Editorials 6 April 2010

The Herald calls for aligning of top tax rates:

It will lower the top rate of income tax from 38 per cent to perhaps 33 per cent, which would leave it still significantly higher than the company rate of 30 per cent.

Aligning those rates should be a primary aim of tax reform. The top income and company rates should be the same for reasons of equity and economic efficiency.

It is neither fair nor useful to the economy that taxpayers on the same incomes should pay different rates because one puts some costs through a company and the other does not.

Arguably it is more important to align the trust rate and the personal rate.

I think we should aim to align all three, but a 3% difference between company and personal is not huge, considering company tax is inputted.

The rates were aligned for a long time after the 1980s reforms when incentives for tax avoidance were taken out of the system.

The incentives were restored by Helen Clark’s as a byproduct of its determination to “tax the rich”.

It introduced a new top income rate of 39 per cent in its first year of office, 2000, and tax-avoidance opportunities returned.

Chief among them are the use of trust funds and personal investment entities that carry a lower tax rate, 33 per cent.

Yeah, that unnecessary tax increase has been a boon for the avoidance industry. Remember 50 of the 100 richest NZers do not even pay it.

The expects to be borrowing $240 million a week for the next four years. Tax cuts must be balanced by spending cuts if the red ink is not to get worse.

The economy would gain as much strength from a balanced Budget as it would from competitive company tax rates.

Whatever decision the makes on the alignment of income and company rates it should be guided by the implications for its revenue. But if it can afford to align those rates it should do so.

Alignment is tidy, simple and fairer for everybody.

Can’t disagree with that.

The Dom Post welcomes open justice:

Justice Warwick Gendall, presiding in the High Court at Whangarei, was upholding the concept of “open justice” in another way. He said talented Blues rugby player Rene Ranger had no more right to anonymity than anyone else charged with assault. The charge of injuring with intent to injure dates from October, when Ranger appeared in Warkworth District Court after an incident outside a Mangawhai pub. He was given name suppression at the time, after his counsel argued that naming him might end his contract with the Rugby Union. Poor lamb.

Justice Gendall was having none of such nonsense and reversed the order.

It is cheering when judges remember that they work in public courts, on behalf of people have not only entrusted them with dispensing justice fairly and impartially, but who also must fund much of what goes on within their courtrooms. Open justice needs to prevail as often as possible; the circumstances in which secrecy supplants it should be rare indeed. …

The shape of Mr Power’s bill, therefore, will be interesting. It will, this newspaper hopes, make it much harder for the wealthy, the well-known, and those can engage a judge’s sympathy to hide from public scrutiny. It is a basic tenet of our justice system that everyone be equal before the law.

Again, I agree.

The Press focuses on rampaging crime:

New Zealanders will be disturbed that crime is continuing to grow at an alarming rate. They have become used to statistics that show increases, but not to the sort of large jump recorded in Wednesday’s figures.

That surprise will be the greater because of the tougher measures implemented by John Key’s Government and touted as a means of reducing wrongdoing.

The Government’s defence – that its measures have not been in effect long enough to impact on crime – is reasonable to a degree. But the trumpeting of its tough measures must have sunk into the awareness of most citizens, criminal and law-abiding, and should already be showing a beneficial result if it is the right approach.

The problem for the Government is that it will be able to use the excuse – that its measures need to be given time to work – only once. If the crime statistics continue to grow in the next 12 months, the Government will have to find a more convincing reason to account for the apparent failure of its policies.

Another increase of this magnitude for violent crime would be a problem.

The ODT discusses the case of the Norweians hunted protected Kereu:

Most New Zealanders would have been horrified to learn of the incident involving Norwegian tourists posted on the internet images of shooting at a fully protected native wood pigeon (kereru), the bird falling from a tree, and film of one of the tourists holding two dead birds.

Though heavily dependent on tourism, the country does not need or want visitors such as these, but there appears to be no existing mechanism within the prosecution regime whereby they can be banned from returning.

Yet if the perpetrators were to be charged and convicted under Norwegian law, the punishment would be far more in keeping with the crime – up to six years’ jail for having wilfully or through gross negligence reduced a natural of protected wildlife in Norway or overseas.

It is ironic that they face greater punishment in Norway for what they did in NZ, than what they could face if they were still here.

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