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Farrar’s tax cut chicanery

Written By: - Date published: 10:58 am, June 24th, 2011 - 98 comments
Categories: tax - Tags:

The National Research unit has created National pollster David Farrar has taken time out of his holiday to create a graph showing the reduction in tax across incomes. Supposedly it shows National’s tax cuts weren’t for the rich after all – we just imagined it! But the research unit Farrar have avoided some inconvenient facts.

First, they’ve counted Labour’s October 2008 tax cuts as National’s own. It’s a pretty dumb trick. I mean did they think we just wouldn’t notice?

Second, the graph is cut off at 15%. Sure, not every graph has to start at zero but when you’re showing the percentage change vs zero, you should. And you do, unless you’re trying to distort the graph to make it look like the percentage decrease for rich people is smaller than it was.

Third, they forgot the GST hike. You know, the ‘fiscally neutral’ tax switch. You can’t just count the income tax cut and not the GST hike.

Fourth, they seem to have missed the movement in the second threshold.

Fifth, it’s kind of misleading to talk in terms of percentage reduction in your tax bill in the first place. A person on $10,000 a year has had a 20% reduction in tax but that’s only $300 a year. A person on $200,000 has had a tax reduction of 14% but that’s $9,500 – 32 times more.

So, what do the graphs really look like if you break it down by year, so you can see how much came from Labour and from National.

So, yeah. Seeing as 50% of people have incomes under $28,000, most of the % reduction in tax for most people came from Labour. For the rich though, the big reduction came from National.

What’s that in bucks?

Labour made it so that the tax cuts topped out at $1460 a year. National made it open ended. The bigger your income, the bigger your tax cut.

Lastly, what’s the percentage increase in your net income from each round of cuts?

Yup, for most the biggest benefit was from Labour. For the elite, the big gain was from National.

– Bright Red

98 comments on “Farrar’s tax cut chicanery ”

  1. Bunji 1

    I think the graph could be even better if the x-axis was scaled by number of earners, but serious kudos to BR for putting this together – a much fairer picture.

  2. RobC 2

    Apologies for being a pedant, next time such graphs should use the colour “red” for what Labour did and “blue” for what National did 😀

    But awesome graphs.

    • Zorr 2.1

      I think National should change their color to black… for the still dead thing that occupies a cavity in their chest…

      And leave blue to the rest of us who love the color but not the political affiliation it brings…

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    National hasn’t figured out that more and more people feel that the news and the numbers do not reflect at all what they are actually experiencing day to day in their lives.

    The disconnect with National is increasing.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Oh, I think that they’re starting to realise that which is why the National Research DPF is putting out this level of spin.

  4. lprent 4

    Those are great graphs, absolutely clear, and like previous commentators I can only find minor quibbles.

    • Monty 4.1

      maybe there are a couple of other graphs that could be provided
      1. A graph showing the total % of the tax take that each income group contributes – the problem is that of course you don’t want to show 75% of the tax being paid by the top 10% of income earners
      2. A graph related to the point above showing how much each group pay at an indididual level – but again low income earners are paying very little – someone on $100k for instance is paying $24,000 in tax per annum, while someone on $48k pays a maximum f $7500 (probably a whole lot less with WFF etc) – you cannot be serious that the rich pricks are not more than paying their way

      • rosy 4.1.1

        Maybe we could split it in to occupation bands then some of the reasonably high salaried income earners will work out how much they’re getting conned by their very high earning employers who have their income written-off for tax purposes.

      • marsman 4.1.2

        ‘ 75% of the tax take being paid by the top 10% of income earners’ is a meaningless statistic unless you also give the %ge of total income received by these 10%. Maybe that group earns MORE than 75%.

      • Janis Joplins Larynx 4.1.3
        % of payers % of tax paid Ratio tax to % of payers
        7.30% 0.00% 0.00
        12.95% 0.97% 0.07
        20.94% 5.32% 0.25
        14.87% 7.08% 0.48
        9.87% 7.40% 0.75
        9.42% 9.49% 1.01
        6.67% 9.18% 1.38
        5.26% 9.55% 1.81
        3.56% 8.16% 2.29
        2.66% 7.30% 2.74
        1.56% 5.04% 3.24
        3.17% 13.90% 4.38
        1.73% 16.61% 9.57

        Source: http://treasury.govt.nz/budget/2011/taxpayers/02.htm#_whopaystax

        Should be noted that people with lower income earners are more likely to consume public services and benefit from targeted resources that reduce any out-of-pocket payments. Higher income earners are more likely to pay both tax for public services and make use of other privately funded sources, most of which will be at full cost and reduce or totally replace use of some public services (e.g. health insurance).

        Is there anyway to make it more user friendly for cutting and pasting data from excel?

        [lprent: Set to a table. But letting too many features into the user interfaces gets to be a problem. Especially with letting anything from Microsoft to be pasted into HTML. ]

        • Draco T Bastard

          Now, how does that relate to the pie chart here? Unfortunately, the pie chart isn’t as accurate as your data but, then, your data also doesn’t show the top 0.1% which is really what we need to be looking at.

          • Janis Joplins Larynx

            Probably because “ownership” or “holding” of wealth is different to income as treated by tax and the way in which individuals/collectives (e.g. families) can structure their affairs.

            I’m not convinced that “income earners” should be the people upon which the focus of “paying their fair share” needs to be focused. After all they are paying tax although some avoidance may be evident. If you’re PAYE there’s no room to move. People over 150k will include:
            IT specialists
            CEOs of for profit, not-for-profit, and government entities
            Public servants
            Accounting specialists (in both public and private organisations)

            Its unlikely to include to any meaningful degree major owners of the means of production. In some ways we’re all just suckers to be quibbling over the tax generated by those acknowledging the income they earn rather than those that pay very little in tax but have vast amounts of wealth. However, neither of the major parties seem to want to go down this road – I can understand why from a political perspective.

            But I stand to be corrected.

            • Colonial Viper

              I think you are correct – there is an overfocus on PAYE / income tax. From my point of view we should introduce two higher tax rate tiers to the progressive income tax system and then leave it at that. Say 39% from $120,000 p.a. and 49% from $500,000 p.a.

              The real focus needs to go on land and asset taxes (say on all holdings over $1M net) as well as a CGT and FTT.

        • ZeeBop

          We pay taxes to create a level playing field, redistribute wealth in order to keep society functioning, avoid costly unintended consequences and remedy negative externalities
          of the market. Services to the poor are insignificant cost to the benefit society gains
          from citizens accepting benefits. And let’s not start an argument that only the poor
          benefit from government services, what is the income deposit guarentee, what are
          any number of policies, or even the middle class work program that is bureaucracy.
          If we al stop paying tax, we’d have to all agree to pay tax again and we’d have to
          listen to the poor and give them something to consent for, i.e. income support,
          government services. Think of it like this, if the poor are included then the poor
          have no interest in the conclusion, and so this increase risks on businesses, aka
          Greece now. So its a myth that the rich don’t get benefits from government, and
          a myth that the rich pay too much, they actually pay too little given how much
          money they’ve made from risky ventures, debt accumulation, for they have
          received far too easy and beneficial regulatory environment. The idea was that
          loosing them to get activity would not cause massive ecological damage and
          pauper us all to foreigners, but lift the poor out of poverty, disease and marginalization.
          Oh, wait, child poverty up in NZ, diseases, welfare dependency.

          So No, the case is pretty clear the beanies in their mansions with their lavish
          tax breaks and asset rich lives do not pay enough tax.

      • Puddleglum 4.1.4

        If the figures are true (10% pay 75% of tax) I think this is excellent and very much as it should be. A graph, as you suggest, that shows this would be a real phillup (sp?). It would be the most ‘graphic’ illustration of the fact that we still had an at least marginally sane and fair society and one that knew what it took to sustain itself, in human terms, over the long haul.

        It would also reinforce to the majority that they are nett gainers from a progressive tax system (as is completely fair, given that the majority of us measurably suffer in many non-monetary ways from organising our lives and society to allow high incomes – and wealth – to be produced). With a minimal level of rationality, the majority should therefore always be opposed to tax cuts.

        A very good point, Monty. I wish I’d thought of it myself.

        • Monty

          Of course those people with the high earning income capacity may get pretty annoyed at not earning more overseas and bugger off, so we need to do what we can to retain them. and of course the figures above don’t include the impact of WFF, ACC, and is only those of working age. Add those people and influences into the mix and the picture changes substantialy.

          • Colonial Viper

            Of course those people with the high earning income capacity may get pretty annoyed at not earning more overseas and bugger off, so we need to do what we can to retain them.

            Wrong. People do not bugger off because of high tax rates. They bugger off because wages are so low. A worker in NZ might earn NZ$15-20/hr doing a job, and earn A$25/hr doing that exact job across the ditch.

            They also bugger off when they see that things they like e.g. education, health, conservation, are being systematically underfunded due to an insufficient tax take.

            NB people with high income earning capacity are a bit useless in our society if they cannot create a productive economy with good jobs and help move everyone up the ladder.

  5. Lanthanide 5

    Do these graphs include the $10 “ME too!” independent earners bribe that National included in 2009?

    Quick google says this:

    “Independent earner tax credit (IETC)
    From 1 April 2009 people who are eligible and earning between $24,000 and $48,000 will be entitled to a tax credit of up to $10 a week. Find out more information on IETC.”

    Given your middle graph shows the 2009 tax cut only kicking in for people around the $42k mark, I’d say no. So even your graphs don’t fully capture everything.

    • Bright Red 5.1

      that’s a tax credit. So is WFF. Tax credits apply to classes of taxpayers. They don’t apply to all taxpayers at a given income level, so of course can’t be shown in graphs like this that are of tax on all taxpayers. And if you’re going to count credits/rebates why not also count the rates rebate, but then you have to somehow count the rates bill… and then there’s FBT…

      These are not graphs of the tax profile of every individual at every income in every life situation. These are graphs of income tax, including the offsetting GST increase for the 2010 cuts.

      I’m sure you’re welcome to submit graphs just for individuals, couples without kids, couples with kids, etc etc.

      • Lanthanide 5.1.1

        Of course, but the $10 ME tax rebate was actually a very deliberate inclusion by National.

        If you compare Labour’s taxcuts to be implemented in 2010, they actually worked out the same as National’s 2009 taxcuts when you include the ME tax rebate for those eligible for the ME tax rebate.

        I just think that like Bill English’s dodgy numbers in the house, your graphs don’t represent what people actually experienced as a result of National’s tax policies and therefore you end up with a disconnect – “actually I was much better off than what your graph says, so I think your graph is wrong, why should I listen to anything you say?”.

        Actually producing this same set of graphs based on Labour’s tax policy implemented in the 2008 budget would be worthwhile.

  6. Peter 6

    Does he include the fact that GST increased?

    • Blighty 6.1

      “Third, they forgot the GST hike. You know, the ‘fiscally neutral’ tax switch. You can’t just count the income tax cut and not the GST hike.”

  7. Spam 7

    These graphs would be even more helpful if you could also post net PAYE tax paid, in dollars, as a function of income.

    • TightyRighty 7.1

      slow down there sunshine. We don’t want the unwashed masses to know that really the rich do pay all the tax. that would further confuse an already unclear message

      • felix 7.1.1

        They don’t pay the most because they’re awesome citizens you moron, they pay the most because they own almost everything and siphon off a hugely disproportionate share of the wealth of our society for themselves.

        Actually the top ten percent should be paying even more tax considering the amount of wealth they control.

        The top two percent should be paying vastly more.

        • Spam

          And there you have it. Apparently people should be punished for being wealthy. I can pay $50,000 in paye (ie. infinitely more than people who pay no net PAYE after WFF), and yet apparently that’s not enough and I should hang my head in shame, and cough up even more tax so that there can be more WFF and more people with iPods and cellphones to text each other across the room.

          • Blighty

            If you pay $50,000 in PAYE, then your net income is $130,000 per year.

            Considering the median Kiwi income is $28,000 before tax. I think your should dry your eyes and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

            You are not a five times better person than the typical Kiwi. You are in a privileged position in a hierarchical society. Enjoy it, by all means, but don’t whine about paying some of the price for maintaining that society and your privilege, especially when you’ve got so much left afterwards.

            • Spam

              Where exactly did I say that I was in any way “a five times better person than the typical Kiwi”? I didn’t. You made shit up. That is your attitude, not mine. It says more about you than it does about me.

              A ‘privileged position’? I worked my ass off to earn a good wage. I am not whining about paying; I am simply pointing out that even though I pay a crapload already, under the politics of envy, its never enough.

              [lprent: Fixed the leaking tag. I really need to write some check code for what looks like a badly written rss editor. ]

              • millsy

                If it is ‘the politics of envy’ to request that high income earners pay a little bit more tax for hospitals and and schools (and state houses) then so be it.

                Remember. National closed hospital after hospital between 1990 and 96 so they could cut taxes for high income earner.

                And you forgot to close your i tag you fucking douchebag


                • Spam

                  Its NOT a “LITTLE BIT MORE”, [deleted]. There are people who pay precisely zero PAYE, and then complain that even though I pay $50,000 more than them, its still not good enough. God forbid if it drops and I only pay $49,500 in tax. Won’t someone think of the Children (Hospitals, schools and all the other stuff that I still pay disproportionarely more for).

                  Oh – and on the abuse. Are you abusive because I earn money, or because I have an opinion different to you, or what? Or is it just your rustic charm?

                  [lprent: No names you idiot.

                  If someone wants to make their name visible then they will do it. If you do it, then I will kick your arse off the site and make sure it stays off. It causes me too much work.

                  If you want abuse then just carry on pissing me off cleaning up your crap. Read the policy. Umm. you seem to use RSS – adding you to auto-moderation until I am sure that you have read the notes. ]

                  • millsy

                    I abuse you because you begrudge paying taxes for things like school and hospitals, and you expect people like me to doff my cap in your presence because you have more money than me.

                    Wouldnt mind knowing how you know my real name though…

                    • Lanthanide

                      Lynn, it appears that ‘Spam’ has published millsy’s name. You should moderate this ASAP (or anyone else).

                      Actually having an “Alert moderator” function for comments could be useful. Could cause you trouble if people used it inappropriately, though, which is quite probable on this site given strong language is allowed.

          • millsy

            God forbid that you should pay a decent amount of tax so people have a roof over their heads, etc because employers are too fucking cheap to give their hard workers a payrise.

            • Spam

              Gee, [deleted]. I’m actually employed by… shock horror… an evil company employer. Apparently they do pay decent wages for skills that are in demand. And define “fair share”. Like I said – in the politics of envy, its never enough.

              [lprent: Names. ]

              • millsy

                How do you know my name?

                And for god sake, fix the bloody italic tag. My eyes are hurting.

              • felix

                The same commenter, under his other aliases, has pulled the exact same shit with millsy’s name on other blogs too.

                • lprent

                  If he tries it around here again,then he will get a permanent ban. He is wasting my tine. Now I have time, I will have a look at his IP’s.

                  Update: interesting history in the comments back to before the last election. Looks like one of that bunch that followed Whale around like they were corgis following a tall standard poodle in heat. No real surprise that he is a stalker.

          • felix


            Give us back all the money and assets or shut the fuck up and pay your share.

            • Spam

              What do you mean “give it back”? To whom? My employer, because that’s where it comes from? Are you implying that I stole from my employer?

              • felix

                The wealth we enjoy as a society is generated by the whole society, you’re just too arrogant and self-absorbed to notice.

                Pay your fucking share according to how much you benefit from society, or give it all back and fuck off.

          • TightyRighty

            Don’t listen to them. you are five times better than the average kiwi. In fact you are about 50,000 times better and the rest should be grateful, as that is how much more you contribute to their lifestyle than they do themselves.

          • QoT

            Funny, I didn’t realise that paying into a government which allows you to do business and live your life in relatively high security, without fear of sudden regime change or a revolution of the starving populace, was a “punishment”. You pay more into it because you get more out of it.

            You don’t want the protection of the police and military, the maintenance of the roads, the basic assistance [education/health/welfare] to the poor which stops them storming your house and redistributing your wealth via guillotine? Fuck off somewhere with no taxes and let us know how that goes.

          • Puddleglum

            Hi Spam, I think I’ve dealt with your concern here.

          • ZeeBop

            People yes should be punished ‘challenged’ to be wealthy, that’s the whole point of capitalism! To create a invisible hand, not reward those who are rich now, but to reward those who remain rich and become rich by creating social goods and services. So the question is does being easy on the rich current drive up debt, foster inequality, and cause massive risk, the answer is yes. So the solution if to punish the wealthy for the wrong outcomes, and remove the incentives that cause such poor results. Let someone else have a go, stop picking winners who feel they are entitled to remain wealthy.
            As a capitalist I am frustrated at the sad to see our socialist elite National party raiding society for their own anti-capitalist benefit.

        • TightyRighty

          well, according to your measure of what is right and fair, they are awesome citizens as they contribute more to society. You can’t hate them for “not paying their fair share” and not contributing to society because they can afford to go private and be better than you when really they do contribute more and are paying their fair share.

      • Peter 7.1.2

        I hate to agree but you are right. For all the talk of the rich paying less tax it is true that something like the top 10% of earners pay over 30% of the total PAYE tax collected ( someone out their will have the exact number).

        I suggest the real issue is why, in terms of the overall tax burden, does so much of it fall on PAYE earners who also pay the bulk of GST which is essentially a consumer tax.

        If you look at the total resources in this country that could be taxed the question I would like an informed answer to is this. Are PAYE earners and GST payers paying a disproportionate amount of the overall tax?

        • felix

          Peter, you’re missing the blatantly obvious.

          These righties are fond of telling us the top 10% pay a disproportionate share of income tax, but they conveniently omit the fact that the top 10% pocket a hugely disproportionate share of the wealth.

          They’re not paying more because the system is unfairly weighted against them, they’re paying more because they benefit more.

          Don’t fall for it.

    • Blighty 7.2

      why don’t you? I’m sure Lynn would love to receive a graph of net incomes plus tax paid.

      you could do what Bunji suggests and include population distribution too.

  8. Terry 8

    Who needs graphs any more to show the facts concerning the filthy rich? Just let a creep like Farrar struggle to ease his own conscience, and wish him heaps of bad luck in his pathetic endeavours. Hear us Farrar, YOU ARE CONVINCING NO ONE, but you could be self-deluded.

  9. Wayne91 9

    Surely not all the filthy rich or those on 130K p/a are righties?

    • Bunji 9.1

      I don’t think anyone’s claiming they are. One prominent person on over $130k is leading a party campaigning for him to pay a bit more tax…

      Phil Goff seems quite happy about it.

  10. tc 10

    you know one day farrar will surpise us all and actually publish some objective, factual material showing it like it really is……there’s your tui moment and friday funny all at once.

  11. burt 11

    OMG – you mean to say somebody paying $100,000 tax a year got a bigger tax cut than somebody paying $2,000 – you are kidding me ! Oh the outrage !

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Someone paying $100,000 tax a year should’ve been paying $110,000 tax a year after the Christchurch earthquakes.

      Instead we are going to borrow that $10,000 difference from the Chinese.

  12. burt 12

    In a progressive tax system an increase in tax rates has a bigger impact on high earners. In a progressive tax system a reduction in tax rates has a bigger impact on high earners.

    So if you support the concept of progressive taxation then you need to accept the consequences of the way the system works.

    But sure if you want to say the whole concept of progressive taxation is broken – I’ll agree. Should we debate flat (or even flatter) tax rates and how proportionally the cost/benefit from shifting tax rates is the same to all earners.

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      So if you support the concept of progressive taxation then you need to accept the consequences of the way the system works.

      Of course we would expect nothing less from a Government who supports the wealthy ahead of all other struggling groups in society.

      In a progressive tax system an increase in tax rates has a bigger impact on high earners. In a progressive tax system a reduction in tax rates has a bigger impact on high earners.

      This is why progressive Governments increase top tier tax rates, not decrease them.

      79% income tax rate on everyone earning more than 20x the median income please, along with a 1% p.a. asset tax on all holders of net assets worth over $1M.

      • burt 12.1.1


        You seem to have forgotten about inflation and therefore fiscal drag. If we had kept Labour’s 2008 tax rates another 50 years then it would be most likely that minimum wage workers would be called rich pricks by the tax system and would be paying the 39% rate.

        You need to think this stuff thru CV, well at least think it thru a bit more then mega-brain Cullen did.

        • Colonial Viper

          fiscal dragging my ass

          English didn’t lower tax rates on the superwealthy for the purposes of adjusting them for inflation.

        • Frank Macskasy

          …You seem to have forgotten about inflation and therefore fiscal drag. If we had kept Labour’s 2008 tax rates another 50 years then it would be most likely that minimum wage workers would be called rich pricks by the tax system and would be paying the 39% rate…

          That’s a rather inane assumption to make; that tax rates would remain unchanged for 50 years. The only certainty with tax rates is that governments (of various hues) always fiddle/adjust (depending on your p.o.v.) with them. It’s a given.

          Therefore inflation and/or fiscal drag would easily be taken into consideration as need arose.

          • burt

            Therefore inflation and/or fiscal drag would easily be taken into consideration as need arose.

            Really; Lets do a scenario.

            In 1999 Joe blogs earns $37,000 and pays $7,215.00 (*1) tax. Using the Reserve bank calculator (*2) $37,000 mid 1999 = $47,186.73 mid 2008 attracts $10,441.38 (*3) tax.

            So their marginal tax rate in 1999 was 19.5%. In 2008 it was 22.1%. The stealth tax increase!

            I wouldn’t call a person earning $50,967.01 (*4) today rich, CV might though. I think it’s Labour hear land earner bracket. And that person under static tax thresholds for 9 years had a 2.6% tax hike if all they got was inflation adjusted wage increases.

            Today that same earner would be paying $8,310.10 in tax. That is 16.3%

            A fall of 5.8% from where Labour was gouging them.

            I understand why you don’t want to talk about fiscal drag but to claim only the rich get tax cuts, that’s just ridiculous.

            (*1) From IRD website using oldest tax rules rates available [2001] and Helen told us in 1999 that no one earning under $60,000 would pay a cent more income tax so that must be valid.

            (*2) A basket of goods and services that cost $37,000.00 in quarter 2 of 1999 would have cost $47,186.73 in quarter 2 of 2008
            Total percentage change 27.5%
            Number of years difference 9.00
            Compound average annual rate 2.7%
            Decline in purchasing power 21.6%
            Index value for 1999 quarter 2 is 832.0
            Index value for 2008 quarter 2 is 1061.0
            Statement Last Updated: 25/06/2011 12:18:28 a.m.

            (*3) From IRD website using 1April 2007 31 March 2008.

            (*4) A basket of goods and services that cost $37,000.00 in quarter 2 of 1999 would have cost $50,967.01 in quarter 1 of 2011
            Total percentage change 37.7%
            Number of years difference 11.75
            Compound average annual rate 2.8%
            Decline in purchasing power 27.4%
            Index value for 1999 quarter 2 is 832.0
            Index value for 2011 quarter 1 is 1146.0

            Statement Last Updated: 25/06/2011 12:26:09 a.m.

            • Colonial Viper

              National passed tax laws which advantaged the richest the most, and put a big hole in our fiscal situation as a result.

              • burt

                Can you explain that CV, or is it just party talking points from the “what to say when made to look stupid defending fiscal drag” FAQ.

    • felix 12.2

      So if you support the concept of progressive taxation then you need to accept the consequences of the way the system works.

      That only makes sense if you assume that we all agree that taxes need cutting.

      I don’t.

      So it doesn’t.

      • burt 12.2.1

        Sorry felix, irrespective of your opinion on the requirements for a tax cut; the way progressive tax systems work is they way they work. I’m really sorry to inform you that your opinion on tax rates has no influence on the effect of mathematical formulas.

        • felix

          It has a profound effect on the validity of your statement as phrased though, burt.

          I don’t have to accept that the effect of cutting taxes is a necessary function of a progressive tax system because cutting taxes is not a necessary function of a progressive tax system.

          Lern 2 reed burt.

          I’m off for the night but I should be back tomorrow so I’ll catch up then.

          • burt


            What part of “concept” vs “the 2008 implementation” is so confusing for you felix ?

        • Puddleglum

          Burt, in a progressive tax system there’s no compulsion to cut the top tax rate even if you did cut tax rates. A cut on the rate affecting the first $20,000 puts the same money in everyone’s pocket who earns above that amount. Same goes if you abolish taxes on the first $5,000.

          • burt

            Fine don’t cut the top rate (or any rate). Try also not moving the thresholds they apply from and you get fiscal drag.

            But if you are talking tax cuts in the lower ranges, or tax free bottom ends then yes with you all the way.

            Still, eventually holding the threshold and rates in place for the rich will end up scooping people that years ago were not classified that way but are now because of inflation. Now this is the reality with progressive taxation, simply lifting the thresholds only gives benefit to people who earn above them.

            So is there still no compulsion to cut the top rate either by actually cutting it or moving the threshold up?

            • rosy

              I do agree that the fiscal drag is probably what cost Labour the election. This is something that needs to be looked at by whoever is in government. However, I have no problem whatsoever that the rich pay a larger proportion of taxes. Global implementation of an FTT is probably the only way to capture the super-rich.

              • burt


                The answer is simple, index the thresholds to inflation. The only problem with that is it highlights the issue with progressive taxation in that shifting the thresholds only benefits people who earn above them. (which BTW includes people who have crept into them)

                Perhaps if Dr Cullen hadn’t been so tied in knots by ideology he would have done that and accepted his choice of tax system had that consequence. He was obviously so scared of being seen to give tax cuts to high earners that he accepted fiscal drag on lower earners. The price of having his thinking dominated by ideology rather than reality, he punished his own voters rather than explained to them the reality of progressive taxation.

                • RedLogix

                  The answer is simple, index the thresholds to inflation.

                  Umm yes. Nice to see you have finally caught up with what Dr Cullen proposed to do in 2005. Remember? That simple reform the right shouted down as the ‘chewing gum’ tax cuts?

                  • burt


                    I have proposed zero rated thresholds and blabbered on about the need to index thresholds so many times on this blog that it’s ridiculous that you only now notice I’m not actually advocating grand scale tax cuts for the rich.

                    To think you call me a RWNJ when I’m hitting the nail for what your socialist leaders should have done !

              • Colonial Viper

                I do agree that the fiscal drag is probably what cost Labour the election.

                Which is interesting given that only 10% of the population earns over $70K p.a.

                90% of voters are on low to middle wages under this income level. And many of them swung against LAB as well.

                • burt


                  Hello… is there anybody in there…. My example shows a scenario well under $60K.

                  I always suspected you have a picture in your mind of how how tax works and no amount of reasoning or explanation is able to make you see the truth – you have just proven my suspicion.

                • burt


                  90% of voters are on low to middle wages under this income level. And many of them swung against LAB as well.

                  My example showed classic Labour voter territory (perhaps a primary school teacher level salary) getting a 2.6% tax hike. (then being delivered a 5.8% tax reduction by National)

                  You wonder why they turned against Labour… Hello – is there anybody in there ?

                • burt


                  It genuinely pains me to see you appearing so ignorant of progressive taxation so I’ll explain using a simple method. That is we step back to 1999 with bands set at $38K & $60K. We go to the middle of 2008 (using the reserve bank calculator linked to earlier.) and we get $48,964.48 & $77,312.34.

                  And so you can really see how this works CV, $60K from 1999 is $82,649.20 today. So if our top tax threshold were linked to inflation (with the same policy setting you agreed with – the top 5%) then it would be set at $82,649.20 today!

                  National deliver you a tighter top bracket than Labour promised in 1999 and you still moan.

                  • Lanthanide

                    burt, National haven’t moved the top tax bracket at all.

                    Labour moved it from $60k to $70k in Oct 2008, and it was scheduled to move to $80k in either April 2010 or 2011.

                    National have kept it at the $70k rate, because it’s more rewarding for their rich mates to drop the top rate than it is to move the threshold, and they want to plead ignorance that “when you cut taxes, those at the top necessarily get the biggest cut” which is complete bollocks.

                    • burt


                      There has been an across the board reduction in the marginal rate of tax with the cuts since mid 2008. Yes there is a difference of opinion on what the thresholds and rates should be.

                      My main point for CV was his blatant disregard for the reality of fiscal drag impacting all bracket creep, not just the evil top one.

                      See I think CV missed the point that by mid 2008 all people earning under $48,964.48 should have been being taxed at 19.5% if Labour wasn’t gouging them with fiscal drag.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Thanks for the education burt, yes fiscal drag was a bit of a drag for the lower classes too.

                      Sadly the only way those thresholds could have been moved so far up the pay scale would be if the tax revenues lost were made up by increased tax rates and/or increased borrowing.

                    • burt


                      Oh, it was chewing gum. Had he been faithful to the policy setting his govt was elected on he would have moved the $60K threshold to $69K and the $38K threshold to $44K. Actually that looks a little like his 2008 effort, he was just three years too late… addicted to the drag!

                    • burt



                      There is no lost revenue as such, well not in a growing economy. It’s stalling and shrinking economies that are the enemy of tax revenue, not fair and reasonable inflation adjustments to working settings.

                • rosy

                  True, CV. As with the light bulbs being a trigger for the perception of nanny state, the tax bracket creep was for perceptions of the government was being greedy.

                  Perception and aspiration are everything in an election and National sold it, so Labour lost. At the time it appeared many people were losing the cream off their higher wages through increased taxes. If the top tax rate moved with inflation so it only captured the same percentage of earners as when it was introduced perceptions would have be different and National would have lost an opportunity to beat Labour.

  13. deservingpoor 13

    Monty asked a good question: why do the top 10% of earners pay 75% of the tax. The simple answer is, they don’t and the actual figures have been used in the Herald more than once by RWNJs to back up their supposed case for crying to mummy about being poor little rich men. The top 10% of earners actually pay 35.9% of the tax, on 75% of New Zealand’s wealth. As seen here in an article by Roger Kerr:

    So perhaps we actually need to be asking why it is that 75% of the wealth doesn’t attract 75% of the tax.

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      So perhaps we actually need to be asking why it is that 75% of the wealth doesn’t attract 75% of the tax.

      Because we do not use asset taxes in this country.

      A lot of the very wealthy structure their affairs so that they do not have visible income hence pay no income tax. Even if they have assets worth many millions that they enjoy the benefits of.

    • Peter 13.2

      When you say wealth do you really mean income? Serious question.

  14. deservingpoor 14

    “A lot of the very wealthy structure their affairs so that they do not have visible income hence pay no income tax. Even if they have assets worth many millions that they enjoy the benefits of.”

    I agree,

    and yet they’re the one’s crying about being hard done by.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      There are some very wealthy people who judge their life in terms of points scored as if in a pin ball game. Those points include scores of net worth, return on investment, capital gains, income etc. Minimising tax is also one of those measures they score points on.

      So for a lot of the wealthiest people, say those on ten times the median national income or more ($290,000 p.a. plus), the tax cuts will make absolutely zero difference to their lifestyle. It makes no sense to drink more champagne, have another luxurious holiday, eat another 5 star meal, collect another original artwork or buy yet another BMW.

      The only satisfaction from their tax cuts is the satisfaction from scoring additional ‘points’ and from the feeling that they are now even further ahead of the mass pack of people in New Zealand.

      • Puddleglum 14.1.1

        You’re quite right – and Richard Prebble has confirmed this very point. In the last chapter (or so) of ‘I’ve been thinking’, he criticises the ‘envious’ by pointing out that most wealthy people he hob-knobbed with were reasonably un-ostentatious in terms of consumption. They saw their wealth, the numbers in their account, as a scorecard.

        So, there you go. Such massive amounts of wealth are accumulated and ‘owned’ largely because some (mostly) men need to measure their success on an infinite scale. 

        Sad, but apparently true for some poor souls – according to Richard, anyway.

        • McFlock

          “I’ve Been Thinking”? That brings it back. In the tradition of Sun Tzu I bought it when it came out – aside from it being shit, the young ACT salesman was proud that it was the only book he’d ever read.

  15. logie97 15

    What ever happened to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. When the RWNJs are prepared to put gloves on and unblock urinals and toilets for bugger all money, and thus maintain a healthy disease free community for the likes of “sit-on-your-arse-contribute-nothing-to-society-creep-Penguins, we might begin to address the issue of who pays their fair share in tax…

  16. Sookie 16

    I get pissed off with paying tax as much as the next person, and yet I know it is necessary if I want to live in a stable, successful, fair and reasonable society. I studied hard, worked hard, showed initiative, and I expect to be recognised, rewarded and not punished for doing that. So I understand why righties get annoyed by calls from the left about paying more tax. My issue isn’t with ‘rich pricks’ who are in jobs with PAYE, they do pay enough, my issue is with bastards who dodge tax, like farmers and people with dodgy family trusts. Labour needs to find some balls and announce a Capital Gains Tax and more tightening of loopholes around trusts, its an untapped source of tax revenue we desperately need. I can’t understand why righties would think Capital Gains is a bad idea for NZ, its a no brainer.

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