On Labour’s Capital Gains Tax

A parliamentary staffer notes to me:

Not sure how Cunliffe’s attempt to clarify ’s CGT squares with the summary below in their policy document, which doesn’t specifically exclude family homes owned by trusts, and in fact says trusts could not be used to avoid the CGT.

Excluding trust-owned houses from a CGT would seem to raise questions about whether different trustees of the same trust, who live in different houses, would be exempt from a CGT on a number of properties, which would become complicated and costly in terms of foregone revenue.

I also wonder whether Labour’s revenue forecasts were counting on homes held in trusts being included? After all David Cunliffe has said their Capital Gains Trust will lead to families and businesses paying an extra $4 to $5 billion a year in tax.

In Labour’s policy summary their exemptions are:

Exemptions: The family home, personal assets, collectables, small business assets sold for retirement and payouts from retirement savings schemes, including KiwiSaver, will be exempt.

It is not at all clear whether this exemption includes family homes in trusts. I expect the IRD will need to hire hundreds of new staff to deal with such a complex CGT.

I support NZ having a , so long as income and company tax rates fall to compensate. But the CGT should be like GST – with almost no exemptions. Labour’s one is so complicated even the guy who designed it (Cunliffe was Finance Spokesperson when Labour adopted it) doesn’t know how it works.

Rob Hosing at NBR also makes a good point. He states that property speculators are already taxed if they buy and sell property to make capital gains. He gives an example of how someone in Auckland who buys a house for $750,000 and sells it a year later for $900,000 will pay (probably) 33% of the $150,000 profit if they are a property speculator.

Under the current law their tax bill would be $49,500. Under Labour’s Capital Gains Tax they will pay just 15% on their capital gain, so just $22,500 in tax.

Now it is hard to prove someone is a property speculator but National gave the IRD $6.65 million to enforce the current law more vigorously and this lead to an extra $57 million in tax revenue from property speculators.

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