Save us from Nat working groups

Written By: - Date published: 9:54 am, February 3rd, 2011 - 26 comments
Categories: assets, Economy - Tags: ,

The same old formula has played out again: National appoints an expensive, hand-picked working group (this time, the Savings Working Group). The working group comes up with predictable and disappointing recommendations. National rejects extreme recommendations out of hand, making it appear moderate, and does what it was always planning to do. None of which will help saving.

It seems fairly clear that the Nats intend to put interest back on student loans for graduates and cancel the remaining government contributions to Kiwisaver, while making it compulsory or as good as. On the flipside, they Op remove taxation of interest up to the rate of inflation or some other kind of reduced taxation of interest. I’ve said before that, while that is a good idea in principle, it would primarily benefit the well-off. And that’s not good enough when the money comes from cutting assistance to new graduates and Kiwisavers.

Now, while more savings are good, lets not be fooled into thinking there’s a savings disaster unfolding. The country’s indebtedness to the rest of the world has actually fallen from 93% to 85% of GDP since the recession began. Mortgage borrowing is shrinking. Government debt set to peak in four years and then fall. But more savings are good and if National really wants to raise savings levels, the solutions are in its hands. Here they are:

1) Restore the Kiwisaver rate to 4%, at least raise the employer contribution level to 4% (remember, in Australia, it’s 9% – all from the employer). That wouldn’t cost the government a cent but would dramatically improve the net wealth of Kiwi households. It works for Aussie – aren’t we meant to be catching them? Then why not do what they do.

2) Restore Cullen Fund contributions too. Remember, by suspending contributions, the government isn’t actually avoiding expenditure, just pushing it into the future. The Cullen Fund formula means that if we don’t contribute now we contribute more once contributions resume and, anyway, since the Cullen Fund will start paying out for superannuation in 2030, any money that isn’t in it will just come out of taxation in the future.

Moreover, canceling contributions has been an enormously expensive mistake. If contributions hadn’t been canceled, the Fund would be $135 million larger over and above the cost of borrowing by now. A Treasury leak says the loss will be $8 billion by 2022. By canceling Cullen Fund contributions when assets were going cheap after the global financial crisis, National committed an act of economic vandalism on a scale we haven’t seen since the days of the Neoliberal Revolution.

3) Don’t sell our assets. Selling public assets will only push up our debt as the lost profits exceed the government’s cost of borrowing.

4) Start buying New Zealand back. The biggest driver of international debt is profits going overseas. Foreigners made over $15 billion on their investments in New Zealand last year, while we made less than $5 billion on our investments abroad. The crucial thing is that our return on investment is lower. Foreigners made a 5.2% return on their investments in NZ, we made 3.6% on our investments abroad. That’s because we own lots of foreign government bonds, while they own lots of our most profitable companies.

The government should create a national wealth fund, pooling money from the Cullen Fund, Kiwisaver, SOE dividends, and individual savings accounts through Kiwibank (it would be up to the individual to choose to put their Kiwisaver and other savings in the Fund). The Fund would be mandated to invest in assets of strategic importance to New Zealand, enhancing our economic sovereignty and lessening the flow of profits off-shore.

The private sector is useless at creating good savings/investment opportunities, which is why the rich are so keen to get their mitts on our public assets. Only a government-led initiative like the national wealth fund is going to really drive savings up. And it would be cheap because there’s no extra spending apart from the renewed Cullen Fund contributions (which are making us money anyway) and the diversion of some of the SOE dividends to re-investment. Any funding gap could be easily filled by giving the Emissions Trading Scheme its teeth back and removing the hundred billion dollar subsidy National created for polluters.

26 comments on “Save us from Nat working groups”

  1. higherstandard 1

    Capital Gains Tax… come on are either of the two major parties brave enough to do what needs to be done…… not a chance.

    Oh and a slight point – increasing employer kiwisaver contributions will cost the government in relation to state employees ?

    • Blondie 1.1

      Damn straight….. the lack of CGT in this country has contributed hugely to the ever-increasing price of housing, and therefore the ever-increasing level of mortgages and indebtedness.

      Whilst some might think they’ve done quite nicely through the capital gains on their family homes and investment property, the reality is overseas-owned banking institutions have profited the most, via ever-increasing interest charges on those mortgages.

      CGT is well overdue.

      Antispam word – Worrying. How apt.

  2. DJames 2

    Wow some real advice on savings, and the government doesn’t have to pay an overpriced working group for it.

  3. ianmac 3

    I agree with you that the spin is for Key to immediately reject the extreme recommendations so that the more moderate ones can seem to be good by comparison. Good old John really cares for us. Wonder if there is a danger of over-use?

  4. prism 4

    This Kerry McDonald, spokesperson for the savings working group, seems to have been a bright star in the business and economic world over the years. Seems to me that some people are born into their jobs, and never experience life as others have. Don Brash was another bright boy who went straight into good jobs. No office junior start at the bottom for him. One of our top judges went into his father’s firm on graduation instead of taking at least a gap year. I heard him passing harsh judgment on the general populace he dealt with. No insight into their reality.

    And so we get the advice of such people unwilling to consider the ordinary people in their policy recommendations. 17% GST now.
    No income tax is one suggestion posited, only consumption tax.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      The rich would love to have no income tax and only consumption tax – then they wouldn’t have to pay any tax at all.

      • prism 4.1.1

        Would they have their accountants work out how to avoid consumption tax – through some system that triggers GST refunds? Or would they buy everything through some business entity and write things off as business expenses? Is that what you are thinking DracoTB?

        • Draco T Bastard

          Something like that. Probably some sort of combination of available methods.

          • grumpy

            I have a mate in Aussie who does very nicely out of the Capital Gains Tax. When you have “capital gains” you also have “capital losses” that can be offset against income.

            • higherstandard

              1. Capital gains tax and consumption tax are two very different beasts.
              2. The continued fantasy by the likes of DTB that the ‘rich’ can somehow be in net receipt of GST rather than net GST payors is just that a fantasy……….. if you think this is not the case why not register for GST and see how you go trying to claim for everything and sundry as a business expense.

              • grumpy

                Does not detract from my statement above. Many people have made a lot of money out of GST, just as many will be able to do well from a Capital Gains Tax.

                • higherstandard

                  I think you’ll find that the only people who have made a lot of money out of GST are the governments of the day, I’d be interested if you could provide examples otherwise though as I’d happily work to minimise my GST legally.

                  • grumpy

                    Well, one example is a Christchurch company, run by a well known local shark, who reputedly purchased a property, received a GST invoice, claimed it from IRD (Invoice basis). Then the company “got into difficulty”, couldn’t pay it’s bills so never went through with the sale and actually paid the money over, hence didn’t pay the GST. IRD were pursuing but I am not sure of the outcome.

              • Draco T Bastard

                I didn’t “net receipt” did I? They will be paying some but they’ll be able to dodge a lot as well. Have the company buy the car as part of the remuneration package and that’s a whole lot of GST not paid.

                The net result will be that they pay a hell of a lot less of their income in tax than a poor person will.

                • grumpy

                  You forgot about Fringe Benefit Tax which is payeble on the purchase price of the car INCLUDING GST.

                  Anyway, you have a good point in that those who are able to can do OK out of GST.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Yeah, I got that bit wrong. I have enough people in my family that own cars through their business in a way that neither GST nor FBT was paid on them (technically, they’re work vehicles). As you say, people in the right position can bypass some GST.

                • higherstandard

                  Um your comment was

                  “The rich would love to have no income tax and only consumption tax – then they wouldn’t have to pay any tax at all.”

                  Now you’ve come back with – “The net result will be that they pay a hell of a lot less of their income in tax than a poor person will.”

                  I’m sorry I call bullshit on this as well please provide some hard data too show that a “rich’ person will pay less GST than a ‘poor’ person.

                  • prism

                    Self evident hstandards – The rich get that way because they work harder – at thinking how to optimise their finances.

                    • higherstandard

                      What simplistic rubbish people can get rich by various methods including but not limited to the following.

                      1. Inheritance
                      2. Luck
                      3. Hard work
                      4. Fraud
                      5. Developing or providing a good or service that has a high demand

                  • Pascal's bookie

                    “The net result will be that they pay a hell of a lot less of their income in tax than a poor person will.”

                    Seems like a pretty reasonable assumption to me.

                    • higherstandard

                      PB I would expect that someone on a higher income would likely pay a lower proportion of their income than someone on a lower income but what DTB said initially was.

                      “The rich would love to have no income tax and only consumption tax – then they wouldn’t have to pay any tax at all.”

                      followed by

                      “The net result will be that they pay a hell of a lot less of their income in tax than a poor person will.”

                      My request is for him to back either of those two statements up with a dataset. It also assumes large scale rorting of GST by whatever DTB defines as a rich person as well as an assumption that whatever DTB defines as a rich person is registered for GST.

                    • grumpy

                      Hate to argue with you Higherstandard, but you only need to look at the example of farmers. Everything paid by the business and their own income so low they can rort WFF.

                    • higherstandard

                      No probs Grumpy.

                      I have family members who farm (non diary), and can assure you they aren’t coining it.

                      As for myself i pay a shit load of FBT and collect a pretty large amount of GST for the government coffers.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Ok, fine, my initial statement was an exaggeration.

                    Rich people already pay less as a proportion of their income in GST. This is partly due to the fact that they just don’t spend as much as a proportion of their income on consumption and partly due to the fact that they can, and do, structure their affairs to avoid taxes including GST.

                    Datasets – not available although I did see a chart @uni that showed the lowest percentile earners paying more total tax as a proportion of their income than the highest percentile. This discrepancy was attributed to GST.

                    • infused

                      You cannot do this Draco. You will eventually get pinged. IRD have some pretty nifty ways of getting people claiming or avoiding gst.

  5. randal 5

    private debt is the problem.
    kiwis have an unshakeable beilif that they are entitled to the absolute best of everything.
    I mean how much dosh goes up in smoke (interest, overseas funds) so they move their asses round the country and the world in the manner to which they feel they have become accustomed when air new zealand buys 14 new jets.
    then they privarise just after the latest fleet has been paid off.
    and dont forget stainless steel for fat mufflers and trips to exotic locations so they can come back and skite to the rest of us.
    kiwis have become gross users of everything.

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