The net fiscal impact of National’s tax and spending changes

I’ve blogged previously on the outrageously dishonest spin from Labour that tax revenues are down 4% of GDP over four years, and trying to assert it is all due to the one set of changes in 2010. Even some journalists who should know better have repeated such absurdities.

I’m going to blog in two parts on this issue. The first part will be today looking at what the Treasury macro-economic advice was for the impact of the tax and spending changes, and tomorrow (if I have time otherwise later in the week), I’m actually going to analyse the actual changes in tax revenues through the 2008 BEFU, the 2008 PREFU, 2008 DEFU, 2009 BEFU, 2009 HYEFU, 2010 BEFU, 2010 HYEFU, 2011 BEFU, and finally the 2011 PREFU. This looks at the changes in overall tax revenues, individual tax revenues, corporate tax revenues and GST.

It is important to understand you need both the forecasts of what a change will do, and what actually happened. Neither are the total picture, but together they give us a reasonable picture.

You see the reality is that if Treasury says (for example) hiking the top tax rate from 33c to 39c will bring in $900m/year of extra revenue, and a Government does it, and revenue only goes up $700m, then no-one really knows why the revenue gain was less than projected. It might be that it did increase revenue by $900m, but that economic growth was flatter and so taxable income was lower. Or it could be that the increase lead to greater tax avoidance, and the increase did not achieve as much extra revenue as projected.

It is easy to diss Treasury projections – even I have done so. But it is worth noting how massively complicated it is to forecast tax tax over an entire economy. Many individual companies have problems forecasting income just for that company. Now imagine having to forecast income for the aggregate of every company and person in New Zealand, without having the knowledge of what is happening in individual companies.

What we have below is the official net fiscal impact as forecast by Treasury for ’s tax and spending changes. As you will see the total effect of these tax changes is negative during the 2008 – 2010 period, which is when there was a fiscal stimulus policy to help cushion the recession, and in the first two years, providing support to the economy during the recession, and have been net positive from 2010 onwards.

Net fiscal impact of the Government’s tax changes ($million increase (decrease) in the operating balance)








Election tax package1







Budget 2009 cancellation of 2nd and 3rd tranches2






SME tax package3







Budget 2010 tax package4





Budget 2011 tax changes5











 1. fiscal impact = revenue (2/3*removal of R&D tax credit + KiwiSaver changes + cancelling remaining tranches of Labour’s ) minus costs (personal tax + IETC). Source: Cabinet Paper CAB(08)585.

2. cancellation of the 2010 and 2011 tax cuts as announced in the 2009 Budget. Source: Treasury Report T2009/418.

3. SME tax package as announced in February 2009. Source: BEFU 2009, Table 1.7.

4. fiscal impact = revenue (GST increase + depreciation + LAQC + thin cap + WFF + GST base + tobacco + increased audit) minus costs (personal tax + company + PIE and savings vehicles + GST compensation). Source: Budget 2010 Executive Summary, Table 1.

5. savings from changes to KiwiSaver and WFF tax credits. Source: Budget 2011 Executive Summary, Table 2.

It is worth recalling that during this period Labour opposed every single spending cut made by National.

Over the six years of National’s first two terms, the total projected impact of National’s tax changes (and cancellation of spending commitments) has been a net improvement of $4.9b. In other words compared to the policies put in place by Labour in 2008, National’s changes were projected by Treasury to result in $4.9b more revenue over two terms.

It is worth noting these are only the direct tax (and cancelled spending commitments) changes. This is not taking into account National slashing to the contingency for new spending from over $2b a year to $800m and eventually zero. That has also had am impact in the billions.

Now as I said, we will also look tomorrow at what actually happened to tax revenues, but many factors impact tax revenues as well as policy changes. These figures for now show how preposterous Labour’s deception is about how the 2010 tax package is somehow primarily or totally responsible for a decline in tax revenue of 4% of GDP or $7b/year.

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