Jen​ée Tibshraeny crunches the numbers to figure out whether criticisms that the Labour Party is the 'tax party' are well-founded

Jen​ée Tibshraeny crunches the numbers to figure out whether criticisms that the Labour Party is the 'tax party' are well-founded
Grant Robertson illustration by Jacky Carpenter

By Jenée Tibshraeny

'Taxinda' – it’s a provocative tag that puts a target on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s back.

But is there any substance behind it, or is it just a cheap shot?

Until the Tax Working Group reports back and legislation to enact whatever it recommends gains enough support to be passed, I’m going with cheap shot.

Here’s why.

If we add the new or tweaked taxes implemented under this government to the proposed (and likely to be implemented) ones, New Zealanders will pay an extra $252 million in the year to June 2019.

This will increase incrementally until we are paying an extra $860 million in the year to June 2022.

($ millions) 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21 2021/22 Total
Happening $ $ $ $ $
Petrol excise 91.9 245.0 367.5 367.5 1,071.9
Regional fuel tax - Auckland  160.0 160.0 160.0 160.0 640.0
Bright line test extension ... ... 10.0 30.0 40.0
GST on low-value imported goods _ 66.0 100.0 112.0 278.0
Ring-fencing rental losses _ 10.0 125.0 190.0 325.0
Totals 251.9 481.0 762.5 859.5 2,354.9

To make these numbers easier to digest, on average that’s an extra $51 per person in the year to 2019 (population of 4.9 million) and $162 in the year to 2022 (projected population of 5.3 million).

The impact of additional taxes won’t of course be spread evenly across the population. Aucklanders, motorists and property investors for example are expected to pay more.

But in figuring out how much more tax we’re paying under this government than if National was re-elected, it’s fair to subtract the value of GST on low-value imported goods from the total, as National was planning to make this change too.

We should also consider the fact increases in petrol excise taxes are normal, so could have happened under a National-led government, as they have in the past.

While the Coalition Government is increasing petrol excise taxes by a total of 10.5 cents over three years, the National-led Government hiked these by 17 cents over nine years.

If we knock off the tax revenue from the GST changes and say half the hiked petrol excises, you could estimate that under this government we will pay an extra $564 million ($106 per person) in tax in 2022 than under a National-led government.

The big ‘but’ is that National promised to introduce income tax cuts worth $2 billion a year if was re-elected in 2017. That works out to be about $408 per capita in 2019.

What we don’t know is what other taxes it may have introduced.

It would be wrong to assume it wouldn’t have introduced any. When it in 2010 announced it was hiking GST from 12.5% to 15%, it expected to raise an extra $2.46 billion of revenue a year by 2013/14.

While the GST hike was accompanied by some tax cuts, the changes were much more significant than those taking place under this government… so far.

Sure, there are a lot of hypotheticals in this analysis, but what we can conclude is that we are paying more tax under the Coalition Government than we were under the previous government. We are also forgoing an income tax cut. But the value of the additional tax we’re paying isn’t huge.

What we haven’t considered is the extent to which our extra tax payments are being offset by other government policies aimed at putting more money in our pockets – IE Working for Families tax credits and improvements to transport infrastructure.

If we look at the specific tax changes, the ones affecting property, extending the bright line test from two to five years and ring-fencing rental losses are more about encouraging behavioural change than raising lots of revenue.

The real revenue earners are taxes aimed at improving transport infrastructure.

While National points the finger at the Government for increasing petrol excises and implementing a regional fuel tax in Auckland (collected by Auckland Council), the question it cannot answer is where it would get the money from to the fund necessary transport infrastructure.

The Regulatory Impact Statement for the petrol excise hikes noted the Government Policy Statement on land transport put the shortfall in land transport revenue at $5 billion over 10 years.  

Asked whether she would plug this gap using general taxes (which would go against the pay-as-you-go and hypothecated revenue models we have for transport), use a larger programme of financing, or get the New Zealand Transport agency to scale back its planned investment programme, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams told me: “It is too early to make specific funding commitments, which will be based on the state of the government’s books in 2020.”

Coming back to the point I made at the start; it isn’t fair to call Jacinda Ardern ‘Taxinda’ – at least not until the Tax Working Group reports back and legislation to enact whatever it recommends gains enough support to be passed.

While the possible introduction of a capital gains tax is the issue on everyone’s mind, it is worth noting that New Zealand First could veto this if it sticks to its line that it opposes such a tax.

When I asked its Leader Winston Peters whether he’d softened his view on a capital gains tax in recent weeks or months, he wouldn’t give a definitive answer.

In the same way Peters had disproportionate influence over the make-up of our government in the 2017 election, he may have disproportionate influence over what will be the biggest issue going into the next election; real deal tax reform - not the smaller changes that have been implemented to date. 

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The Labour party is Fleecing us. Forget about just the $50 increase a year what about the $1000 of the tax back promised by national in 2017 ? So we are $1050 worse off a year.


Really because National by increasing the GST I ended paying an extra 2.5% on everything which ended up being in the tens of thousands per year. Overall all of NZ was paying more tax on the GST increase especially hitting the poor the hardest by increasing basic necessities even bills & healthcare costs.

I was lead to believe that National wouldn't increase GST if they were elected, John Key said so himself.

Are you serious? Have you seen this?

John Key on video saying he won't raise GST from 12.5% to 15%, then did so.

So they lied last time, why wouldn't they lie again?

I was part way through a largish residential build at this time, I can tell you the extra 2.5% made a difference.

Exactly my point. John Key said he wouldn't raise GST if elected, then what happened?

I was on my phone when I commented so couldn't be bothered digging up that video.

If a 2.5% increase is costing you tens of thousands a year you must be spending ≥ 100k a year on GSTable items. Quit ur bitching.

"10's" of thousands in extra GST means he is spending between $800,000 and 4 million on GST qualifying goods per year. Certainly an impressive shopper.

Most people spend most of their income in one way or another and in NZ EVERYTHING is taxed, even the taxes on our properties (rates) and insurance and fresh vegetables etc, etc, etc...its disgusting. Not to mention that 15% is about the highest GST anywhere in the world. Even in USA there is not GST on fresh fruit and vegetables and they dont tax property rates (A tax). NZ promotes the use of crap processed food by taxing everything that is good for you to eat.

"Not to mention that 15% is about the highest GST anywhere in the world"

VAT is 8% in Switzerland, but in the other 29 European countries it is more than 15%. Between 17% to 25% with most over 20%. Sure they have some exclusions, but 15% is certainly not "... about the highest GST anywhere in the world""

GST is on services though, most places have sales tax with exemptions for food baby clothes etc.

Pretty easy moaning about a GST increase in isolation of context. Your dramatic sound bite doesn't carry so much gravitas when the facts surrounding that increase are added. The primary tax strategy at the time was to try and align the top PAYE tax rate, the company tax rate and the tax rate on trusts to around 33%. This was to ensure the wealthy gain nothing from arranging their affairs to reduce the amount of tax they pay. The then Australian government threw a spanner in the works by lowering their company tax rate to 30%. Fearful of jobs migrating across the Tasman (which the left would have shreiked loudly about) National followed suit. It chose to off set this tax loss by raising GST because a) changing the top tax rate would exacerbate the very problem they were trying to reduce, that of tax evasion, the rich can't avoid paying GST, they can and did offset the impact on beneficiaries by increasing welfare payments. If they had simply changed the company tax rate there would be no end of comments on here around how they favour business over people and that the rich 'don't pay their fair share' despite the fact that around 412,000 people pay almost 48% of all income tax in NZ, the remainder (3.3m) pay 52% and of those 3.3m the large majority pay almost zero net tax as they receive most of it back as tax credits through WFF. So you paid an extra 2.5% in GST? And...?

Of course the rich don't pay their fair share, that's the reason they pay almost 48% of all income tax in NZ. I'm sure there are plenty of workers out there on minimum wage who'd gladly pay a bigger share of tax if their employer would fairly remunerate them.

Theo Spierings probably paid over $2.5 million in tax last year. I suppose you think he pays far too much out of his $8.1 million salary and that this should be reduced because $100k a week nett is just not enough these days.

And comparatively few of "the rich" are those earning the bulk of their money through wages and salary, even though the ones paying the vast majority of taxes are doing it out of their wages and salary. In New Zealand we encourage unproductive investment, not productive investment.

Depends on how you define 'rich'. The current top tax bracket captures salary earners such as senior teachers and principals, senior nurses, police officers, skilled tradespeople and a whole raft of other workers who have applied themselves to their chosen profession or trade, taken the time and expense to gain qualifications and are slugged by the government for the temerity to earn over $70k per year. The vast majority of these people would not consider themselves 'rich' and would certainly argue that they do pay well more than their 'fair' share of tax. Just as the stereotype of the poor as dole bludging losers does not bear close scrutiny, neither does the stereotype of the 'rich' translate to mean everyone in the top tax bracket has 15 rental houses and sharp accountant who juggles the books so they pay next to nothing in tax. Also, for every Theo Spiering there are plenty of people who refuse to work and believe the world owes them a living. But don't let the facts get in the way of your narrative. The point you also seem to conveniently forget is those of most means drive most of the growth and jobs in NZ, think Rod Drury of Xero or Peter Beck of Rocket Labs, but nah, let's tax the crap out of them and drive them overseas, we don't want their progressive, job creation thinking here in NZ, they are all just rich pricks...


The Taxinda moniker was earned by the ‘captains call’ to make capital gains a feature of Labour’s 2017 election campaign. That was scaled back to the voters having a say in the next election, likely in 2020. I have absolutely no doubt the PM will earn it again in 2020. The Left is all about taking from the productive and they have no philosophical limit. It’s the voters that keep them in check and perversely Winstone.

You know what, girlfriend? If you spent as much time actually doing something productive, other than whinging about ‘Taxinda’ and fleecing hard working kiwis into paying rent on your shit boxes, you’d be really happy and probably quite wealthy too. Bludging money and skitting every 2% your house price rises, is kinda sad... am making a sad face as I type this...

Don’t have any rentals. I was made redundant and have joined the ranks of the underemployed. I have enough savings to see me out. We will see if my paranoia about Socialists is justified. Right now it’s playing out as I expected.

Problem is, that charge is equally able to be levied at National (perhaps because they've moved so far left?).

Rather than dropping taxes on the productive in order to encourage closing the productivity gap with Australia, something Key was initially very vocal on (productivity), the whole productivity issue was quietly abandoned...and instead, people who work for a living in productive enterprise continued to bear the tax burden disproportionately, while unproductive speculation got a free ride.

And we wonder why NZ is undercapitalised and underproductive.

Heaven forbid we encourage the actually productive folk, eh.

Younger, productive working Kiwis now have it far worse because of the last decade of National's governance ignoring the productivity vs. speculation issue (that they campaigned) to a far, far, far greater degree than $1,000 per year in tax.

Taking from the productive? You mean like treating houses the same as other asset classes so people are incentivised to invest in the productive economy?

The income tax table should be indexed with inflation, with the inome levels adusted every year to match inflation.

Without this indexing, there is a stealth tax increase that happens every year due to inflation. BTW, the National "tax cut" was proposed to be a reset to the same effective rates as when the current tax table was instituted. Since then inflation has pushed incomes up with the result of higher effective taxation. Labour repealed this rebalancing to the effective tax rates (and rebranded it as a tax cut repeal) This repeal was most definitely a vote to increase taxes.

Whether this was good or bad, depends on your viewpoint.


Ah, the hucksters are at it already.

As one with no political axe to grind, I find this level of comment sad. Both the 'Left' and the 'Right' are into unsustainable drawing-down of the planet which support all life - ours included. Yet folk are so small in the bit between their ears, that they think it matters which cohort gets a slight, temporary advantage.

And everyone misses the point that tax isn't a loss - it's just a societal agreement to mass-fund things which otherwise wouldn't happen.

Agreed about resource issues, as well as the utility of taxation.

There is always the discussion as to which of these things that otherwise wouldn't happen should be funded, which does tend to have some party line divides. Personally, I'd be in favor of using thorium reactors, coupled with a CO2+H2O to hydrocarbon so as to have carbon neutral hydrocarbons available. One can dream....

Yes - Agree !

Get the CO2 by heating limestone with the high temp MSR then spread the now quicklime back on the mine surface where it absorbs the exact equal amount of CO2 emitted and the cycle is closed while utilising all existing hydrocarbon infrastructure. The Nullabor plain is all limestone is not going to run out of that !

A great example where there is always a technology answer to most of the worlds problems.

Just commitment, time and money.

Yes PDK and don't forget to mention: "the earth is finite and we are running out of oil" LOL

"And everyone misses the point that tax isn't a loss - it's just a societal agreement to mass-fund things which otherwise wouldn't happen."

I agree with you to the extent that where government spending goes through cost-benefit analysis it shows net social, economic and environmental gains to NZ.Inc (even if there is a financial cost).

Where the spending doesn't have net benefits to NZ.Inc it's a deadweight cost.

most people don't mind paying tax provided it is utilised and spent wisely. I wouldn't employ any of the current muppets we have running the country, so why on earth would I give them my tax money to spend? you would have to be mad.

As far as I am aware the Tax threshold adjustments from National were already legislated which means that Labour’s changes were technically a tax increase for the 2018/2019 year. Also you include the national fuel excise but missed the Auckland regional fuel tax. To top it all off the National government promised another tax cut in the 2021/2022 fiscal year, assuming a similar scale as the 2018/2019 cut and I would be surprised if the difference for most net tax payers was less than $2,500 per year by 2022

I did include Auckland’s regional fuel tax in my sums thanks. See the table.

And the tax threshold adjustment repeal shouldn't be included for what reason???

The art of being a biased journalist involves strategically ignoring elements that do not fit with the story that you want to tell. Maybe look for a site that takes donations to keep their journalism UNBIASED if you want to find articles that include such data in an analysis of how much more tax we are paying now than we would have if National were in power and the government did not introduce new legislation raising taxes from the level legislated for the 2019 fiscal year as at the start of their term ( the new legislation being designed to effectively repeal previously legislated law ).

I applaud your subtle sarcasm sadr!

My apologies I head meant regional fuel taxes excluding the Auckland regional fuel tax, but our beloved prime minister has now ruled those out. Still stand by my assertion that the per year difference by the 2022 fiscal year should be closer to $2,000 once you take into account tax legislation as at when labour came into power versus current tax legislation.

I did acknowledge these:

“The big ‘but’ is that National promised to introduce income tax cuts worth $2 billion a year if was re-elected in 2017. That works out to be about $408 per capita in 2019.”

I sought input from both National’s Adams and Labour’s Robertson on my figures. 

The problem is with the narrative. Adjusting income brackets is not a "Tax cut", National is guilty that they waited until the election year to make this adjustment and tried to sell this as a tax cut!
The income brackets needs to be adjusted in accordance with the costs of living. So we paid more taxes under National than we should (because they refused to adjust the bracket) and we continue to pay more taxes under Labour because of the same matter.

It wasn't just a promise if elected. It was passed into law prior to the election. That Labour repealed it should be reflected in your tax increase totals rather than only acknowledging this repeal via a comment and neglecting the $value in your summation.

Characterizing it as a tax cut is misrepresentation.

BTW. I was far less than impressed at the electioneering timing of the implementation of the inflation adjustment, as well as the fact that it was a single correction, whereas an honest manner to implement it would be to index the tax tables to inflation.

Sorry, why are we measuring tax cuts on a per capita basis unless they are poll taxes? This is the first time I've ever seen an income tax change reported on a per capita basis and I'm struggling to understand why.

I'm a bit sceptical about including the regional fuel tax - it goes straight to council not government.
And did you include the removal of the Auckland Council transport levy ($114 per ratepayer)? It was no longer needed due to the regional fuel tax.

In changing world dominated by social media and fake news - Speaking lies 100 times and hoping that it is established as a truth is a reality and happening world over.

National is an expert in playing feay psycology and their only hope to get back in power.

Fake news can only get you so far.. won't work always..

People have understood how fake the National party were.. , especially in the case of housing..infrastructure.. social and public failures....

The only failure in housing greater than National was Labour in the previous term. And yet they suddenly figured it out when their arse hit the opposition benches.

They're all as transparent as each other.

Well yes, increases started under Labour and were of a greater percentage than under National. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, with the benefit of hindsight National campaigned on addressing the issues that formed under Labour and once elected did stuff all to address it.

The bright line test extension will be interesting. Will we see much in the way of capital gains to the end FY '22 on investment property bought since end of March?
And ring fencing...I wonder what portion of that will ultimately manifest itself as a tax on those that don't own their own home...

One would think it will have some impact on dampening property speculation. How much is hard to know.

I cant see how you can pass on a loss.
I find the whole "im buying a business (rental property) to make a loss so I can offset that against my personal income so I pay less income tax "thing ridiculous. Thats right, instead of paying tax I give all the money to the bank in interest and gamble on a capital gain to make profit.
It is honestly the best business plan ever. (sarcasm is free on monday mornings)

Who in their right mind would buy into a business that loses money on purpose.

The New Zealand Government.


One thing this country excells at is not paying its fair share to make sure the country runs adequately. I'm a businessman and I have been disgusted at the culture of tax avoidence that has grown in this country over the past couple of decades. Whats wrong with paying your share to ensure the country still actually operates?

Because the main goal of the current CoL isn't to just ensure the country operates, rather waste/buy votes with the tax payer's money and pad out their CVs for their next gig at the UN. Let me ask you "businessman". How would you run your business if you can charge your customers as much as you like and they don't have a choice but to pay up every time? If the wastage caused by the government is exceedingly obvious, why shouldn't you minimise your "share" of the wasted spending? Doesn't sound like your "business" will last long as you seem to be extremely keen to let spenders who never worked a day in private sector in their lives to spend without accountability.

Really if you thought businesses and their customers were not affected by the massive GST increase then you are kidding yourself. Less discretionary spending and higher personal costs for another 60bln in national debt helped no one, especially since all those who were abusing the system got off scot free. Even the Christchurch recovery was so broken that I have several family members dead before their time due directly to it's failures, with their home lost and a decade on the lucky ones who got repairs are finding them horribly botched. Frankly they would have been better off without the massive sell off to Chinese interests. They may have even been able to pay for different housing and receive adequate healthcare that was not massively underfunded and broken. Even young friends who died from entirely preventable issues did so because they were looking at the pits of poverty even with good professional jobs. How many 20 & 30 year olds did you bury in the past few years.


Here's a challenge Steve o, try going a whole day without anything provided or built by the money wasting government.... Or better still just move to Somalia. A guy can get ahead there with no taxes..

Boom! Quote of the week! Noice one, family Jonses!

I'm half wondering if you aren't Steven Joyce, ex minister of preaching. The same one who grew up in the public cradle, got a free education and eventually graduated from Uni debt free but in his later years corrupted by greed pulled up the ladder on the generation following him, whom he proceeded to spit and urinate upon from a great height. There is no way despite your mad theories of the state being a mis spending tyrant to exist without public goods which are arrived at via tax payer contributions because government goes where private capital fears to tread, always has always will. For the record, I recognise that my business benefits directly from the taxes it pays by way of the public services it consumes. The concept is not rocket science but if you are struggling with the concept I am happy to draw up a couple of stick figure thingees so you can get the picture, just let me know.

The ring fencing of rental losses is a positive. Heat needs to be taken out of the housing market.
Gst on overseas purchases is a positive. Hopefully this puts money back in local businesses tills. As an importer I deal with a few - bought if rom amazon/warranty calls.... good luck is my standard response.

Both parties tax us far too much - remember it was national that raised GST.

Calling National conservative or right wing is a joke. They are social democrats, just like labour. We have no real fiscally responsible alternative in NZ.

I tend to be concerned at how narrow the paye tax base actually is, especially in the higher brackets. Also, gst just nails low income earners, so tends to be regressive perhaps ditch gst for a transaction tax instead, I hear it has been adopted internationally with some moderate success.

Squeal piggies squeal...

The government's surplus is too large. In a macro sense it shouldn't raise taxes. And I am a person who believes in the need for a larger state providing public goods that the market can't or should not for moral reasons.
I believe we have a deficiency of demand in our economy which manifests itself in low to no wage growth and persistent underemployment and crap employment.
If our current account deficit stays at about the same level and business continues with its low investment propensity, the only way to inject more demand into the economy (without pushing households into further debt than they already are) is for the government to run a sensible deficit. This would allow the private domestic sector to save and restore their dodgy balance sheets. To this end I would support tax cuts to low and middle income families. Despite being as social democratic as they come.
Taxes don't fund government spending except in a contrived accounting sense. (See Beardsley Ruml - Chairman of NY Fed .
Rather they open up non-inflationary space for the state to command real resources, discourage or encourage certain behaviours and provide for redistribution of purchasing power. Government cheques in NZ will never bounce because they are the monopoly issuer of the currency. This government does not need to tax or borrow to spend (up to a certain limit - genuine full employment). See Japan for how this works. We should look and learn. Or even Trump's America. The Republicans have worked out that deficits don't matter and indeed get an economy growing (surprise surprise).
On the whole I see this tax working group hoo-ha as much ado about nothing that won't cure the biggest genuine problem the NZ economy has - a deficiency of demand.

So cs. The "economy" grows and the inhabitants get poorer. Why would you propose that ?

I believe we have a deficiency of demand in our economy which manifests itself in low to no wage growth and persistent underemployment and crap employment.

Problem is, we've had an easy workaround instead of wage growth: import cheaper, more exploitable workers.

For the latest examples of this see the hospitality industry campaigning to be able to import cheap cafe managers rather than facing supply and demand locally, and our resorting to importing teachers rather than paying enough to attract more to the job.

What's crazy is that we often see the same folk saying teachers get more than enough yet we need to pay politicians more to attract good candidates to the job. And then they lament the abundance of career politicians while wondering why we have a shortage of teachers.

Oh for goodness sake !

The chattering class has run away with itself on this otherwise excellent piece by Jenee.

Firstly GST is a very fair tax , way fairer to tax peoples spending than taxing them for getting up and going to work every day .

AND , while GST gets revenue from spenders who spend their Capital Gains ( which they do ) , this does not apply to income from ordinary old work which gets only PAYE

AND lest we forget , National's excellent 9 years in office saw a massive level of GDP growth , and an increase in living standards, because they LET US KEEP MORE THE THE MONEY WE WORKED FOR.

Per capita growth was better during Clarke's Labour government than Key's National. How does that stack up with your theory about tax differences between them Boatman?

You mean the Golden period when the World economy boomed, then followed by the bust called the GFC? What did Labour do so well? A tide lifts all boats, even the ones being laden with dead weight.

Problem is, despite being a paid up member you'd then have to extend the same hat-tip to worldwide factors vs local governance over the last decade. What you're saying is that NZ governments have very little impact on economic growth here, irrespective of leaning. And you're likely right in that, it's just it applies equally well to both sides.

I think all politicians in a three year electoral cycle accentuate the positive and try to eliminate the negative, without admitting how little control they have or how much was actually attributable to them. Then come election time they promise homes for all and deliver a mandarin tree to a student doctor who's spent five months travelling the World. I'm not sucked in by that, unlike others. What I look at is the long term. While both sides buy votes, National has a bias towards allowing people who earn their money to keep as much as possible. Not as strict as I'd like but given the choices I give them my vote anyway.

Ex Expat, word has it the cockroach intends returning to the nest. Make that vote count! "National allow people to earn money and keep as much as possible"

In 2009, the National led Government suspended contributions to the Super Fund (Labours Cullen Fund)

01 July 2011, National led Government halved the kiwisaver contribution to $521.00, but $1042.00 was still required from contributors in order to get it. Knowing that your in kiwisaver yourself, this would have meant less money for you.

01 April 2012, National led Government commenced taxing employer Kiwisaver contributions. This would have meant less money for you.

14 Dec 2017, To help secure a future for the aged, the Labour led Government re-commenced contributions to the Super fund (Labours Cullen Fund)

01 Jan 2018, The Labour led Government increased student allowance by $50.00 per week together with the introduction of first year free tertiary study.

The Labour led Government inherited an infrastructure so run down, additional taxation was unavoidable so our offspring will have access to decent healthcare and safer roads for starters. The Labour led government is investing in our young talent.

I think just simply wanting more in your pocket just smacks of a primitive and simplistic greed to be honest.

Get the picture.

So it is complicated then? As such, sweeping statements about National's tax take being slightly lower per GDP being a master stroke for growth with no long term complications are very simplistic, and open to ridicule?