It fascinates me that in all this talk about ‘catching up with Australia’ via tax cuts, nobody bothers to look at the Aussie tax system to see what they’re doing.
Keith Ng has a cool interactive graph on the portion of all income earnt by different income groups and the tax they pay. He compares what we have now with Australia, a flat tax, and if income was shared equally. I can’t copy over the interactive part which gives a lot more detail but here are the NZ and Australian graphs side by side – the width of the wedges is their share of earnings, the area of the wedges shows the share of income tax they pay (eg. the bottom 50% have 17% of earnings and pay 12% of tax in NZ, in Aussie they have 25% of earnings and pay 12% of tax):
* Rich people have a very big slice mainly because they have a very broad slice. That is, they pay a lot of tax because they make a lot of money. Duh.
* Rich people get taxed more on their income (their slice sticks out more). That’s because we have progressive tax systems. Duh.
* How progressive? At the top end, New Zealand’s tax system is less progressive than Australia. Rich peps in Australia pay more than they do in New Zealand, both proportionally and in absolute terms.
* At the bottom end, New Zealand’s tax system is *far* less progressive than Australia. If you zoom in to the bottom 50% (you need to go to the original graph for that) , you’ll see that Australia curves in very quickly that’s because the first $6,000 of income is tax free, which means that poor pricks pay very little tax.
* On top of this, Australia’s bottom 50% have a bigger share of the total income. This is not a tax issue, nor about the income disparity between New Zealand and Australia. Income is more equitably distributed in Australia, even before tax is taken into account.
* It’s not some kind of tricky accounting. Australia has a tax-free bottom bracket, and at the top end, it goes all the way up to 45% (New Zealand’s top rate is 38%). Australia’s tax system is simply more progressive. This means it’s low income earners who have a tax incentive to move to Australia, and rich peps who don’t.
Add to that the minimum wage in Australia is $14.31. Surprise, surprise, the people going to Aussie are not rich people going to tax advantages. It’s mostly low-income workers in jobs like construction who get better pay and have less tax, as well as professions like medicine that pay a whole lot better. Tax cuts for the rich isn’t going to change that, only higher wages and a fairer tax system will.
ps. Keith, could you email us your source data?