Leave our GST alone

James Weir at Stuff reports:

New Zealand’s is the best value-added tax in the world and should be protected from any exemptions that undermine it, according to Treasury secretary Gabriel Makhlouf.

Hopefully Labour is listening. The saddest thing of the Goff leadership was his turning his back on 25 years of sensible tax policy, for basically a political stunt.

Makhlouf said New Zealand’s GST was a simple tax that raised a large amount of revenue, with minimal distortions.

“Using GST to promote particular policies comes at great cost,” he said.

Removing GST from food would see the tax take from GST drop about 20 per cent.

The compliance costs, uncertainty and complexity of bringing in exemptions and multiple rates “are overwhelming compared with the asserted benefits”.

There were far more effective ways to promote social outcomes than by “fiddling” with the consumption tax on a good or service, and far more effective ways to redistribute than taking GST off swathes of goods and services.

“GST remains our best designed and more efficient tax,” he said.

The signs are looking reasonably positive that Shearer will have a more sensible tax policy than his predeccesor.

Countries looking for ways to raise more revenue should follow the advice of the OECD and “tidy up their tax codes to remove tax expenditures” which typically favour higher income taxpayers, so more money could be raised without increasing tax rates.

Tax “expenditure” – short for tax concessions or exemptions to particular industries or groups not available widely, were just subsidies “by another name”, Makhlouf said.

“Work on tax expenditure is focused on identifying such expenditures in the interests of transparency”.

With a broad-base, low rate approach and a comprehensive GST system, New Zealand did not have many “tax expenditures”, but they have been listed in the Budget since 2010, he said. The aim was to get a complete tally of all the implicit and explicit subsidies the government awards, “so they can be appraised on their merits”.

That’s a very good thing to do. And I agree with having as few exemptions as possible. That is why I don’t support health insurance being tax deductible.


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