PSA disappointed at Tax Working Group terms of reference

Details of Government's tax working group revealed

The TWG will be led by former Sir Michael Cullen, who served as Finance Minister from 1999 to 2008 in Helen Clark's Labour Government.

Dr Cullen was Labour's previous finance minister and one of the key coalition negotiators for Labour after the election.

The Government wanted consultation to go "beyond the usual discussion documents and websites to actually be much more interactive", and was considering the establishment of shadow working groups made up of young Kiwis to develop new ideas.

Roberston today said the government wants to address the issue where property speculators haven't paid tax on income from selling houses at a profit whereas salary and wage earners' incomes are captured.

People buying a house purely to capture gains in a rising market pay tax on the profit.

The group has been told to consider the economic environment over the next five-to-10 years and how that's affecting changing business models, demographics and business practices; whether some form of housing, land or capital gains tax would improve the system; whether a progressive company tax with lower rates for small businesses would improve the system and business environment; and what role tax can play in delivering environment benefits.

"Sir Michael is many things but a politically independent voice on taxation policy he is not", National's finance spokesman Steven Joyce said.

The tax working group will recommend changes to the Government, which has promised no major reforms will take effect until after the 2020 election. Recommendations are expected to be presented to Ministers in February 2019.

Robertson said he isn't making a grab for cash.

Reforms could be fiscally neutral and he had an open mind on if a CGT would be necessary.

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While GST rates would remain unchanged, the working group could consider whether to exempt certain products from GST, such as female sanitary products or fresh fruit and vegetables.

Trade unions had mixed reactions to the announcement.

The group could consider the possibility of tax breaks on pensions and savings if it wanted, Robertson said.

The Council of Trade Unions welcomed the opportunity to engage with the Government.

"Workers understand that pooling our resources is the only way to achieve these goals - and the way we do this is through a fair and transparent tax system".

"It's vital the Government actively seeks their views on whether New Zealand's current taxation arrangements are fit for the objective of providing quality, sustainable public services".

Any "significant changes" would not be introduced until the 2021 tax year - after the next election. That test now makes gains on the sale of residential property sold by non-owner occupiers within two years of purchase taxable.

The group has been told not to look at increasing income tax rates or the rate of GST, inheritance tax, a tax on the family home, or the adequacy of the personal tax system and its interaction with the transfer system.

The terms also ruled out looking at global tax reform under the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting agenda, although Robertson said the broader issue of multinationals and company tax was still on the table.

He expected the group to be made up exclusively of New Zealanders, although expected it to work with people in other countries.

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