness:

Deloitte tax partner Patrick McCalman warns that a CGT is not a panacea for tax fairness.

“At one level, there is an attractiveness in the argument that a ‘buck is a buck’ and everyone should bear the same tax burden on every dollar earned. However, when one delves into the detail of the design, other issues of fairness emerge,” says Mr McCalman.

“For example, is it fair that property could pass on death without an immediate CGT cost, while gifts made during one’s life would be taxed? For family businesses, wouldn’t it be more productive to be able to pass assets from generation to generation before death,” he says.

“Accordingly, we need to be cautious as to how much ‘fairness’ a CGT will introduce. It may simply change where the ‘unfairness’ is perceived to sit within the tax system, creating new tax exemptions that would distort where investments are made.”

Complicating matters further is the political dimension. And MMP only exacerbates the political difficulty and increases the likelihood of whatever ultimately sees the light of day being less coherent from a policy perspective. . . 

The Deloitte paper raises several questions about fairness:

At one level there is an attractiveness in the argument that a “buck is a buck” and everyone should therefore bear the same tax burden on every dollar earned. However, when one delves into the detail, other issues of fairness emerge including new tax exemptions which would distort where investments are made – in effect, in seeking to create fairness, the proposal creates a number of layers of unfairness. For example:

    • With a CGT applying at full rates with no inflation indexation, is it fair that someone who buys an asset is taxed on the full amount of any gain when part of that gain is simply inflation? How will they be able to re-invest in a new asset if the inflation element is taxed?
    • Is it fair that the family home and artwork are excluded but most other property is not? Consider a plumber who has a $500,000 house and a $500,000 commercial building who would be taxed on the disposal of the commercial building. Should they have instead bought a $1,000,000 house, rented a business premise and enjoyed a tax free capital gain?
    • Is it fair that that investors in New Zealand shares would pay tax on capital gains but investors in foreign shares would continue to be subject (as they are presently) to the 5% FDR rate (even if gains are less or more)?
    • Is it fair that small business (turnover less than $5 million) could sell assets and defer the CGT bill if they reinvest the proceeds, while medium and larger size business cannot?
    • Is it fair that property could pass on death without an immediate CGT cost but gifts made to children during one’s life would be taxed?
    • Is it fair that there are proposed tax reductions for KiwiSaver to compensate for CGT but not for other forms of investment?

At one level, true fairness can only exist if all asset classes and forms of remuneration are subject to the same tax rate. But even then, anomalies will always arise. . . 

The proposed tax would be especially bad for farming and farmers:

Federated Farmers has said from the outset that a capital gains tax is a mangy dog, that will add unacceptably high costs and complexity.

“There is nothing in the Tax Working Group’s final report, released today, that persuades us otherwise,” Feds Vice-President and Commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

“A CGT would make our well-regarded tax system more complex, it will impose hefty costs, both in compliance for taxpayers and in administration for Inland Revenue, and it will do little or nothing to ease the housing crisis.”

It is notable that even the members of the working group could not agree on the best way forward, with three deciding a tax on capital gains should only apply to the sale of residential rental properties and the other eight recommending it should be broadened to also include land and buildings, assets, intangible property and shares.

“Federated Farmers believes that the majority on the tax working group have badly under-estimated the complexity and compliance costs of what they’re proposing, and over-estimated the returns.”

The recommended ‘valuation day’ approach to establishing the value of assets, even with a five-year window, will be a feeding frenzy for valuers and tax advisors, “and just the start of the compliance headaches for farmers and other operators of small businesses that are the driving force of the New Zealand society and economy. . .

Farm succession is difficult enough as it is.

A CTG would make it harder still and encourage older farmers to hold on to their farms. That would lead to more absentee ownership and leasing with less investment in improvements as happens in other countries.

New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of many wealthy people and while those relatively few would pay more with the CGT as proposed, if their accountants and lawyers didn’t help them find ways to minimise their liability, they’d still be wealthy.

The many small business owners and more modest investors would not. They’d have the reward for their hard work and thrift cut back and lose enough of the value of their investments to hurt – unless they’d invested in art, cars or yachts which would be exempt.

That sends the message that such luxuries are good while investing in businesses and productive assets is not.

Where’s the fairness in that?


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