Key shoots himself in foot over CGT

Written By: - Date published: 11:05 am, July 12th, 2011 - 24 comments
Categories: capital gains - Tags:

Capital gains is a good policy that builds the credibility of Labour’s economic and fiscal plan. Labour’s brilliantly run pre-launch has sparked interest and discussion. The destruction of John Key’s economic credibility has been a welcome side benefit. And it is a blow, Vernon Small points out, that Key has inflicted on himself.

Small writes:

the prime minister’s attacks on Labour’s looming capital gains tax proposal have looked increasingly unfocused and contradictory.

At first, the idea of a broad capital gains tax excluding the family home would take New Zealand “screaming backwards”. Then it would raise little cash at all, and leave Labour with a big hole in its funding plans.

Mr Key was still delivering his lines with his usual confidence, bordering on cockiness, yesterday. But the line of fire had changed and the contradictions kept mounting.

First Labour’s proposal was a new tax that would plunge a dagger through the heart of the economy; not to mention a sea anchor on growth.

Then it was a tax we already had, buttressed by changes that National had put in place last year (which raised $768 million a year but presumably were neither new nor harmful). Nor was it a tax switch, like National’s GST-for-personal-tax-cut last year, because Labour’s (unknown) policy would not be revenue-neutral. (Conveniently forgetting that National’s was not revenue-neutral in the short term either.)

Perhaps all this flailing about is because, in attacking the theory of a capital gains tax, Mr Key senses he has few friends beyond some tax accountants and the real estate industry; hence his call for reporters to contact retiring IRD policy guru Robin Oliver – one of the few key state sector advisers opposed to the idea.

On the other side are arrayed a battery of opponents from the driest of the dry at the Treasury, the Reserve Bank, the IMF and OECD, through the middle ground who see it as a fairer distribution of the tax burden, to soak-the-rich Left-wingers.

The real reason Key is so upset is not that capital gains is a bad policy. It’s not, it’s a great one that will pay to keep our assets ours, fix the misallocation of capital towards property speculation, and take tax off work. He’s upset because he didn’t have the courage to do it himself. He bought the myth that it was political suicide.

Now, he’s fallen into the trap of crying wolf too often, too loudly, and too early. As long as Labour’s policy is not everything Key has claimed – and it’s hard to see how it can be a tax grab that raises no revenue which will send economy crashing while not doing anything National didn’t do last year and not fixing a problem that National already fixed – then Labour will beat expectations, which is what political marketing is all about.

24 comments on “Key shoots himself in foot over CGT”

  1. Jim Nald 1

    Having shot himself in his foot, Key is extricating the other foot from his mouth.

    Also, see Gareth Morgan’s “Capital gains tax best way to tackle rot””

    “… Labour should at least be congratulated for addressing what we all know is the biggest tax rort in the country and one that has cost us all dearly in terms of efficient allocation of capital, economic growth and employment.”

    • mikesh 1.1

      [Also, see Gareth Morgan’s “Capital gains tax best way to tackle rot””]

      I note that Morgan would also include the family home.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        So would I. It’s rather stupid to exclude it as it means people will still have a way to dodge paying the tax that they should.

      • Luxated 1.1.2

        I would strongly encourage Labour to include the family home too, doing so avoids a large loophole which can be exploited.

        To counter-balance including the family home I would tax the capital gain as an equivalent annualised income. So if you bought a house and sold it on 10 years later for $100,000 more than you bought it for, then as an individual you add $10,000 a year for that period and pay your resulting income tax obligation. Not perfect I realise (overseas earners might be tricky, for example) but substantially better than allowing people to dodge it by claiming second houses as ‘family homes’.

        • vto

          And if the homeowner earns no or little income then how are they supposed to pay your home tax Luxated?

          Or is that not an issue? Just sue them and turf them out?

          Tax can only be paid if the money is realised.

          • Lanthanide

            That’s what he’s saying. Instead of paying 15% on capital gain of $100,000 when you sell the house, instead it is calculated as an income tax debt based on the annual return. So over 10 years that equates to $10,000/year. So you add $10,000 to your income for each of the previous 10 years, and then calculate the income tax due, and pay that.

            This is only calculated when you actually sell the house (because otherwise you don’t have the final increase of $100,000 nor the 10 year time span for how long you ‘owned’ the house).

            As the bottom rate is 10.5%, this would result in a lower tax to pay than the 15% CGT.

            Of course if you were in the higher bands, you’d end up paying more, which is not what Luxated intended I don’t think.

            Still, having a system such as this for Family Homes with the tax being due the lesser of the two figures, would go at least some way to reducing the burden.

            • Colonial Viper

              Hmmmm is that capital gains of $100K in inflation adjusted dollars?

              Because over 10 years that would have a significant impact.

            • Luxated

              That’s what he’s saying. Instead of paying 15% on capital gain of $100,000 when you sell the house, instead it is calculated as an income tax debt based on the annual return. So over 10 years that equates to $10,000/year. So you add $10,000 to your income for each of the previous 10 years, and then calculate the income tax due, and pay that.

              This is only calculated when you actually sell the house (because otherwise you don’t have the final increase of $100,000 nor the 10 year time span for how long you ‘owned’ the house).

              Precisely. Sorry I didn’t make this clearer.

              Of course if you were in the higher bands, you’d end up paying more, which is not what Luxated intended I don’t think.

              Yes and no. Yes insomuch as I understood that would be a consequence. No because I haven’t decided whether or not it is necessarily desirable.

              Hmmmm is that capital gains of $100K in inflation adjusted dollars?

              I personally can’t see of any reason why it wouldn’t be inflation adjusted (apart from what measure of inflation to use).

  2. jackal 2

    Can you destroy something that does not exist? Key never had any credibility to begin with.

    People have a choice between selling assets for a one time cash injection that will help for a couple of years and then move New Zealand further into debt or a system that helps to repair the housing system, pay off debt and retain our SOE’s. A CGT also gives New Zealand a revenue stream that can be utilized to rebuild Christchurch, repair our environment, create jobs and generally fix National’s incompetence!

    • RobertM 2.1

      Surely the Christchurch CBD should be rebuilt the way private entrepenuers want it and think will provide the most profit and entertainment. Of all NZs cities, Christchurch is the one that has been most subject to town planning, social planning and social control. As a guide to how to rebuild Christchurch exclude any Christchurch academic, doctor or achitect.
      Dave Henderson seemed to produce far more interesting clusters of bars than the very pedestrian strip.
      Christchurch dosen’t so much need billions of capital beyond the provision of basic infrastructure and services, it needs a repeal of zoning and licensing laws

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1


        Christchurch the Wild West Town, brothels casinos bars strip clubs and schools all juxtaposed right next to each other, all with no carparks or public toilets


  3. rd 3

    by Alex Tarrant | 12 Jul 11, 10:26am
    Well I asked Key about this this morning and he exasperatedly walked off after I kept asking him if capital gains taxes are so bad, why don’t we get rid of the current one? Now he’s saying wait until Thursday and ask then.

    Managed to get on Goff’s nerves too asking about whether they’d considered any impact on KiwiSaver funds, given their love for the thing.

    “It’s just two more sleeps Alex,” he replied.

  4. wawot 4

    If Labours CGT is also on shares and businesses then presumably it will apply to kiwisaver also?

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      My kiwisaver scheme is set up as a PIE and pay tax of 28% on any returns. So I think kiwisaver returns are already taxed either as PIE or your marginal income tax rate.

      A CGT could be preferentially extended to kiwisaver schemes, or maybe you would get to claim investment losses at 15% (assuming currently you can’t?).

      • Ed 4.1.1

        I would have expected most Kiwisaver funds invested in shares or property to be professionally managed funds which would already be paying tax on all capital gains. The ability to avoid tax on capital gains comes from either holding the assets for a long time (thus deferring the tax), or owning the assets other than as actively investments – hence many owners of a second property pay no tax at all on the capital gains when they sell.

        Essentially pooled funds for small investors have been paying taxes that the wealthy property investor has been able to avoid. National never said they wanted a fair system did they?

  5. David 5

    Macbeth, Act 2, scene 1

    Is this a dagger which I see before me,
    The handle toward my hand?
    . . .
    or art thou but
    A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
    Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?

  6. ChrisH 6

    He’s now baiting asylum seekers. Talk about the last refuge of a scoundrel. And looking old and haggard too, maybe the Teflon is wearing off.

  7. Adrian 7

    Of course if “they’re not welcome here ” had been policy after WW2 Key’s own mother would never have gotten here and we wouldn’t be saddled with this smarmy ‘ pull-the-ladder-up- behind-me’ bastard.

  8. Ian 8

    I’ve just had Curia on the phone asking me about my political preferences. I think I made it clear that I have little time for Key and National. I doubt that they’ll call again any time soon.

  9. Key; the king of flip flop.

    Capital gains tax would have come in handy right now in Christchurch especially in conjuction with a price freeze.

    Real Estate sharks are now hiking up the value of new development in anticipation of a boom demand market being created by those leaving the red zone !!!!!!!!!

    A responsible government would have implemented both CGT and a price freeze right from day one.

    So what are the extra powers of CERRA & CERA all about?

    Mike Coleman of the Greens, who lives in East Christchurch has just passed round an open letter on this very subject; It reveals some quite shocking behaviour on a part of the real estate industry !!!!!

    Regardless of party politics I hope we all get behind him !!!!!!!

  10. Global Conscience 10

    National tax swop last year is only tax neutral when the high earners $5000, $10 000 and above tax cuts per week are added to the mix. It has walloped the low to middle income earners so hard that vast amounts of free money to the tax dodgers and society bludgers were needed to claim neutrality.
    National are so out of touch with reality they are all bordering on megla maniacal behaviour. Hopefully Labour can mount an attack and return New Zealand to being the caring society we once were, not the selfish uold hearted greedy society that free enterprise is turning us into.

  11. Frank Macskasy 11

    Oh dear, even Bill English’s own web-site poll shows a support for CGT…

    Do you support a capital gains tax?

    No: 34%, 7614 Votes

    Yes: 67%, 15073 Votes

    Et tu, website? (As we’re on a Shakespeare ‘kick’ at the moment… )

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