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NRT: Who’d have thunk it?

Written By: - Date published: 2:23 pm, June 27th, 2014 - 60 comments
Categories: capital gains, election 2014, polls, tax - Tags:

no-right-turn-256Reposted from No Right Turn.

By advocating for a controversial policy, Labour has managed to win public backing for it:

Once regarded as a political poison, public opinion has moved in favour of Labour’s capital gains tax since it was announced three years ago and support for idea has moved well ahead of the party’s own popularity, according a recent Herald Digipoll.

Numbers backing the policy, which is Labour’s primary weapon to curb rising house prices, is particularly strong in Auckland where first home buyers have borne the brunt of those increases.

Its still not strong majority territory, unlike e.g. the health and education systems or the principle of progressive taxation. But for a policy long considered a “third rail” of New Zealand politics, its a significant shift.

This shouldn’t be surprising – National and the Greens have been doing this for years (and Labour’s adoption of the capital gains tax is in part because the Greens had laid the groundwork by pushing for it). But it ought to put paid forever to the idea that parties are just “logs floating in a stream” which must go with the flow of public opinion because they are unable to affect it. Weak parties are. But if Labour stops being scared of its own shadow and afraid of its left-wing heritage, it can actually change things, and build the majorities it needs to govern.

60 comments on “NRT: Who’d have thunk it? ”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    “Numbers backing the policy, which is Labour’s primary weapon to curb rising house prices”

    It’s not Labour’s primary weapon to curb rising house prices and Labour have never presented it as such. Typical lazy reporting from The Herald.

    I would say their policy to build 100,000 houses in 10 years is their primary weapon to curb rising house prices.

  2. Old Tony 2

    From the Centre Right but support strongly Labour’s proposal for Capital Gains Tax and am really interested in the idea of flexing Kiwisaver rates to boost or suppress economic activity, rather than using interest rates.

    • Fair enough. I suspect there are a lot of similar voters who are getting disillusioned with National’s tendency towards picking winners but making no real substantive intervention to the economy as a whole. Hope you’ll consider backing a change of government. 🙂

  3. Richard@Down South 3

    I’d say its not a primary weapon, but it would be effective… it should also cool trading on the NZD (currently overvalued), and bring in a little tax, which is good for the coffers… it should also move some investment money elsewhere in the economy….

  4. Ronnie Chow 4

    Bureaucratism is not a fortuitous feature of certain provincial organizations, but a general phenomenon. It does not travel from the district to the central organization through the medium of the regional organization, but much rather from the central organization to the district through the medium of the regional organization. It is not at all a survival of the war period; it is the result of the transference to the party of the methods and the administrative manners accumulated during these last years.

  5. tsmithfield 5

    I totally support the concept of a capital gains tax on two conditions:

    1. That it applies to all capital assets.
    2. That capital losses can be claimed as well as being taxed on gains.
    • Richard@Down South 5.1

      I dont support the second one… you shouldnt be compensated by the Government (taxpayers) for making bad choices

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.1

        lol

      • tsmithfield 5.1.2

        If that is the case, then, why should you be penalised for making good choices?

        • Grumpy 5.1.2.1

          I think it would have to recognize capital losses as Australia does. I’m with you, I don’t think the average punter on The Standard understands the implications. A CGT is not bad news for the rich.

        • McFlock 5.1.2.2

          Only a tory would think that e.g. “making $750,000” rather than “making $1,000,000” is “being penalised”.

          At the very worst, it’s simply reimbursing the government for providing the sort of society where you can make money using your capital rather than actually having to create something useful.

        • Draco T Bastard 5.1.2.3

          Hey, I went to uni, I should have a $500k per year income now. As I don’t the government should be paying me ~$170k per year for the loss.

          /sarc

          And, yes, that is what you’re actually demanding.

        • Richard@Down South 5.1.2.4

          The problem is, if you decide to invest $10m in property in Auckland, at current rates of return, you get $800k~ increase in value… if you do that, and dont work, you pay no tax

          so lets see

          1) No tax on your capital gains (even your interest on your bank accounts is taxed… it should be the same for capital gains from property)
          2) It increases the demand for property, especially from those overseas who are cash rich
          3) It artificially keeps the NZD high (see 2) which hurts exporters
          4) It keeps money from being saved (which banks would use to lend… seeing as banks then get money from overseas, that money is paid back, with interest, which increases the flow of money leaving NZ)

    • mikesh 5.2

      “I totally support the concept of a capital gains tax on two conditions:

      1. That it applies to all capital assets.
      2. That capital losses can be claimed as well as being taxed on gains.”

      A CGT on shares is complicated by the problem of retained earnings. The latter represent additions to the original capital base, and therefore should be added to the base figure when calculating the capital gain. However shareholders selling during an accounting period would not be able to take profits not yet paid in dividends into account and could therefore end up paying more CGT than they should.

      I agree with point 2. and the fact that capital losses would not result in a negative CGT being paid to the seller is a further reason why capital gains taxes are a bad idea. In this regard one would also need to clarify the status of any depreciation clawback.

      • Well, I think it’s perfectly fair to allow people to offset or claim back some of their previous tax for capital losses, so long as you restrict the period of time over which this can be done. The real point of the tax is to deal with situations where a significant portion of your income is from capital gains- those sorts of people will do just fine with offsetting their losses.

  6. Skinny 6

    I don’t know why Labour continue to chase the middle vote and stick to plugging a CGT policy. The problem is too many of the middle bloc have a rental property and are scared off by the thought of their nest egg incurring a tax bill when they cash up.

    First you have to gain power. They should have put the policy on the back burner till shortly after they gained power, then rushed it through the house sighting National had cooked the books ( which they probably have). Voters will see the sense of the move and realise there was nothing to get alarmed about once the overall benefit start to show. Then by the time the next election comes around no big drama.

    • gsays 6.1

      i agree skinny, most people will say in public that they support a capital gains tax.
      they will even be able to articulate why it is important.
      but when it comes time to tick the box in the booth they will vote for THEIR best interests.

      getting in power fist then introducing these poloicies (while possibly a bit dishonourable) is the way to go.

    • karol 6.2

      Disagree. I don’t think it’s good for the left to copy the dodgy, sly tactics of the Nats.

      Be upfront and confident about such a policy. Especially as people are already coming round to accepting it.

      • gsays 6.2.1

        in an ideal world yes.

        i suppose what i am getting at is less labour party policy but more how so many folk are selfish and greedy.

        • karol 6.2.1.1

          Time to change the culture.

          the dominance of the greed thing has been constructed as part of the “neoliberal revolution”. Time to change the narrative.

          • gsays 6.2.1.1.1

            here here, however,
            is an election policy the place to change that?
            especially given the appearance of a generally key sycophantic media.

            i would suggest that the narrative would be more easily changed when you hold the levers of power, not when trying to get hold of them.

            (sorry about delay in responding, i am juggling getting family fed and chortling at the qs and as on key book trade me listing)

            • gsays 6.2.1.1.1.1

              oh yes, there is also that rugby cliche of winning ugly rather than loosing in an attractive (honourable) fashion.

  7. Jrobin 7

    David Parker did a good job explaining this on RNZ and gave Joyce a run for his money. I like Parkers dry comments to put old loud mouth commerce grad Joyce in his place. He has a sharp intellect and wouldn’t take Joyce’s misrepresentations lying down. I even notice a shift in Espiner over the last three days. Maybe he wants to distance himself from Whaleoil and J K. They look so sleazy someone quite smart like Espiner has probably seen the writing on the wall and is preparing to work with the future government.

    • Kiwiri 7.1

      Agree. But I don’t want to be around to see Parker being skewered and roasted by Joyce when discussing Labour’s retirement age increase.

  8. Colonial Viper 8

    “A controversial policy”

    Sure to anyone with a property portfolio, and who owns more than their own home.

  9. greywarbler 9

    What a good graphic.

  10. tc 10

    CGT is inevitable if we are to have a more equitable tax system simple as that.

    ffs keating and hawke knocked that over in the 80’s as part of an overhaul that by and large remains as is today aside from the wonky GST johnny boy rolled out.

  11. Mr Oh Well 11

    Ok, lets get some stats on the job

    1. In 2013, 453,135 households rented their home (ie paid rent), up from 388,275 in 2006.
      Like households overall, households who rented their home were most likely to be one-family households (63.3 percent) or one-person households (23.5 percent).
    2. 1,765,800 Private dwelling estimates
      (1) by tenure http://www.stats.govt.nz/~/media/Statistics/browse-categories/population/estimates-projections/dwelling-and-household-estimates/est-private-dwellings-hh-tenure.xls
    3. Current population 4,540,372
      as at Friday, 27 Jun 2014 at 06:44:19 p.m.

    So how many of the people own 1 or more rentals out of our total population (well we minus the 453,135 population that rent, the people under 18 etc)

    Once you get the stats on that, you can then talk about how many people will be dissatisfied?

    Anyone know where I can get stats on the number of people that own one or more property and the distribution (i.e there must be individuals out there that own 2,3,4…… rentals it would be real interesting to see

    Anyone, Id love to know the distribution?

  12. Mr Oh Well 12

    Basically, what I am trying to ascertain is the population of people that own one or more rentals (which I did not make clear above).

    If capital gains is such a bad thing, then, from my understanding – which could be wrong, only affect this subset of people. Not home owners who want to shift into another home.

    Also important is understanding the distribution of people that own 1 or more rentals (i.e. is it just a few individuals relative to the population that own 2-3 rentals, etc etc)

  13. jh 13

    Capital gains tax o.k restricting immigration not.

  14. anker 14

    I know of someone who owns a rental property. Came about when entered into a new relationship and let out her property and half owns house with new partner. She is 100% behind capital gains tax, even though she knows it will lead to her paying tax on gains.

    I know that is only one person, but it is possible for people who own assets to see the sense and the fairness in this

    • tc 14.1

      Good to hear, the bulk of the whining and BS spin about CGT comes from property owners wanting a tax free gain and under this regime they are getting used to a free ride.

      its about fairness, you make a gain as a result of the general vitality and growth in a market so govt needs to clip the ticket.

      Most anti CGT people I talk to think the gain is all there own hard work as if the market is their own personal bubble and not part of a wider economic society picture

  15. Mr Oh Well 15

    Anker, “it is possible for people who own assets to see the sense and the fairness in this”

    I agree.

    So if the number of rentals is 453,135 in NZ then I shouldn’t imagine there are the equivalent number of landlords. Regardless, its a sad state of affairs when your ultimate goal in life is just to become a landlord. That just creates a clip the ticket mentality in your economy, hardly rock star is it. It then leads to a sense of entitlement (by landlords) that oddly resembles the criticisms directed at people on welfare (i.e. they want something for nothing)

    Lets assume 19% of the total population are in rental accommodation (this is supposedly on the increase).

    If capital gains tax can be utilized to help people own their first home then I’m all for it.

    Yes I do know people who own rentals who actually agree with the introduction of capital gains tax.

    The great perversion in all this, is that with a stroke of a pen (i.e. consents, housing regulation), more cheaper housing can be created (i.e. its not that hard). Yet in Akl and Welly the politicians make themselves to be heroes when they get this to happen. All they are doing is controlling an already over priced market (i.e. maintain the status quo). More houses could be built….. the pen is mightier than the hammer. The market is not free, …………………….

    • Draco T Bastard 15.1

      More houses could be built….. the pen is mightier than the hammer.

      How and where are you going to build them consider that a) there’s a minor shortage of builders compared to the amount of work and b) sprawl costs far too much.

  16. mikesh 16

    “its about fairness, you make a gain as a result of the general vitality and growth in a market so govt needs to clip the ticket.”

    It’s hardly fair if the government clips the ticket of capital gainers who sell while not clipping the ticket of capital gainers who don’t.

    • tc 16.1

      Tax based on sale not valuation resolves that.

    • Colonial Viper 16.2

      It’s hardly fair if the government clips the ticket of capital gainers who sell while not clipping the ticket of capital gainers who don’t.

      If you haven’t sold you haven’t handed your ticket in at the booth – so it doesn’t get clipped.

      • mikesh 16.2.1

        “If you haven’t sold you haven’t handed your ticket in at the booth – so it doesn’t get clipped.”

        But you have still made a capital gain, which is not being taxed. This is unfair if sellers’ capital gains are being taxed. One of the rules of good taxation is that similar phenomena be taxed similarly.

        • Colonial Viper 16.2.1.1

          Tax rules have always differentiated between realised gains and unrealised on paper only gains. Why would you choose to ignore that now?

          • mikesh 16.2.1.1.1

            “Tax rules have always differentiated between realised gains and unrealised on paper only gains. Why would you choose to ignore that now?”

            Which tax rules have so differentiated, might I ask?

            • Colonial Viper 16.2.1.1.1.1

              Now you’re being deliberately obtuse.

              Investopedia article on the importance of realised vs unrealised gains

              http://www.investopedia.com/articles/00/102300.asp

              Further, in NZ property developers are taxed when they sell the house and realise the gain.

              • mikesh

                “Now you’re being deliberately obtuse.”

                Not so. I’m just not aware of any. And, I must admit, I don’t believe there are any.

                “Investopedia article on the importance of realised vs unrealised gains

                http://www.investopedia.com/articles/00/102300.asp

                I tried to download the article but it was taking too long and tired of waiting. Perhaps I need faster broadband.

                “Further, in NZ property developers are taxed when they sell the house and realise the gain.”

                This is not really a capital gain as it comes from developmental effort. If it is taxed at all it would be taxed on the basis of profit. And the developer wouldn’t know the profit, if there was any, until the deveopment was sold.

                • mikesh

                  PS: I have now downloaded the article. It deals with capital gains taxes and therefore does not apply to us as we do not have such an animal. Whether or not we should have one is what this debate is about.

                  • Yes, he was trying to clarify how a CGT would work if we applied one. Are you being deliberately obtuse? The sale is when you realise a capital gain- on land you’ve held while developing property, on shares you sell, or companies you sell off in entirety. This is the way such taxes have always worked, and I’m not sure why you expected anything different.

        • KJT 16.2.1.2

          Lots of things taxed on realisation, including many GST payers.

          In fact it also acts as an incentive to hang onto companies, instead of the current common practice, of selling them offshore, for capital gains, the minute they are viable.

  17. greywarbler 17

    The whole leverage approach to buying property must lead to huge distortions and less tax paid than is right in the circumstances..

    Just looking at something on 11 Sept 2001 and shortly prior to the attack on the Twin Towers the 99 year lease was bought for $3.2 billion. The prime mover Silverstein entity paid $14 million, along with others $111 million and banks noted as $563 million. So what does that add up to? Sounds like the background to some sort of rort, loss-making for tax while they pay off high internet borrowings from each other.
    http://www.historycommons.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=complete_911_timeline&the_post-9/11_world=complete_911_timeline
    _9_11_related_lawsuits

    And looking at Steel in Britain I saw a google heading that some big steel corporation connection only paid 0.01% tax.

    There are so many ways oh Lord.

    • mikesh 17.1

      The answer to this sort of thing would be a general tax on capital, rather than a capital gains tax, along the lines suggested by Gareth Morgan in his book, The Big Kahuna.

  18. mikesh 18

    “Lots of things taxed on realisation, including many GST payers.”

    I know GST is added only at the point of sale. But in that case the gain or profit is not recognised, by accounting convention, until the G or S is sold. This a matter of short trerm convenience in regard to consumption goods. It doesn’t apply to capital assets such as properties or businesses.

    “In fact it also acts as an incentive to hang onto companies, instead of the current common practice, of selling them offshore, for capital gains, the minute they are viable.”

    This may be true, but it still doesn’t make it fair.

    • Colonial Viper 18.1

      Time to be fair to wage earners – tax capital gains. Time to be fair and end preferential tax treatment of capital gains.

      • mikesh 18.1.1

        I do not see how CGT is fair on wage earners. Wages and capital gain are two different things.
        It is a bit like saying alcohol is a food and that therefore, if it is taxed, other food items should incur a similar tax.

        If you want to be fair on taxpayers impose a land tax (and offset it with reduction in income tax rates). A land tax is fair because it can be applied to all landowners.

        • Colonial Viper 18.1.1.1

          There’s no support for a general tax on capital at the moment. Of course its a good idea, but it will have to happen in stages. CGT is the first stage.

      • KJT 18.1.2

        Why should a wage earner/small business owner pay tax on the wages/profit from their hard work, while someone who sits back and does nothing, while their speculative investment increases in value, does not?

        • Colonial Viper 18.1.2.1

          mikesh appears to have a very one-sided and narrow definition of what is “fair.”

          • mikesh 18.1.2.1.1

            “mikesh appears to have a very one-sided and narrow definition of what is “fair.””

            My concept of fairness is based on the proposition tthat similar things should be taxed similarly. I would quite happily countenance a CGT if all capital gains were being taxed. I would also note, in passing, that a capital gain is not the same thing as wages or small business profits.’

            If you think the taxation of wages unfair, then get rid of that.

            • Colonial Viper 18.1.2.1.1.1

              Nah mate, you’re wasting our time now. CGTs exist across the world and we are merely moving to an international norm. Not even anything special. A bit lax in not including the family home, but thats politics for you.

              And any modern taxation system needs to disadvantage capital and advantage labour. That’s fair. A CGT is but a first stage in such a system.

              Your concept of fairness may be logically consistent but simply perpetuates unfair economic results where speculation seeking capital gains is advantaged when they should be distinctly disadvantaged as compared to working for wages and salaries.

  19. mikesh 19

    “Nah mate, you’re wasting our time now. CGTs exist across the world and we are merely moving to an international norm. Not even anything special. A bit lax in not including the family home, but thats politics for you.”

    Governments like CGT’s because they are easy to collect. Property owners like CGT’s because, with them, they are getting off lightly.

    “And any modern taxation system needs to disadvantage capital and advantage labour. That’s fair. A CGT is but a first stage in such a system.”

    Actually, I don’t disagree with this. I am glad to see you admitting that CGT is merely za first step; ie that you agree with me that CGT has a lot of shortcomings.

    “Your concept of fairness may be logically consistent but simply perpetuates unfair economic results where speculation seeking capital gains is advantaged when they should be distinctly disadvantaged as compared to working for wages and salaries.”

    It is the tax system that does that, not my concept of fairness. We need to design a tax system that is fair, and I doubt such a system whose only tax on capital is one that only taxes rtealised capital gains.

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