Repealing the Tax Principles Reporting Act is performative nonsense

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, December 29th, 2023 - 29 comments
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National’s 100 days action plan is frankly performative nonsense.

They were elected on a platform of helping the squeezed middle.  So far they have studiously avoided them.

The topics for urgent action in Parliament were to get rid of fair pay agreements, something that could have helped the squeezed middle, introduce fire at will for all companies which will do wonders for workers wanting to keep their new jobs, change the Reserve Bank mandate so that unemployment is not so much of a concern, and roll back changes to the RMA and sneakily include a Henry VIII powers to the Government to change laws by regulation.  This last change is something that I will analyse in more detail separately.  But I agree it is terrifying.

The last thing that National smashed through under emergency was to repeal the Taxation Principles Reporting Act.  You may ask why there was som much emergency attached to the Act’s repeal.

As Deborah Russell said during the introduction debate for the Bill about the Act:

[The Taxation Principles Reporting Act] does not collect more tax. It does not change how our tax is calculated in any way. But what the Taxation Principles Reporting Act does is it gives us information about our tax system. It tells us how well our tax system is doing. Now, that’s incredibly important in a democracy. Every three years we vote—that’s part of our democracy. We spend time lobbying the Government, we spend time making presentations to select committees, we spend time on petitions and on demonstrations, we engage in our governance at all sorts of levels. That’s our democracy. It’s a complex and multifaceted beast.

But one thing that makes our democracy function better is information, so that people have a good understanding of the issues in play. Now, here’s the problem: tax makes up half the Budget. It’s an incredibly important part of our annual Budget process. It’s something that people need to understand. It’s something that people need to have good information about. Yet most people find it quite mysterious, and it’s actually hard to find information about our tax system.

The Act requires reporting of important information including analysis of income distribution and income tax paid, distribution of exemptions from tax and of lower rates of taxation, perceptions of integrity of the tax system and compliance with the law by taxpayers. The principles that were to be reported against include horizontal equity, efficiency, vertical equity, revenue integrity, compliance and administrative costs, certainty and predictability and flexibility and adaptability.

The Act was the brain child of David Parker who wanted to achieve something that is very difficult, fairness in the tax system.

As he said during the debate on the introduction of the bill:

Over the years. Governments of all stripes have set up working groups and review committees to pursue the Holy Grail of an efficient, fair tax system. The most recent was the 2019 Tax Working Group, chaired by the late Sir Michael Cullen. Before that, there was the 2010 Victoria University of Wellington Tax Working Group. In 2001, we had the McLeod Tax Review. Before that, there was the Valabh committee, and before that, the Richardson committee. These inquiries in New Zealand, and others overseas, have all described the main principles of a good tax system.

Yet here we are, after all those reviews, still striving for fairness. In the absence of facts about actual outcomes, half-truths can be too easily manipulated to suit political objectives and vested interests. That’s why we commissioned the Inland Revenue to research the effective tax rates of high-wealth individuals. We wanted evidence based on real dirt—data—not surveys alone, which are inaccurate at the top, in order to assess the fairness of our current tax system. Now we have that evidence. Inland Revenue’s internationally ground-breaking study shows beyond doubt that New Zealand’s wealthiest citizens pay tax on their economic income at a rate that is less than half of what other New Zealanders pay on theirs. Now, it was not surprising that some gap existed, for the obvious reason that very wealthy people earn a higher proportion of their income from sources like gains on investment that are not taxed. Most New Zealanders make do with their regular pay packets, which are all subject to income tax.

But what was surprising is the extent of the gap, and it turns out that an average of 93 percent of the income of the high-wealth group comes from returns on investments. It’s now been well-reported that a person whose income is an $80,000 salary or wage pays an effective rate of 30 percent when you include their income tax and GST. By contrast, the high-wealth people in the Inland Revenue study pay an effective tax rate of just 9.4 percent including the GST they spend on their GST-inclusive purchases. Their average assets were $276 million. Rather than trickle down, it’s been gushing up for this group, and the Inland Revenue study shines a light on how extreme the wealth disparity has become in New Zealand and how lower effective tax rates have contributed to that.

National and Act bitterly opposed the bill but it was passed after a select committee hearing.

The first report was due at the end of this year.  No doubt it was at a very very advanced stage of preparation and also we will see a draft of the report.

The questions will then be asked why repeal the requirement to present a report, and even more importantly why smash it through under urgency.

The policy was not campaigned on.  You get the feeling that some of the right’s funders may have insisted on this being part of the policy mix and this is pay back time.  Multi million donations are not made with no expectations.

And it did not appear in the National Act coalition agreement, the National NZ First coalition agreement or National’s 100 day plan.

So you have to wonder about the urgency and the haste.  Maybe ministers had a peek preview of what the report would say and were shocked that IRD would say that the tax system was unfair and wealthy people were not paying their fair share.

Time will tell.  Either the OIA will result in the release of the draft or it will leaked but I am certain we will see it.  And then we can wonder what it was that National was trying to hide.

29 comments on “Repealing the Tax Principles Reporting Act is performative nonsense ”

  1. Ffloyd 1

    Luxon doesn’t want ANYONE to know ANYTHING! What is their endgame?

  2. Grey Area 2

    Does he realise they may not last a full term, and so the plan is to do the maximum damage by making so many retrogressive changes in the shortest time that any follow-up government will find it hard to turn the clock back? (But not impossible of course they would just have to reinstate NAF's changes by using the same playbook but it's not the other side's normal style).

    Or is there no endgame and they are just a collection of really evil f***s?

    I wonder if the tax information blackout is because they know NZ cannot afford tax cuts at thi stime and especially when the wealthy don't pay their share now (without giving the finger to middle NZ who they are supposed to be helping, and putting the boot into the disadvantaged) and are trying to control the narrative so fewer people see through their lies, obfuscations, smoke and mirrors …

  3. Pat 3

    Given the election result has been known since early October how confident are you the report exists (even in draft form) to be leaked?

  4. Ed1 4

    Thank you for the reminder, and the quotes from Deborah Russell and David Parker.

    Surprisingly in view of the actions over this report, Nicola Willis said last year:

    “I'm a big believer – in politics and leadership – you've got to take people
    with you,” Willis said.

    “You've got to treat people with the trust that people are smart. If you
    give them the information, if you help them understand the issues, then
    people will better understand the decisions you then make. I think
    transparency with what's going on with our economy is really important.”

    I think that was reported here: https://www.thepost.co.nz/a/politics/350133870/were-going-start-new-chapter-nicola-willis-her-mini-budget but it is behind a paywall . . .

    The possibility of a Freedom of Information request was raised here: https://norightturn.blogspot.com/2023/12/burying-evidence.html

    I presume that if a request was made the 19th or 20th it will not get a reply until sometime well into January.

    I can just remember a time when I heard from my parents that my father's pay packet had gone down – he had crossed a threshold for some child benefit that had more than taken the increase in salary. I suspect abatement rates are set now to avoid such a drop in actual pay, but it is possible that the highest marginal effective tax rates can still be higher than the top tax rate. With changes likely to be made to many allowances, it could be useful to have standard tables that show actual and net income (and hence marginal effective tax rates) for families in different situations under current tax rules, so they can be compared with revised tax rules introduced by the current government. From that may also come standard OIA requests from government departments to get equivalent data on an ongoing basis.

    • Craig H 4.1

      Effective marginal tax rates are rarely considered in government policy, or when they are, are just considered to be unavoidable impacts.

      For example, the abatement rates for working for families and the accommodation supplement are 27c and 25c/$1 respectively, and are cumulative, so a solo parent on $60,000 would receive a good top up, but that top up would abate at 52c for every $1 income before tax. Add on 30c income tax + 1.53c for ACC levies, and suddenly the effective marginal tax rate is 83.53c/$1. Student loan deductions (if applicable) would add another 12c to that…

  5. Incognito 5

    To be fair [pun intended], National did say it would repeal the Act. It just happened to be one sentence buried in a report from the Finance and Expenditure (Select) Committee. Obviously, they wanted to keep it quiet, which shows how underhand they are.

    If this bill is enacted, National will repeal the Act when elected to Government.

    https://selectcommittees.parliament.nz/view/SelectCommitteeReport/00ae0b0e-05bc-42ef-203c-08db8e14ef99 [pg. 7]

  6. Matiri 6

    Government giving itself Henry XIII powers hidden in the repeal of the RMA is rather frightening especially as the Minister for the Environment is outside Cabinet! Link from paragraph three reposted.

    https://eds.org.nz/resources/documents/media-releases/2023/its-not-a-merry-christmas-for-the-environment/?from=featured

  7. adam 7

    So here the thing, stop.

    Stop playing with these criminals who pretend to be our leaders.

    This is not ruling a country, it's about taking as much from it that they can fit into the back of their van.

    Working people need to stop. Take a break, stop, make it hard for these Tory corporate cock suckers to total destroy our country.

    Stop.

    • Belladonna 7.1

      Stop doing what? Working?
      Do the working people also take a break from paying bills and eating?

      Or perhaps you've got some other definition of 'stop' which isn't apparent from your comment.

    • Grey Area 7.2

      Stop. How Adam? Exactly, how?

      Genuine question. I see a few saying we need resist and fight back. Easy to say but how?

  8. Bearded Git 8

    Nicely done Micky

    About 4% of the population will understand or take notice of the implications….the rest will continue blithely onwards.

  9. Wellydoc 9

    In the economic crisis left by Labour some things are not so essential

    [No astroturfing, no sockpuppets, no multiple aliases; stick to one username + email address here or your licence will be revoked permanently – Incognito]

  10. mikesh 10

    A 9% figure seems to be frequently mentioned but, since the minimum income tax rate is 10.5%, anyone paying only 9% is, on the face of it, committing tax fraud. This raises the somewhat thorny question of whether capital gain constitutes income: if it does then it clearly should be taxed and, if it doesn't, the question of whether it it should be taxed anyway as a sort of quasi income. Nor does it consider whether the purchaser of an asset should receive a deduction for the implied capital loss. Nor would it address the question of whether unearned income, such as interest and rent, should be taxed at a different, presumably higher, rate than other income. I could be wrong but I think that the report is unlikely to address these sorts of questions.

    Nevertheless, I think that the report should be produced, and canning it is a bad move on the part of the new regime.

    • Incognito 10.1

      You do know where the figure of 9% comes from, don’t you? Your comment reads like an ignorant straw man. And exactly to avoid comments such as yours ‘confusing’ any public debate about fairness of the tax system and its ugly twin inequity, the Taxation Principles Reporting Act 2023 and that due report would have been informative & instructive. Now the coalition government has repealed it under urgency it will be BAU and status quo.

      • mikesh 10.1.1

        I know that the Act has been repealed. I was merely speculating on what may have been the case had it not been repealed. The trouble is that had it remained in force any implications would probably lead to its adoption, or non adoption, without further thought.

        • Incognito 10.1.1.1

          Not talking about the repealing of the Act, but referring to the recent IRD research report that was actually shared with the voters of NZ – you seem to be oblivious of that.

          • mikesh 10.1.1.1.1

            I do remember that, I think, but only vaguely. However I get the impression that MS was talking about some report that had been prepared and was scheduled for release in the near future. If that is not the case where does the OIA come into it?

            I sort of thought the repeal was about future reports not yet prepared.

            • Incognito 10.1.1.1.1.1

              Yes, MS was talking about another report that obviously bears some relation to the previous IRD research on this topic. However, you started your comment with “A 9% figure seems to be frequently mentioned but, […]” as if you’ve no idea what you’re talking about. Therefore, you might want to familiarise yourself with relevant material and stop making ignorant & speculative comments.

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