Trotter on CGT


WHY CAN’T LABOUR take “No” for an answer? When the party first offered voters a Capital Gains Tax () in 2011 they responded by giving Labour 27 percent of the Party Vote. Undaunted, David Cunliffe and his team doubled-down on the CGT in 2014. Labour’s Party Vote slumped to a risible 24 percent. Point taken?

For a while it looked as though Labour’s ears had started working again. Cunliffe’s successor, Andrew Little, moved swiftly (if unilaterally) to take the twice-rejected CGT off the table. Which should have been the end of the story. But, it wasn’t. Within Labour’s caucus there remained a tight little clutch of CGT supporters who simply refused to let the policy go.

That tight little clutch: led by the current Finance Minister, Grant Robertson; which recoils in horror at the very suggestion that Labour should tax the incomes of the very wealthy without mercy; remains absolutely convinced that taxing the local dairy owner’s capital gains will produce nothing but sweetness and light. They’ve run their blue pencils through Inheritance Tax, Land Tax, Financial Transaction Tax and Carbon Tax: but in spite of its emphatic rejection in two successive elections, they continue to give their CGT the big tick.

Yep a tax on every small business owner in New Zealand is what Dr Cullen has proposed.

Cullen’s aside, properly decoded, offers up just one meaning: “This is a damn fool’s political errand, which I only accepted so that I could deliver these twerps a CGT of such breadth and bite that only a complete idiot would consider implementing it!” If that is not what it means, then we must, reluctantly, conclude that the former Finance Minister has lost his wits.

I’m don’t know the motivation behind it, but it is true that the specific CGT Dr Cullen has recommended is a dog. It will exempt foreigners trading NZ shares and exempt NZers trading foreign shares but tax New Zealanders trading New Zealand shares.

What does it say about the Prime Minister and her Finance Minister that the very first thing they did following Little’s very own “captain’s call” (inspired, presumably, by Captain Oates’ heroic, if unavailing, act of self-sacrifice at the end of Robert Falcon Scott’s doomed Antarctic Expedition) was to rush outside, pick up the discarded CGT, dust it off, and replace it reverently on Labour’s table? Clearly, Ardern and Robertson are not the sort of Gen-Xers who enjoy being told that they are wrong!

The Greens, however, are much, much worse. Co-leader James Shaw has declared that, if the 2020 General Election arrives and a CGT has not been enacted, then his party does not deserve to be re-elected. The problem which he and his party may be forced to confront is that if the CGT proposed by the Tax Working Group is enacted next year (effective in 2021) then the electorate may feel moved to give the Greens exactly what they deserve!

James Shaw has given people a great quote – if the TWG’s proposal is not implemented, he has said the Government doesn’t deserve to be re-elected.

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