Land tax – what’s the down side?

Written By: - Date published: 7:22 am, May 12th, 2016 - 74 comments
Categories: class war, housing, tax - Tags: , , , ,

I guess this was predictable:

Land tax off table for now – Housing Minister

Figures released yesterday showed only 3 percent of homes were sold to overseas-registered buyers in the six months between October and March.

Officials have stressed the new figures do not accurately reflect foreign property ownership in New Zealand.

Indeed. Bernard Hickey, based on these figures, puts the rate at somewhere between 3 and 48 percent. Why would anyone base policy decisions on such nonsense figures?

Housing Minister Nick Smith conceded there were some deficiencies in the data, but overall he said the figures showed claims that foreigners were fuelling the overheated market were “simply a diversion”.

A land tax was now off the table for now, he said.

No matter what the rate of foreign ownership is, what’s the downside in a land tax on foreign buyers? It raises revenue. It will have some cooling effect on a melt-down market. It doesn’t disadvantage Kiwis in any way. So why not do it?

I still find it hard to believe, but combined with an unwillingness to take action on our tax haven status, it really does look as if this government cares more about the interests of the international rich than the local Kiwi.

housing-dogy-data

74 comments on “Land tax – what’s the down side?”

  1. save nz 1

    The government needs to move to ban house and land sales to non residents full stop. As soon as someone is out of the country for more than 6months if they have not lived in NZ for more than 20 years, they need to sell their house or start paying a tax on it. They need to cut down on trusts hiding who owns the property. They also need to crack down on family members and others having houses and property in their name for tax or residency purposes but bought by others.

    Anyone owning a house or land here or a business needs to have IRD visit them each year for 5 years to check they are paying their fair share of taxes. If the main sponsor does not seem to work in NZ but has bought the whole family in then that should be considered a breach of their conditions of residency. If someone is in a million dollar house but does not seem to have an income and not be paying local taxes, questions need to be asked.

    I’m not a big fan of land taxes because it will probably cross over to locals and locals already struggle to pay rates which are a land tax. Rates are a joke, with councils blowing money on bad IT and lawyers as well as conference centers and malls. As an agricultural country a land tax might affect exports.

    I do think a stamp duty might work, because speculation is rife. In spite of the speculator tax people are flipping properties but just not bothering to pay the tax. Capital gains will not work as it is the locals selling and incoming migrants buying, means locals are the ones losing more. It will not effect migrants if they already don’t pay any taxes here and is hard to administer. The migrants I know, do not declare their rents they seem to float happily in the NZ system, taking super and not declaring any rents, and have them in others names anyway and sport multiple passports.

    In my view National are hoping labour will adopt a land tax, like capital gains which I think frightened people last election. And then National can frighten voters next election about higher taxes.

    Taxes should target Non residents who have less than 20 years living in NZ.

    • Ralf Crown 1.1

      It is much simpler than that. Predatory tax governments love land tax, and this is the thin end of the wedge, if they managed to get it in – soon everyone will have to pay land tax, because it is so simple to collect. You don’t pay – they take the house. This means two land taxes by different names. Rates and land tax. The solution is quit easy. Houses and homes are to live in, not investments. You live in the house – no fee – no tax. You rent it out, 80% tax on revenue plus a fixed fee annually on – say -10,000 dollars. If you are overseas or not makes no difference. You don’t rent it out – you pay tax on the value increase as an income. Each family can only own one house. If you sell within 5 years of buying – 95% speculation tax, minimum 25,000 dollars. Simple rules, simple to implement, ordinary people not hit, sharks badly hit.

  2. Lara 2

    With 35% of buyers holding temporary work visas or being foreign students, it looks like the % of foreign sales is way more than 3%.

    Why is this not being more accurately reported in mainstream media?

    Who has to gain by downplaying the % of foreign buyers of our land?

    Answer: those who want to sell for more $$. Which includes this government as they are on the whole owners of property.

  3. Pat 3

    the whole construct was and is nothing more than a delaying strategy to avoid having to take effective and meaningful action…… business as usual.

    • save nz 3.1

      Nope massive immigration has helped the Natz win the election. Newbies come in, read MSM and try to fit in with the dominant discourses, which is what a god John Key is, and how terrible Labour is, how loony the Greens are, the Maori are getting a free ride of welfare via the treaty, InternetMana are criminal radicals etc etc.

      They make donations to the National party and they get awards, partnerships and the path smoothed for them.

      In addition migrants and government policy are displacing poorer Kiwis who might not vote National out of Auckland by the price of houses and rents and the sell off of state housing.

      National has changed the electoral rules to stop marginalised voting, like prisoners (even on remand I think) and that population has swelled to 10,000 (about the amount of votes the Natz won last election by).

      f you look up wiki and election fraud, you can see how many of these devices the Natz have utilised to win.

      If sports people can tweet to vote Natz on election day while those who do a satirical video against Key are prosecuted. Something is wrong.

      Phil Goff smeared by the SIS last election, Cunliffe smeared this election.

      The revelations by dirty politics.

      I just do not think this is acceptable. Maybe instead of Shearer looking at policing other countries elections for fraud, he should look closer afield.

      • John shears 3.1.1

        @SNZ well said

      • Jenny Kirk 3.1.2

        Yes – I’ve been thinking exactly the same as you, save NZ – that the massive immigration is what is helping the Nats stay in government. Not only the brainwashing via MSM but also immigrants “being grateful” to the Nat Govt for letting them come in . All “dirty tricks” by the Nats, and they’re getting away with it.

  4. Sanctary 4

    So I get sick of the rat race, and buy 10 hectares in a valley in the middle of nowhere and go off grid and get self sufficient. I earn enough for the rates. And then the government introduces a land tax, 1%. Costs me an extra $1000 PA but I get then money. Then the farmer next door gets his mates on the district council to put a road through the valley to open up a lake or a beach he has got and, surprise surprise, he has got permission to sub divide. Because of his activity, my land value quadruples and I can’t afford the land tax. IRD bankrupt me.

    I just wanted to be self sufficient and live a sustainable life. But some developer forced up the value of my land and I am forced off my own property. Is that fair?

    • Ad 4.1

      You can never escape the world.

      What you describe is very similar to scenarios in the film ‘Off The Grid’.

      Eventually the line and road networks arrive and make all your sunk investment redundant.

      Eventually people and development get closer and it all changes.

      You’re forced into a perpetual cycle of selling up and retreating for that last pure field of green.

      Fair is an inappropriate word for it.

    • Pat 4.2

      an all too real possibility (or variations of)…..did you really think they’d let you operate outside the system?

  5. weka 5

    “Land tax – what’s the down side?”

    I really think that should read “Foreign Land tax – what’s the down side?”. Because the foreign and domestic issues are different. I know that you specify in the post, but remember the mess when a CGT was discussed and all the confusion around what it would actually include. Lots of people will hear the talk about land taxes and get worried. The pertinent aspect is the foreign ownership bit.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    Why would anyone base policy decisions on such nonsense figures?

    Ideology and the need to keep things the way they are rather than changing things for the better.

    • instrider 6.1

      Phil Twyford managed to convince Labour to base part of its housing policy on ‘funny’ sounding names out of the phonebook.

      I think I’ll stick with the numbers which have at least some level of reason about them

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        What numbers would those be?

        Because the numbers that the government are basing it’s policies on have already been proven to be complete and utter bollocks.

        And, as has been pointed out before, Labour’s research into foreign buyers nationality was quite solid enough to raise questions and say that we need a proper register. National responded to that with a half-arsed one that they could game – which they’re now doing.

      • framu 6.1.2

        “I think I’ll stick with the numbers which have at least some level of reason about them”

        you mean the ones which only show tax residency and which was highlighted as being utterly inaccurate for the purposes of deducing nationality – by the very people who provided the figures?

        whatever

    • Ralf Crown 6.2

      Plus that this with the “foreign” land tax is a path of rhetoric to soften up the mind of the public to introduce higher tax take. Soon it will be just “land tax” and everyone has to pay it. It is the thin edge of a wedge.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.2.1

        Everyone should be paying a land tax anyway. This should go along with land being leased from the government rather than ‘owned’. This is just a different word as the land in private ‘ownership’ is still owned the government.

        • mikesh 6.2.1.1

          Ultimately land is a “common”. If we are going to countenance private ownership such ownership should be in accordance with whatever conditions we as a community decide. One such condition would entail the payment of a land tax.

  7. miravox 7

    We already have a land tax – rates. It applies to all homeowners. I also don’t agree with a separate tax for foreign ownership. Rules like this always have loopholes to be exploited.

    How is a land tax, even if it is applied across the board, superior to a CGT?

    • mikesh 7.1

      Rates are not the same as a land tax. They are paid to local authorities while land tax is paid to central government. If the latter are pondering ways of raising additional revenue there is no reason why they should not consider a land tax. If it works for local government there is no reason it shouldn’t work for central government as well.

      • miravox 7.1.1

        That means there are 2 land taxes, it doesn’t mean that rates is not a land tax.

        Of course a central government land tax should be considered, but there’s not much discussion on why that would be better than a CGT.

        Was a CGT considered by this government, or not – because it was Labour policy? Which is ‘better’? (i.e. meets the set of outcomes that would make it ‘good’ housing policy?) and are these the only options?

        • Colonial Viper 7.1.1.1

          A land tax is better in some ways because a land tax disincentivises the hoarding of large amounts of land regardless of whether or not the market is in a phase of creating capital gains.

          Land tax on your primary residence should be minimal.

          Land tax on a second residence should be very low.

          And then it should climb steeply thereafter, as well as having graduations for large parcels of land.

          • instrider 7.1.1.1.1

            So you’d support property speculation through the tax system? My my.

            • Colonial Viper 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Huh? Read it again. This system disincentivises collecting lots of properties.

          • miravox 7.1.1.1.2

            However, if you did that you’d have to identify which land is hoarded and which land is farmed in some way – especially on boundaries. That’s one of the loopholes I would be worried about.

            • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1.1.2.1

              Nope. The land is taxed whether it generates an income or not. This means that people well let it go rather than keep it.

              The use is that simply hoarding land will cost too much.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Gah, use = idea

              • miravox

                I can see that in theory, except that like with rental investments, there will be exceptions on land investments. Farmers lobbying they can’t make ends meet a seems highly likely example to me.

                With a friendly government they would be excluded from paying until their farm is making a profit. I’m sure you know how that would go…

        • Craig H 7.1.1.2

          Rates are charged on the capital value of the property, not the land value, so they aren’t quite the same.

          Also, another key difference between land tax as it would likely be applied, and rates as actually applied, is that land tax would be the same rate everywhere e.g. 1%, whereas rates vary heavily by location e.g. our rates in Christchurch are lower than in Oamaru, despite property values being much higher in Christchurch.

          • miravox 7.1.1.2.1

            Yes, I know they’re not quite the same, however the base of the rates bill is land value. Hence a component is a land tax.

            Good point re location difference. This probably would make a land tax strongly disproportionate.

            Would a CGT be fairer then?

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.2

        Rates are not the same as a land tax. They are paid to local authorities while land tax is paid to central government.

        Rates are taxes that the central government has given local government the power to set, collect and enforce the collection of.

        Don’t be fooled by the difference in terminology.

        Your “rates” and your “taxes” both become public monies to be spent, supposedly, in the public good.

        • mikesh 7.1.2.1

          Local authorities collect rates, not because government gives them the right, but because they are based on local authority spending. But the main point is that the charging of rates is not a reason for not entertaining the collection of a land tax.

      • Enough is Enough 7.1.3

        Yep and the massive increase in the current Auckland City rates/land tax, have had absolutely no effect on the Auckland market.

        For that reason I struggle to see how a central government land tax would have a different effect.

      • Ralf Crown 7.1.4

        Better to call it a property tax to pay the local corruption. Now they want to shift the playing field a bit so they can add a land tax to fund the greed. It is a tax increase, simply.

  8. Ad 8

    The downside is very simple Rob:

    Taxes on land are regressive; fewer and fewer first-home people will be able to afford the extra costs of building or buying their first home.

    Auckland – and let’s be honest Auckland is the real generator of this problem – will only be solved by precisely the kind of policies that Labour is proposing: banning foreign ownership and an absolutely massive housing build programme.

    • r0b 8.1

      I asked “what’s the downside in a land tax on foreign buyers”?

      • instrider 8.1.1

        It’s probably a really complicated and so expensive way to raise not very much money.

        What are you trying to achieve? If it’s to reduce prices in auckland, then current experience in a number of other overseas cities shows it’s unlikely to work.

        • r0b 8.1.1.1

          What are you trying to achieve?

          Raise revenue – let’s use it for social housing in NZ.

          Cooling effect on market – however slight every bit helps.

          With the data that’s already going to be collected I don’t see that implementing such a tax would cost more than it raises.

          So what’s the downside?

          • instrider 8.1.1.1.1

            Putting aside arguments about these sales numbers, if you accepted there were 1200 property sales to foreigners and taxed them at 1% at an avg price of 500k, you get $6m before any costs of admin taken into account. That’s not a lot and just building and maintaining a reliable database and the bureaucracy underlying it will eat that money very quickly. If those houses are going to be rented then renters may end up paying.

            • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.1.1.1

              You’re talking about a one off stamp duty.

              A land tax would be an annual tax. Like your car rego.

            • r0b 8.1.1.1.1.2

              What happens if you tax them at 20%? (Rhetorical question)

    • mikesh 8.2

      Taken in isolation, land tax may appear to be a hindrance to new home ownership, but one has to consider what other effects may come into play if a land tax were introduced. The extra revenue that it would yield may allow a reduction in income tax for example, or reduce interest rates or property values, all of which would benefit would-be home owners.

  9. slumbergod 9

    Looking after themselves as much as the international rich. These are kiwi parasites feeding off the housing bubble. What it does show is that they believe their mandate as to rule as govt doesn’t need to be adjusted to deal with public outrages.

    • Ad 9.1

      This price boom is enabling thousands of Aucklanders to shift and make way for others. Not all housing boom beneficiaries are parasites.

      • Colonial Viper 9.1.1

        Sure. An Auckland home owner can cash up their house and move on out of the city, and yes, then someone can come in from the provinces and buy that house for $800K or $1M.

        Oh wait, only the 1% from the provinces can afford to do that, given that selling your average freehold house in Dunedin or Napier won’t even net you $400K.

        This is why people find it great financially moving from Auckland to other places in the country.

        Doing the reverse sucks badly.

  10. Bearded Git 10

    The “down side” is the farmers don’t want it the farmers don’t want it the farmers don’t want it….repeat endlessly. This, in conjunction with all the rich pricks who now have massive investments in speculative real estate and because of this also hate Land Tax, means Key will never bring this in.

    This government is (and always will be) in the pocket of society’s top 5-10% of asset holders/earners, the big corporations and the farmers.

    Seems to me that Labour should have a Land Tax etched in stone in its manifesto already.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      And most farmers already get massive rates breaks.

      • Bob 10.1.1

        To be fair, most farmers also don’t get footpaths, sewerage, town water supply, street lighting or rubbish collection also

    • mikesh 10.2

      Don,t forget the banks, for whom a land tax would reduce the revenue available, to a borrower, to pay interest. This is why the banks say they would prefer a capital gains tax.

  11. b waghorn 11

    One down side would be that it won’t catch the foreign in investors that are funneling money to their nz resident contacts/ relatives who will be making multiple purchases.

  12. Jack Ramaka 12

    Land Banking which a lot of overseas buyers are doing is not good for the country, it is tying up housing stocks and in future will start tying up productive farmland.

    Also it is pushing prices out of reach for the average New Zealander, however 50% of New Zealanders still think JK is the best thing since sliced bread ?

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      50% of NZers (actually probably 2/3) have been doing just fine from rising property prices.

      • Richardrawshark 12.1.1

        No, Just Aucklanders mate. Where all the votes are.

        • Colonial Viper 12.1.1.1

          I can’t tell if that’s a facetious comment as Auckland holds only 1/3 of the country’s votes.

          So you’d ignore Christchurch where house prices have been shooting up over the last 10 years?

          And you’d ignore Hamilton? And Tauranga too?

          • Richardrawshark 12.1.1.1.1

            I do CV.

            I live in Tokoroa. my house has been price stagnant for many years, as our town dwindles away. I see all these houses rushing up in price in Auckland and think to myself, the lucky, lucky bastards, I bet they luv national.

            • b waghorn 12.1.1.1.1.1

              Yes I brought in Taumarunui 4 years ago , if I’d had the foresight to by in Auckland I would of
              A , made a hell of a lot more than I have from working
              B, been able to by a small farm by now,
              C not felt like I’m for ever locked out from retiring to a nice coastal town.

              • Richardrawshark

                A costal town may not be such a good idea, with all these polluters ignoring the inevitable.

                I like Tokoroa’s central ness for semi retirement, it’s good for most directions and high up. N far enough from Taupo to get a head start if it goes off, i hope. 🙂

                I plan to retire in Albania where I will live like a King. In a progressive country unspoilt by years of capitalism and opportunities galore. A great climate and wonderful people who still sit around in community groups on an evening and talk, sing dance and make music together laughing in happiness.

                unlike this sad declining country at least I can go there.

            • Naki man 12.1.1.1.1.2

              I do CV.

              “I live in Tokoroa. my house has been price stagnant for many years, as our town dwindles away. I see all these houses rushing up in price in Auckland and think to myself, the lucky, lucky bastards, I bet they luv national”

              Yes i am sure Aucklander’s love National, but as CV says Hamilton and Tauranga have had big increases too. I have seen houses in Hamilton sell for $200k more than they selling for 2 or 3 years ago. lets face it Richardrawshark nobody wants to live in Tokoroa.

              https://www.google.co.nz/#q=doctor+job+200K+SALARY+in+tokoroa

              • Richardrawshark

                Kirkby lol.

                yeah well, I wouldn’t read ANYTHING into that beat up. It was totally TV ratings made for drama.

                We got the medicentre it’s FULL of Dr’s bloody tons of em. Kirkby was a private practise and he’s struggling against the medicentre.

          • Richardrawshark 12.1.1.1.2

            facetious /fəˈsiːʃəs/
            adjective
            adjective: facetious
            treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humour; flippant.

            oh YES!!!

            Um apparently I do that. It gets me in trouble as I am bi-polar and also find it hard to differentiate a mood into words and misread things. It’s good to remember that and correct me occasionally.

            Part of the impulsiveness. But I can hold up a good argument/debate.

  13. Richardrawshark 13

    Twyford ruined the whole argument by going on about Chinese sounding names.

    So dumb he should have been sacked.

    Sorry it’s true, every time Labour try to talk sense on the issue we are going to get that thrown in our face. Does he never think?

    idiot.

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      So dumb he should have been sacked.

      That strategy was reviewed and approved by both Little and Robertson.

      • Richardrawshark 13.1.1

        Really?

        On what planet and drug were they on when the sun rose on that being a great strategy.

        Because the Nats now are skewing figures, which the government can manipulate to show us up.

        Attacking a race gives opponents ammunition to use the race card against us.

        Because without proof you should not make wild accusations that can later be used against you.

        A more statesman like way would be to worry about it, relate your concerns and push for a national register of home buyers.

        • b waghorn 13.1.1.1

          Its been made very clear very quickly that the nats data is rubbish and they will have to fix it, sometimes you got to risk to make change.

          Btw I never thought labours Chinese names angle was racist but I’m a middle aged white boy .

          • Naki man 13.1.1.1.1

            “Its been made very clear very quickly that the nats data is rubbish and they will have to fix it, sometimes you got to risk to make change.

            Btw I never thought labours Chinese names angle was racist but I’m a middle aged white boy ”

            Well i am a middle aged white boy too and that was a racist comment. The incompetance of Twyford, Little and Robertson is astounding.

            • b waghorn 13.1.1.1.1.1

              8 years of national and housing is less affordable, the debt is ballooning and the infrastructure is groaning .
              I call that incompetence.

    • b waghorn 13.2

      It did force the nats into taking some measures to track numbers, .

  14. Bill 14

    …it really does look as if this government cares more about the interests of the international rich than the local Kiwi.

    The Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) of the 1980s and 90s whereby rich countries, with the help of the IMF, forced poor countries to adopt export orientated, trade options that were often based on a single commodity and to sell off public assets, were an early and obvious example of that mind set.

    For some years, trade and manufacturing has been predicated on having the poor in any given country producing for the benefit of rich foreigners…while making the poor even poorer through restrictive labour laws before scrap heaping them via shoving manufacturing to overseas countries with ever lower labour costs.

    Odd why NZ kind of willingly adopted that SAPs export model (dairy) with no real external pressure.

    Only the poor and deluded still live a world hedged by notions of ‘country’ or ‘nation’. The rich have left that world behind and don’t give a shit about it…nothing ‘looks like’ with regards government caring more about globalisation’s rich and powerful. It’s who they’ve been serving and enabling these past 30 odd years in NZ and elsewhere, while keeping you and I mollified and in check with cheap imported goods, claims that there’s no other way, and some (so-called) progressive social policies thrown to shore up that ‘feel good’ factor.

  15. Molly 15

    In order to be effective, a land tax should be applied heavily to land that is currently zoned for residential development but has not been developed.

    That stops the hoarding of land, which is one contribution to rising house prices.

    At present, we essentially “gift” property owners higher values when their properties are rezoned by processes such as the Unitary Plan, or SHA’s. Note: the rezoning will not devalue a property, as the land value component rises as the development potential increases. Other countries charge a “capital uplift” levy that says that when that property is onsold or developed a tax is charged on the increased value. That possibility was raised but dropped fairly early on in the Unitary Plan discussions.

    A land tax on non-developed residential-zoned land would encourage development rather than land-banking. Exemptions should apply to those who prove that the land is being utilised for sustainable production, business or lifestyle.

    Essentially a land tax is a good idea, but it needs to be designed to be effective and target those areas which will have the biggest impact, rather than costing already stretched existing households more money.

    And it should be regarded as only one weapon in the arsenal.

  16. Henry Filth 16

    What do other countries do about land ownership and residency or citizenship requirements?

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