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Half of rich still cheating on tax

Written By: - Date published: 10:19 am, August 27th, 2012 - 75 comments
Categories: class war, tax - Tags:

Remember how National’s excuse for cutting the top tax rate from 39% to align with the trust rate at 33% was that half of the rich were dodging the top tax rate – so, they should all get a tax cut. Tax cuts for tax cheats, it was called. And guess what? They’re still cheating. Only half of the ultra-rich are paying even that slashed 33% rate. When they cheat we pay with cut services, higher charges, and more government debt.


75 comments on “Half of rich still cheating on tax”

  1. Rusty Shackleford 1

    “When they cheat we pay with cut services, higher charges, and more government debt.”

    The govt should allocate those resources based on the money it actually has, not based on the money it thinks it will have. Hatched chickens and all that. Well… that’s how the rest of us are expected to align our finances anyway.

    Are there any figures on the tax take pre and post tax cut? I’m willing to bet the tax cut didn’t have an effect on the total amount gathered from that top tax bracket.

    • Bored 1.1

      Fekk, I agree with Rusty, what is happening to the world?

      • Tom Gould 1.1.1

        Key is in the $50m plus club, according to NBR. So there’s a 50/50 chance he is not paying full whack too.

        • Herodotus

          I think you will find he is, as his PM’s salary will be declared and will have PAYE tax deducted at source. And as his assets are in a blind trust he will not have the information how to max his income and min. his tax.
          At least 50% ARE paying the highest marginal rate. Also Lab and Nat are consistent in attacking PAYE workers and how much someone on $60-$120k are the real target. Even though many teachers/nurses/police etc have no ability to “manage” their financial affairs in a way that those on the extreme end of the wealth spectrum are able to.

    • Colonial Viper 1.2

      The govt should allocate those resources based on the money it actually has, not based on the money it thinks it will have. Hatched chickens and all that. Well… that’s how the rest of us are expected to align our finances anyway.

      No private sector company does it the way that you say. Forecasting, budgeting, and commiting to projects and expenditure in advance is a way of life.

      Not even ordinary home buyers do what you say – people buy houses using mortgages, and those mortgages are taken out based in expectations of future (uncertain to some extent) income – not money on hand today.

      God you’re ignorant.

      • Rusty Shackleford 1.2.1

        CV, there is no need to resort to invective.

      • Bored 1.2.2

        In defense of Rusty he has pointed out (maybe unwittingly) that there is a need to only spend what is earned…no credit creation..no debt based on future growth (methinks this might not be where he was going but….)

        • Mike

          “In defense of Rusty he has pointed out (maybe unwittingly) that there is a need to only spend what is earned…no credit creation..no debt based on future growth (methinks this might not be where he was going but….)”

          No credit creation??? How do you think money is created?

  2. infused 2

    It hasn’t if you take a read.

    • Rusty Shackleford 2.1

      Take a read of what?

      • Lanthanide 2.1.1

        Infused is strictly incorrect as he didn’t address your question.

        You are asking if the total in $ terms from the top tax bracket is the same after the cut as before it. What infused is talking about is what is written in the article on stuff, purely that the proportion of those with $50m+ (including Key one should assume…) paying the top tax rate didn’t change after the tax cut.

        Anyway, to simply answer your question, it is clearly yes, there is less money coming from the top tax bracket, not “the same” as you imply. We know this because of treasury’s predictions and using this as the excuse to raise GST.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          “Predictions”? So we have no actual figures? Treasury are always going to assume that a cut in percentage will lead to a drop in revenue when this isn’t always the case.

          • Lanthanide

            I’m sure the figures exist. I’m also sure what they’re going to say. You’re the one who is wondering, you go do the work to look it up, I’m certainly not going to do it for you.

          • Colonial Viper

            “Predictions”? So we have no actual figures? Treasury are always going to assume that a cut in percentage will lead to a drop in revenue when this isn’t always the case.

            Tax cuts are the cheapest, fastest, surest way for the rich to retain more profits (and for the state coffers to get less). Better than taking on the risk of a new business or being an entrepreneur.

          • mike e

            early figures say we are down by about 1.1 to 1.5 billion dollars.

        • aerobubble

          Yes, the burden of taxation was moved down the income deciles, and raised over all of NZ.

  3. CJA 3

    Guys seriously this isn’t correct. A lot of these people will be paying the same if not significantly more tax than most. Most of their income generating assets will be in trusts and companies which have a flat tax rate of 33% and 28% respectively.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Of course the trick (as you well know) is to move as many of the personal expenses you incur as possible into the business expenses column.

      Further, the wealthiest in this country can afford to pay far more than they are now.

    • Mr Burns 3.2

      Yes leave the wealthy alone. After all they are paying their fair share of tax. You do have the figures CJA, don’t you?

      • CJA 3.2.1

        Mr Burns did you read the article? Check out the throw away comment at the bottom, which no doubt some may have missed. “Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said the figures did not include tax that may have been paid on income from trusts and dividends. ” No I don’t have all the figures but do you have the figures for the tax paid on the income in trusts from these individuals?

        • Mr Burns

          No I don’t have the figures for the tax paid on the income in trusts but I am not the one saying that James Henderson’s claims are not correct.

          • CJA

            Was actually referring to the article in Stuff. See the link and have a read.

            • Mr Burns

              I’m confused CJA.  Are you for the god given right of the rich to gorge themselves on the collective wealth of the community to the detriment of the many and to wreck the environment in pursuit of filthy lucre or not?

  4. Johnm 4

    One of the behaviours that eventually ruins a once proud and viable nation reducing it to a shambles as with Greece, the UK and the U$: Link:


  5. TighyRighty 5

    You have gone and made the same mistake the sst has. Equating wealth with income. I bet the avoidance rate is no worse, at worst, than it was when the top tax rate was 38%

    • framu 5.1

      Okely dokely – how many people get to be multi millionaires and earn under 70k pa at the same time?

      • insider 5.1.1

        Invest in Apple shares….

        You can accumulate assets over a lifetime and so be ‘wealthy’, but income is measured at a single point in time or a much more limited time so may tell a completely different story. If you’re retired, at a pretty reasonable 5% return, you’d still need well over $1m in income generating assets alone to get close to a 70k income. I wouldn’t call less than a senior teacher’s salary the lap of luxury.

        • Mike

          Right, so 90 of the richest individuals in the country, worth more than 50 million each, had personal incomes of less than 70k last year.

      • Bored 5.1.2

        Its easy Framu, what you need are multiple nations in which you earn and transfer the dosh! Theoretically here’s how you do it…

        1. Your company earns a large profit BUT you pay yourself only $40K….just to keep the IRD happy you are legit and resident.
        2. Your offshore subsidiary (based in the Cayman Islands or Mars or some other zero tax zone) in which you are a 100% shareholder invoices you for marketing fees, management fees, IP, licensing or some other spurious “soft” transaction. It invoices you more than the total profit.
        3. Your company in NZ files a loss and claims a tax credit….
        4. Switzerland has these wonderful bank accounts.

      • TightyRighty 5.1.3

        I actually wonder how many were worth that much but aren’t any longer and getting even any tax out them is a gain? Wealth and income are two distinct things and should be regarded in different lights. My income went up over the last financial year, but my net wealth went down. I’m not wealthy enough to make a difference but it would be nice if I could claim a tax refund in light of not being as wealthy as I once was. I can’t. Too bad.

    • lprent 5.2

      Probably. In fact I’d almost bet that lowering the rate made absolutely no difference to the compliance and the total nett effect was that it simply dropped the tax take. The wealthy generally aren’t that sensitive to tax rates.

      They tend to fall into one of two groups – the ones that think that any tax is too much (ie the ACToids) and who will avoid all taxes, and the ones that are prepared to pay tax if it isn’t excessive (like the 60%+ rates my old man had) and won’t avoid until it is. Neither change their avoidance/evasion behaviours for minor shifts in tax rates.

      Good reason to push the rate back up and then to subject EXCESSIVE avoidance to the full weight of tax auditing. I’d also remove all tax exemptions on donations to political parties including GST exemptions. Quite simply concentrate a good proportion of the IRD’s resources on the people with high incomes and low payment levels of tax. If we lose them to another country then everyone benefits because in my experience most of the people who are major tax avoiders are parasites all the way through the economy as well…

  6. tsmithfield 6

    The answer seems simple. Align the top tax rate, company rate, and trust rate.

    The company rate is a few points lower than the top income tax rate, so high income earners can simply leave their profits in the company to be taxed at the company rate. Aligning the rates would remove this advantage.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Would help. An asset tax would also as it would take pressure off those earning only $100K pa. We overtax income, currently, and way under tax assets.

    • Mr Burns 6.2

      Yes let’s give the wealthy another tax cut. After all the past couple have really improved things for everyone.

      • McFlock 6.2.1

        nah – align them all at 39% for starters 🙂

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Why not 100%?

          • RedLogix

            Well the US economy boomed during the 40 -60’s when the top tax rate was in the order of 90% … so I’d have to say that’s not a bad suggestion there Rusty.

          • Dv

            Rusty, what a really dumb idea.
            How would the Nacts have enough moneyfor example to bail out SCF, set up charter schools, impose national standards etc etc!!!!!

          • McFlock

            Didn’t know you were a c0mmun1st, Rusty. Riding that ideological rollercoaster, eh?

            • Colonial Viper

              Forget income taxes. Drop all those to a flat 20% with a tax free income threshold of say $15K, and replace the revenue by getting a real assets tax and FTT in place.

              • McFlock

                Possibly – but the transition is just as important as the tax objective.
                If we dropped income tax and the FTT failed to perform up to spec, we’d have a major issue. Raising income tax to address the immediate shortfall as an intermediary before FTT / asset tax would ease the transition.
                I’m still a bit leery about a real assets tax – what I worry about is that AFAIK it is a tax based on a reasonable projected return on the asset? So if it’s not being run with the primary objective of being a commercial entity, it might lead to asset rich – cash poor situations. Which is a bit harsh for e.g. planting native bush in large blocks rather than copying all your neighbours and doing intensive dairy farming. 

                • Draco T Bastard

                  That just tells us that some things shouldn’t be left to the market.

                  • McFlock

                    Which doesn’t actually solve the problem of how one taxes property based on its book value, rather than just the income that property accrues. 

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Actually, the CCT that is put forward in the Big Kahuna has it so that if the income doesn’t match the minimum amount the owner gets a tax credit.

                      Things such as native forests should probably be left to government as they’ve got the long term capability that a private owner doesn’t have.

                      Then there’s the fact that an over supply of farms is bad for the country environmentally, economically and socially.

                    • McFlock

                      Okay, tax credits on insufficient income from capital assets. Fair enough.
                      The native forest angle sounds odd, though. Why shouldn’t people who own something run it for a non-commercial reason? Native bush on farmland is one example – maybe having a theatre or art gallery in commercial property, rather than a box store?

                • Colonial Viper

                  Yep those are definitely fair concerns, McFlock. I agree the transition planning would probably need a bit more depth 🙂

              • Foreign Waka

                Tax Trust Funds and regulate any money transfers to off shore accounts. It was discovered that the top earners in the richest European countries transfer their money to Singapore. You can bet that there will be no problem with keeping that under the radar.

    • Bored 6.3

      All good, except see my answer to Framu….I have real life experience of working for multinationals who were very good at the transfer of profit away from NZ to lower tax countries. That is what has driven the major chunk of tax revenue diminution for most first world economies.

    • felix 6.4

      “The answer seems simple. Align the top tax rate, company rate, and trust rate.

      The company rate is a few points lower than the top income tax rate, so high income earners can simply leave their profits in the company to be taxed at the company rate. Aligning the rates would remove this advantage.”

      Unfortunately tsmithfield, the Minister of Finance is either a moron or a cretin. He said he was going to address the problem by aligning the rates, but then dropped them both.

      Which do you think it is – moron or cretin? I find it hard to believe he’s that stupid so I’m going with cretin. He wants the loophole left in place so he left it in place.

  7. Descendant Of Smith 7

    Nope tax business at a gross rate not a net just like employees. Their expenses and profit should be an issue for their owners and shareholders.

    • Bored 7.1

      Personally I don’t think there is a need to do anything other than to have the IRD target some of the $70K millionaires and go through their books in fine detail, then apply the regulations / law. Even if the IRD don’t nail them they can gather GST and company tax from the people who earn their dosh working as tax accountants / lawyers for the $70K Club.

      • CJA 7.1.1

        Bored generally speaking the IRD will target these people and specific professions (i.e. Penny and Hooper case). Based on what I have seen in the profession the “millionaires” actually do things above board because they know if they get caught doing something illegal the IRD will come down on them like a ton of bricks.

        • Bored

          You are right, however it is amazing how easy it is to be one step removed. I for many years attended management meetings for two different multinationals whose CFOs spent vast amounts of their time working through acceptable ways of presenting international inter company transactions to the IRD. It was really just a game of cat and mouse.

          • CJA

            Transfer pricing was definitely an area that was focussed on quite heavily in the past as you mentioned.

            • insider

              Playing with transfer pricing was always considered a risky game where I worked because the IRD were open about their close interest in it. Most of the time was spent trying to ensure that everything was justifiable and squeaky clean to avoid an audit rather than trying to push the boundaries and encourage one.

    • Polish Pride 7.2

      Right….. almost businesses would fail in such a scenario. Mine in particular has a significant turnover (high cost of inputs) and has come out at a net loss… Tax it at the gross amount and it ceases to exist like probably some 80% of businesses I am guessing. Way to implode your economy……. Then given the fact that we need to change the entire system to one that works for people that might not be a bad thing..

      That is not the way it is for employees either. Employees are taxed on the net amount they earn and then pay tax on that figure although it is often referred to as a net figure after tax.
      Businesses likewise are taxed on the Net amount they earn too.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.2.1

        Employees are taxed on the net amount they earn and then pay tax on that figure although it is often referred to as a net figure after tax.

        Employees are taxed at their gross income. They don’t get to claim expenses to reduce their tax bill.

      • Descendant Of Smith 7.2.2

        Nah they wouldn’t because the taxing at gross would mean a really low tax rate and would pick up revenue that is currently missed from places like the banking sector.

        It would also reduce the number of businesses set up to transfer income from one to the other to minimise tax, increasing productivity by removing those non-producing businesses from the economy.

        What you can claim now gives some businesses a big advantage over others as does how thety structure.

        If every business was on the same footing it would be much simpler and easier to administer as well.

        If you think the tax rate might be 5% or so – certainly no higher than 10%.Maybe as low as 3% – I can’t find a figure that gives me the total gross before expenses that all business make.

  8. Tracey 8

    Isn’t this a return to t he CGT argument, which National seems to want to avoid…

  9. RedBat 9

    Time the rich left. We don’t need them.

    • Kotahi Tāne Huna 9.1

      I agree – they should all go Galt. No-one would notice or even care, and once they realised that without society all their riches are worthless, no-one would notice them come crawling back 🙂

  10. RedLogix 10

    I think you are all missing the point. The rich are better people than any of us ordinary workers and there is no need for them to pay tax. They already benefit the world just by being rich.

    What they are doing is not cheating … it is their moral duty not to pay tax. Otherwise they might be propping up useless eaters and that would be just wrong.

  11. God, that woman Danya Levy shouldn’t be calling herself a journalist. What a load of rubbish. I found at least one table in stats that rebutted most of her Repeater tripe. My, more accurate analysis as follows:

    • Mr Burns 11.1

      This is a woman after my own heart. She is full of jibber jabber and doesn’t have the faintest clue what she is talking about. And she clearly believes the really rich should not pay a cent in tax.

      Can we get rid of this English fellow and appoint Monique Watson minister of finance? 

    • Dv 11.2

      From the first line of the article Monique !!
      Inland Revenue has found only half of wealthy individuals worth more than $50 million each are paying the top personal tax rate, despite Government moves to combat tax avoidance.

      SO the source was the IRD.

      • insider 11.2.1

        Assets generally aren’t taxed, only income. I have a house so reasonably substantial worth (on the grand scale of things) but it generates no income.

        How much tax was paid by entities associated with these people, is the question that logically follows, which both the IRD and tHe reporter should be asking

        • Draco T Bastard

          I have a house so reasonably substantial worth (on the grand scale of things) but it generates no income.

          That doesn’t mean that the asset itself shouldn’t be taxed. In fact, your house is – it’s called rates.

          • insider

            Hence the word ‘generally’. If the Money were tied up in gold, nothing would be payable

  12. phil 12

    Radical idea: the other 50% have income flowing through company’s and trusts.. being taxed at an effective rate of 33%.

    “Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said the figures did not include tax that may have been paid on income from trusts and dividends.”

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