It is time New Zealand seriously considered a wealth tax & More News Here

Lisa Marriott is a Professor of Taxation at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington.

OPINION: Tax is again within the information. Often this implies a looming price range or election, as is certainly the case now, with the federal government’s 2022 price range delivered subsequent week.

The election is a lot additional away, but when the previous couple of weeks are something to go by, the interim will see the events’ contrasting tax positions given loads of consideration.

So it’s most likely time to debate “wealth taxes” – a time period broadly used right here to seize the bucket of potential taxes on wealth, together with capital positive aspects, inheritance, reward, land or different sorts of tax on belongings.

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As lately as May 3, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern mentioned her authorities doesn’t have present plans to introduce a wealth tax however was additionally refusing to rule one out. Either means, it’s a problem that is unlikely to go away any time quickly.

What we tax

To put it in context, there are three major technique of taxation, or three “limbs”, to make use of a ceaselessly used tax time period.

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The first is revenue – taxes on earnings similar to wages, salaries or firm earnings. The second is taxing consumption – taxes on purchases of products and providers. Finally, there are taxes on wealth – taxes on what you personal, often belongings.

Tax is back in the news. Often this means a looming budget or election, as is indeed the case now, with the government’s 2022 budget delivered next week.


Tax is again within the information. Often this implies a looming price range or election, as is certainly the case now, with the federal government’s 2022 price range delivered subsequent week.

In Aotearoa, we now have complete regimes for the primary two of those.

Income tax is largely paid by people and corporations. In 2020-21, people paid revenue tax of NZ$45 billion or 46.4% of complete taxation income. Companies paid $15.8 billion or 16.2% of complete taxation income in the identical interval. While not with out its points, it is higher than many revenue tax methods.

Our items and providers tax (GST) is a broad-based consumption tax. This does what it says: it taxes items and providers.

Globally, our GST is also known as a mannequin system on account of its broad base and few exemptions. GST collected in 2020-21 was $25.6 billion (web), or 26.3% of complete tax income.

Other consumption taxes embody gas, tobacco, and alcohol excise and responsibility. These are additionally all paid by the ultimate shopper and totalled $5 billion in 2020-21 (5.2% of complete tax income).

The major concern with GST and excise taxes is that they fall extra closely on decrease revenue earners as a proportion of earnings.

The lacking limb

But the place is limb three? This is largely absent in Aotearoa, though we do tax belongings in a small variety of particular conditions, such because the “bright-line” take a look at for residential housing.

But the default is that we don’t tax wealth, and except a transaction is explicitly included within the laws, it is not going to entice tax. Why is this a downside?

First, because the OECD places it, wealth accumulation “operates in a self-reinforcing way and is likely to increase in the absence of taxation”.

The OECD additionally argues “there is a strong case for addressing wealth inequality through the tax system”. This is as a result of greater revenue earners have better capability to avoid wasting, which facilitates funding creation and additional wealth accumulation.

Additionally, wealth inequality is better than revenue inequality. But revenue is comprehensively taxed whereas wealth is not.

Collecting information is just the first step to inform debate in a democratic society. The issue is how much inequality our democracy is willing to tolerate.


Collecting data is simply step one to tell debate in a democratic society. The concern is how a lot inequality our democracy is prepared to tolerate.

Not the legislation’s fault

The dialogue inevitably comes again to equity. We’re all acquainted with the tales of the untaxed passive positive aspects made by property house owners, whereas these incomes wages or salaries pay tax on each greenback earned.

We can’t blame “the wealthy” for this end result. They are solely following the foundations as outlined in tax laws, as they’re required to by legislation.

We can, nonetheless, blame governments – and never simply the present one, regardless of its parliamentary majority providing a possibility for motion that current previous governments haven’t had.

The concern is that none seem prepared to sort out the political unpalatability of introducing a wealth tax. And within the absence of a authorities prepared to take a management position, the rich proceed to learn on the expense of those that have much less.

It is vital to notice that wealth taxes should not sometimes directed at a person’s private house. They are supposed to tax wealth within the conventional which means of the phrase – for instance, individuals who personal a number of homes or are “land banking”.

Importantly, taxes are versatile devices, they will have exclusions the place acceptable, similar to for Māori land.

An knowledgeable debate

Revenue minister David Parker’s current proposals point out some constructive steps ahead. Capturing extra correct details about excessive wealth people has the potential to offer the mandate for change.

As Parker mentioned, present information used for coverage functions “effectively ignores the wealthiest”. He cited proof that the utmost web price collected within the present survey information used for coverage functions was $20 million, which is “out by a factor of hundreds”.

The query is, what is going to the federal government do when that data is accessible?

Collecting data is simply step one to tell debate in a democratic society. The concern is how a lot inequality our democracy is prepared to tolerate.

Better high quality information on who wins and who loses from a wealth tax will contribute to raised high quality debate. Whether we wish a wealth tax, nonetheless, can solely be decided on the poll field. This needs to be put to the vote.

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