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Greens: proposal to tax excess corporate profits

Written By: - Date published: 1:14 pm, October 30th, 2022 - 46 comments
Categories: greens, julie anne genter, tax - Tags:


The Green Party has today put forward proposals to ensure large corporations profiteering from high inflation are taxed fairly and the money used to support people to make ends meet.

“An excess profit tax would be a simple and effective way for large corporations to pay their fair share, unlocking the resources all of us need to live with dignity, put a roof over our heads and food on the table,” says Green Party Finance spokesperson, Julie Anne Genter.

“Right now, as thousands of kids go hungry, supermarkets are raking in an excess profit of more than $1 million per day. As people struggle to pay the mortgage and their rent, Australian-owned banks are making record profits of over $6 billion. As tamariki go to sleep shivering, energy companies are generating eye-watering profits.

“And yet, having done nothing to earn it, nearly every dollar of excess corporate profit is going straight into the padded pockets of shareholders and corporate executives – rather being shared amongst all of us. This simply isn’t right.

“The Green Party does not accept large corporations making a killing in profits, while tens of thousands of families struggle to make ends meet. Our position is clear: when large corporations make excessive profits from a change in circumstances that affects us all, those benefits should be shared.

“We are committed to a fair and progressive tax system where the wealthiest pay their fair share so we can fund strong public services and ensure those with the least have enough to live on.

“Today, we have released a discussion document exploring how an excess profit tax could be designed – and how the additional revenue should be spent. We are also considering the alternative of raising company tax rates so that all profits are taxed more.

“Reflecting on a period of unprecedented growth in corporate profits, now is the time for a conversation about how we rebalance the tax system towards supporting the people who need it the most – and we invite all New Zealanders to have their say,” Julie Anne Genter.

___________________________________________________

Details and discussion document here.

Green Party 2020 Progressive Tax policy here.

46 comments on “Greens: proposal to tax excess corporate profits ”

  1. Mac1 1

    There are two issues here, and one is explained well enough for me- that inordinate profits are taxed and put into the public purse.

    The second issue is to whom and in particular how the redistribution takes place- by lower taxes on low income brackets, by grants and payments, by increasing benefits and superannuation, by augmenting government services such as health, housing, public transport?

    It's the second part of Ms Genter's statement in the final paragraph above, "how we rebalance the tax system towards supporting the people who need it the most…"

    • arkie 1.1

      we consider that revenue could be used for a range of areas to ease the inflationary pressures on people and help transition to a more equitable, lower emissions economy:

      • A cost of living payment extension, with eligibility expanded to include beneficiaries.
      • Cancelling MSD debt accrued to pay for essentials (noting ongoing funding would be needed to ensure incomes are adequate to prevent future debt).
      • Partially cancelling student debt.
      • Increasing funding to Kainga Ora to build public housing, or providing this to iwi, local government, and community housing providers to use for housing.
      • Establishing a sovereign wealth fund that could provide ongoing smaller grants for both environmentally and socially beneficial programmes.
      • One-off subsidies for measures that improve energy efficiency and environmental performance of housing.
      • One-off capital grants to public institutions, for example to enable repairs or upgrades of hospitals and schools.
      • Easy to implement capital works that reduce carbon emissions, such as creating new cycleways and installing solar panels on public housing.

      From the discussion document at https://www.greens.org.nz/excess_profits_tax

    • Radical Alternative 1.2

      I'm not any kind of tax expert, but as I understand it, most NZ branches of foreign multinationals aren't making much profit on paper due to various tax avoidance schemes. Surely the goal should be to stop them doing that, instead of just imposing a barrier with an easy work around.

      https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/top-multinationals-pay-almost-no-tax-in-new-zealand/MABUXPEGHISZWPEDKC3EWA7M6I/

  2. Waz 2

    This would help, but we need to go way further than that with taxes.

    Adjusting taxes progressively could do a lot to ease the cost of living crisis, address the shortfalls in health, housing, education and infrastructure, and even lower inflation if it was well balanced.

    We need to change the view that doing so would be political suicide. One way or another we all end up paying more for the cuts than we save. Somehow we need to get that through to people.

    I'm fairly certain Jacinda could have done it, but she didn't have the support she needed in Labour, and the moment has probably passed for at least a generation.

    • weka 2.1

      the Greens 2020 progressive tax policy. I'll add it to the post.

      https://www.greens.org.nz/progressive_tax_reform

      We need to change the view that doing so would be political suicide.

      Yep. Easiest way I can see is to increase the Green MPs next year and drag the Overton Window leftwards in the process. Biggest block I see to that is lefties trashing the Greens (for a range of reasons). If the left swung behind the Greens, the other obstacles like MSM and Nact scaremongering would be much easier to handle.

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    Various pundits such as Robert Reich from USA have long pointed out that monopolistic corporations use inflation as a cover to keep price gouging. And it is the same in NZ if you go anywhere near the supermarket duopoly or a building supply retailer, you will likely have the distinct feeling you are being ripped.

    I support the Greens raising this but really it will take a political movement outside Parliament as well to push seriously taking on the corporates. The Aussie Banks are major exporters–of hard working NZers money! via repatriated profits, as are various other corporate entities–it is time the employing class was given a big slap. “Trickle down” was exposed as bollocks years ago. CEOs must not believe their fortune that in NZ people still believe.

    Adrian Orr has little idea of class left politics and most of the NZ Labour Caucus do not either. Labour sits meekly accepting what mainstream economists burp out–“unemployment must rise for inflation to drop…” like hell it must!

    Fight for those Fair Pay Agreements, build union membership and public support for retiring the rotten Parliamentary neo liberal/monetarist consensus.

  4. It is never too late for an idea suitable for the times. A crisis should not enrich the few.

  5. Jack 5

    It’s called a win fall tax and copied from the Tories in the UK.

    Interesting alignment by the Greens with Tory policy.

    https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2022/05/26/cost-of-living-crisis-uk-slaps-windfall-tax-on-oil-and-gas-giants.html

  6. Maurice 6

    Thought that corporate profits were already taxed?

    Is this a proposal to further tax the remainder?

  7. Muttonbird 7

    This is probably the same thing but why can’t company tax be progressive like personal income tax, instead of flat like it is now?

    Reckon this would be an easier sell than a windfall or excess profit tax.

    • Hunter Thompson II 7.1

      A progressive company tax might invite the corporates to engage in even more creative accounting than they do now, so their books might show minimal profits to tax.

      And a flat company rate has the advantage of simplicity.

      Worth a look are the Tax Working Group papers from 2019. They considered options for the NZ tax system. See https://taxworkinggroup.govt.nz/

    • mikesh 7.2

      It would be better if corporate tax was set at zero, and all profits were paid to the shareholders as dividends. The latter could then pay the necessary tax at their own personal tax rates. It would save messing about with "imputation credits" and all that stuff.

  8. Mike the Lefty 8

    No doubt ACT (and probably National too) will come out against that because in their eyes there is no such thing as excessive profit.

  9. tsmithfield 9

    So, how is an "excess profit" defined?

    Is it just a case of saying "Shit, that's a big profit. How could that be justified? Lets tax it more".

    • arkie 9.1

      Economists have a concept of “normal” profit of firms and “excess” profits. Excess profits often can’t be justified by the nature of that business and their operation, and instead are the result of factors outside their control. When there are times of collective struggle – such as we’ve all faced over the pandemic – it is particularly concerning to see some businesses making excess profits, and particularly important that the benefits are shared.

      Methods used to calculate excess profit in other places where taxes have been applied include:

      1. Average earnings method: this involves a comparison of a company’s normal profit from the period immediately before the change of economic conditions that led to the excess profits, and their profit after the change in conditions. For example, this could be applied in New Zealand by looking at 2017-2019, before COVID-19, and then comparing that with profits made once COVID-19 hit in 2020-2022.
      2. Invested capital method: this involves looking at the return on equity or total assets and determining that any return above a certain percentage are excess profits. Different sectors historically have different levels of return, so there may need to be adjustments across different industries.

      The excess profits tax implemented in the United States in World War I and World War II allowed businesses to choose which method they wanted to apply. This is a potential option to ensure that businesses with different structures and lifespans are treated fairly – for example, to avoid penalising a business that has recently been established. It would also be possible to apply the tax only to businesses with revenue above a threshold amount.

      From the discussion document at https://www.greens.org.nz/excess_profits_tax

      • weka 9.1.1

        appreciate your link explaining Arkie, and it's helpful for others who don't have the time to read the whole document.

      • tsmithfield 9.1.2

        So, lets say a farmer has a great year, and makes "excess profit", should they be taxed more on that (bearing in mind that profits are taxed anyway), or should they be able to keep that profit at the standard tax level for that income, on the basis that next year they might have a terrible year, such as having all their crops wiped out by hail for instance.

        Such is the nature of business. It isn't a one-way bet.

        • arkie 9.1.2.1

          The proposal isn't to apply the tax to farmers:

          Applying the tax to specific sectors can help with administrative simplicity. Options for sectors in Aotearoa include those that have been making record profits during recent times and/or have significant issues with competitiveness.

          This could include:

          • Banks
          • Fuel companies
          • Supermarkets
          • Building products suppliers
          • Energy generators/retailers (‘gentailers’).

          These sectors have had the highest contribution to CPI inflation in New Zealand and have varying degrees of issues with market competitiveness. This means they are the greatest cause of the rising cost of living, with the least innovation gains justifying the high profits. All of these industries provide essential goods and services to people and so there is a public interest in ensuring excess profits are not being made.

          From the discussion document at https://www.greens.org.nz/excess_profits_tax

          It's not a long document, I'm sure it can answer a lot of questions you might have.

          • Poission 9.1.2.1.1

            Looks like a response paper,written by someone outside their level of skill,promulgating hobgoblins as a cause of inflation and profits rather then policy that has been a driver of supply shortages ( and cost inflation).

        • Stuart Munro 9.1.2.2

          I expect that excess profits would be defined by their lack of relation to products or services.

          So a farmer that had a good year defined by high production would not be affected, though conceivably the discovery of an unobtainium deposit on their land might.

          Unearned wealth, like that obtained by inflating interest rates or non-productive property values, would be an obvious target, while increasing value by developing productive (or ecological) value would ordinarily be exempt.

    • Jimmy 9.2

      My thoughts exactly, what is an excessive profit in your eyes, may not be to me.

      If I invest $5 million and make a profit of $100,000 ie. 2%, is that excessive? Is that my "normal profit" to be expected? If my profit next year is $200,000 or 4%, is that then excessive?

      What if someone is more efficient than me, and makes $250,000 profit off their $5m investment? Am I no longer excessive, but they are?

  10. tsmithfield 10

    Ok. I will have a look at the link when I get a chance to take the time to read it carefully.

    However, tt seems to me that those type of industries that have been identified are ones that could have limited competition (i.e. oligopolies), and hence higher profits as a result.

    So, a key component in ensuring that profits are fair is to ensure that there is adequate competition, and our rules allow for that. In that respect, I agree with some of the work the government has been doing to enable more competition in the supermarket sector.

    A general problem I see with the concept of taxing “excess profits”, is that firstly, the industries you have identified are critical to our economy. So, if taxes are perceived as too onerous, they may decide to exit the country. Such an effect could reduce competition, making the situation worse.

    Secondly, if this category of business is effectively an oligopoly, then their power in the market place would likely enable them to simply pass on the extra tax to consumers in the form of higher prices so their net position doesn't change. But the effect is that consumers are worse off.

    So, the answer seems to me is to find ways to encourage more competition in the market in areas where there are only a few major players.

    So far as energy generators are concerned, I have previously said in other posts that I think generation should be owned by the government since we are too small to justify multiple generation companies, and necessary strategic decisions are often outside the timeframe that commercial businesses would normally function under.

    • Poission 10.1

      So far as energy generators are concerned, I have previously said in other posts that I think generation should be owned by the government since we are too small to justify multiple generation companies

      Profits and costs to consumers here are very different beasts.The generators have absorbed 1.5b$ of carbon costs,with consumer cost changes mostly due to policy changes such as the removal of prompt payment discounts,and the increase to low user line charges.As both efficiency in household appliances,and usage there is little change over the last decade.

      As the system regulator noted.

      Energy affordability is a core pillar of the energy trilemma.
      Electrification is only likely to occur if electricity is affordable
      and competitive against other forms of energy.
      At a household level, the real average cost of electricity hasn’t
      changed much in the last decade: the average price per kWh
      decreased from $0.31 in 2012 to $0.30 in 2022. Over the same
      period, the average household consumption has fallen 4.6%. As
      of March 2022, the average household uses 7,261 kWh per year,
      down from 7,609 in 2012. Consequently, the real average
      household bill has also decreased and is now $2,194 per year – a
      reduction of 5.9% since 2012.

      However, whether these trends continue is uncertain: on 1 April
      2022, the Government announced the phase out of the low user
      fixed charge tariff.

      Genter is waffling there.

  11. Maurice 11

    Surely it would be far better to reduce the prices charged to consumers as any "excess Profits" have been torn out of their pockets. A tax providing more money for Government would become self reinforcing … they would never want less tax …….

    An excess profits tax would essentially be an extra tax on consumers who have already paid GST anyway and all the tax already levied on present profits. The Government also gets a dividend now if I remember correctly

    There is a local electricity trust dividend paid to consumers …. perhaps that could simply be increased?

    • Ad 11.1

      Indeed one wonders what the regulators are for, which include RBNZ, EA, and Commerce Commission. Plus the government reviews into supermarkets and fuel.

      Also that the government owns the near-monopoly airline, 1 of the banks, and majority holdings in several electricity generators. Printing money. So the government is already getting much of this profit back already as owner or part owner.

      Hate to think what happens to NZSuper or our Kiwibank accounts if this Green policy became part of coalition talks. Terrible now, would get far worse. Every 5% off a Kiwisaver is even more off a first home mortgage capacity.

  12. Jenny are we there yet 12

    "The Green Party has today put forward proposals to ensure large corporations profiteering from high inflation are taxed fairly and the money used to support people to make ends meet." Notices and Features

    My hat off to the Green Party for raising this issue and putting it in the ballot to be debated in parliament. and to Te Pati Maori for supporting them.

    A Labour Government and a Labour Party welded to neo-liberal economics, will fight to the death before they agree to anything like this.

    The voting public need hear the government's arguments for voting it down.

  13. tsmithfield 13

    One of the main problems with the “excess profit” proposal is it makes the tax system substantially more complex which dramatically increase the amount of churn.

    I think the answer is to make the tax system as flat and simple as possible. Ideally a completely flat tax system. Then use mechanisms similar to family support etc to return money to the needy to meet social objectives.

    The benefits of this type of concept is that the amount of churn is minimised which should mean more money available for social objectives.

    All that would be required would be to set the flat tax rate at a level that maximises tax revenue as per the Laffer curve. This approach will minimise churn and ensure the maximum amount of revenue is generated from the tax system.

    Then taxpayers can be compensated according to their need. This would likely mean needy are taxed more from the tax system, but correspondingly receive more back in terms of benefits etc. So they shouldn’t be worse off, and may even be better off, as, if more revenue is generated and less wasted, then there will be more available to distribute to the needy.

    Surely that would be a great result from a socialist perspective.

    • Jimmy 13.1

      Test for excessive profits:

      Did you work hard and earn a profit? If answer is Yes, that's excessive. Please send it to the government so they can re-distribute to some one who hasn't worked.

      • roy cartland 13.1.1

        Have you earned your profit, or abused the market and effectively stolen it? (If it's inflammatory, ideological soundbites time.)

        • Jimmy 13.1.1.1

          So as long as I have 'earned' my profit, and not abused the market (bit unsure about how you abuse the market) it's not excessive?

  14. mikesh 14

    First the Greens proposed a capital gains tax, but Winston foreclosed on that idea and JA said "no,no,no, not in my time as PM". Then they came up with the idea of a wealth tax, but Crusher, at the last election, said "we won't", so JA was forced to follow suit. Now they've come up with the idea of an excess profits tax. What will they come up with when this one is shelved. I think they have to wait for JA to lose power, so that thy can start the cycle all over again.

    • Poission 14.1

      The trouble is it is mostly bullshit,there is no excess pricing in the energy sector (electricity costs have decreased by 5.9% in real terms since 2012) and despite price gouging from the carbon tax.

      Banks since 2017 ( since labour has been in ) have seen an increase in profits by 1b dollars (all banks) the 20% rise in profits is against an inflation rate of 18.6% which sees the increase being around 3.3% compound interest over the same period.

      • Ad 14.1.1

        Well have the generators' costs gone up as fast as my power bill? I don't think so.

        In fact would anyone – even in MBIE – be able to interpret the logic behind an EA decision about a fair market price at any one point? I bet not even Molly Melhuish could.

        And I think both the EA and the gentailers like it that way.

        • Poission 14.1.1.1

          My power bill (excluding solar) has the unit cost the same as 2019,and a decrease in the fixed daily charge of 10%.Might pay to start managing your expenditure and costs.

          With solar my power bill will be around 250$ for the next 6 months,depending on weather conditions.

          Large generator costs has seen 1.5 billion of carbon costs,(since 2017) along with increased gas prices,and baseload hydro dependent on inflow ( with snow melt underway and high storage,along with large inflow this week) storage reserves should be satisfactory.

          MBIE has little modelling skills,EA is short of staff ( lots of information not being analysed ) and an emphasis on social modelling gaps,rather then the gaps between phase and neutral.

  15. Mat Simpson 15

    ” The Green Party says many supermarkets, fuel retailers, power companies, and banks are not paying their fair share of tax.

    The party’s finance spokesperson Julie Anne Genter has called for a new windfall tax on excess profits made by major corporations.

    “Right now, as thousands of kids go hungry, supermarkets are raking in an excess profit of more than $1 million per day. As people struggle to pay the mortgage and their rent, Australian-owned banks are making record profits of over $6 billion. As tamariki go to sleep shivering, energy companies are generating eye-watering profits.

    “And yet, having done nothing to earn it, nearly every dollar of excess corporate profit is going straight into the padded pockets of shareholders and corporate executives – rather being shared amongst all of us. This simply isn’t right.

    Adern and Robertson predictably respond like only a neo liberal New Labour party could.

    Both Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson have said they did not favour a windfall tax.

    Ardern told Morning Report that most countries that have introduced windfall taxes have large oil and gas companies which were reaping the benefits of high energy prices at present.

    However, Genter said it was surprising that Robertson would not support a fair way to raise more revenue.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/477751/windfall-tax-needed-to-rein-in-excess-profits-of-major-corporates-greens

  16. Jenny are we there yet 16

    If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to here it, does it make a sound?

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/130339742/government-goes-silent-on-big-tax-debate-6-months-after-promising-consultations

    Our health service is crippled.

    Families are suffering through a cost of living crisis

    Supermarkets and banksters are making record windfall profits

    Now more than ever the government need to be forced to debate windfall tax in parliament.

  17. Jenny are we there yet 17

    Tax the rich, say the rich:

    …..But some millionaires want to pay more tax – to reduce inequality and pay to fix society's biggest problems.

    "I can tell you I'm not spending more money when I'm getting richer and richer and richer," said Djaffar Shalchi, an entrepreneur from Denmark.

    "I eat three times a day I have to have clothes and so on, but the wealth is just accumulated. And we can see that the last four decades it has been extreme.

    "Under COVID, it has opened everybody's eyes that something has to address that problem."

    The founder of Millionaires for Humanity, a network of wealthy people who advocate for raising taxes on wealthy people, he points to Norway – which has long had a wealth tax – and newly-passed imposts in Argentina and Bolivia…..

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-11-02/the-millionaires-who-want-to-pay-more-tax/100586728

    Is Jim Bolger to the Left of Prime Minister Ardern on tax justice?

    When some millionaires are asking us to tax them more, Why are Labour only listening to the most venal of them? It leaves you wondering.

    Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger backs letter calling for tax on rich

    Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger is backing calls for taxes on the rich to be raised, saying the wealthy need to help pay for New Zealand's COVID-19 recovery.

    "The tax system is totally unbalanced," Bolger says, "and the multibillionaires, and the billionaires, and the millionaires are all not paying their fair share of taxes."…

    …..

    "The tax system is totally unbalanced," Bolger says, "and the multibillionaires, and the billionaires, and the millionaires are all not paying their fair share of taxes."

    His comments come after some of New Zealand's richest residents signed a letter urging governments across the world to raise taxes for the wealthy.

    The Millionaires for Humanity letter was organised by the United States group The Patriotic Millionaires, and says that while they aren't essential workers with frontline skills, "we do have money, lots of it.

    "We ask our governments to raise taxes on people like us. Immediately. Substantially. Permanently," the letter continues.

    The letter has been signed by The Warehouse Group founder Sir Stephen Tindall and Hire Things founder Peter Torr Smith…..

    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/07/former-prime-minister-jim-bolger-backs-letter-calling-tax-on-rich.html

    Why doesn't the government listen to these guys?

    We need to hear their reasons.

  18. Jenny are we there yet 18

    Sponsor a multinational

    The Greens are being way too hard on our poor multinational banks and supermarket duopoly.

    They need all the support from government they can get.

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