OnPoint by Keith Ng

Read Post

OnPoint: Why does the top 10% paying more tax? (An interactive story)

61 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 Newer→ Last

  • BenWilson,

    Nice viz. Could be interesting to break the top 10% down even further. It would be most curious to see how the top 10% is itself distributed. I bet the median is very different from the mean.

    As for the fairness, you have to buy the idea that everyone should get similar proportional increases at all to even dream of calling it unfair when the top 10% get a slightly higher rise. If you look at that fact that the income of the bottom 7 deciles put together is about the same as the top one, then it starts not to look that onerous that they might have to pay more tax proportionally. Even just in the top 2 deciles, two thirds of the income goes to the top one. I bet there’s a similar tale even within the top decile, and the mean is dragged up quite a lot by the final few percentiles.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George,

    Some capital gains are taxed in New Zealand, if you are deemed a speculator or a dealer. See http://www.ird.govt.nz/property/property-common-mistakes/mistake-dealing-with-investment/

    Does the visualisation use individual incomes? Key's claim is about household incomes.

    Key's office has responded to a query about his claim.

    The Prime Minister was referring to the following piece of analysis from the Treasury:

    http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/tax-support-systems-redistribute-incomes

    This is deliberately a very simple measure of tax redistribution so it can be simply understood. The description of what is and isn’t included in the calculation is included in the press release.

    Mr Salmond is correct that the calculation doesn’t include GST. But it also doesn’t include, for example, company tax paid on behalf of NZ shareholders. It doesn’t include receipt of NZ Superannuation which would make redistribution far more pronounced. It doesn’t include households’ use of free education or health services. The households are not adjusted to account for differences in size and composition. The point is that many different types of calculation – from the most simple to the most complex – can be described as “net tax” and that is fine as long as people are clear about what is or isn’t included in their calculation.

    The Government stands by the figures it has used.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • WH, in reply to Pete George,

    There's something insidious about this line of argument.

    It's a statistical rendering of Mitt Romney's point about the 47%, and it works in part by ignoring a fair proportion of the taxes the average wage and salary earner pays and by including transfers made to households with children.

    The argument needs to be put the other way: how do you fund the things a fair society needs to do?

    Since Nov 2006 • 784 posts Report Reply

  • Rik,

    “Net taxes” is not a real thing. These are the official tax statistics published by the IRD. “Net taxes” is not among them, nor should it be, because it’s estimate of a bunch of arbitrary measures, put together for entirely political ends.

    I think we all know what Key is referring to - just like the difference between gross income and net income, he is referring to the amount of benefits taken which offset any tax paid.

    Take my case as an example - I have been a high earner for over 20 years and paid plenty of income tax (and ACC premiums) over the years. I am married and have a modest mortgage and 3 kids, however my working circumstances have changed and I am no longer earning what I used to earn. While I have paid some income tax in the last year, I am now in the position that I can claim Working for Families tax credits which would more than offset the income tax I have paid, therefore my net tax paid will be a negative number.

    You don't need to be an accountant to figure out that if a large chunk of lower income earners are like me, that the net tax take swings towards those that put in more than they take out.

    So I guess someone like Key who is in a position where he has to actually balance the books needs to take these things into consideration, as they are real, even if you don't think they are.

    Note: I have not yet decided if I will apply for the tax credits, however if I do it will be with a clear conscience as I have certainly put a lot in the pot over the years.

    Since Jun 2007 • 130 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to WH,

    capital gains aren’t income. If they were, they’d be taxed.

    I’m not sure that’s right.

    Capital gains are already taxed in a large number of jurisdictions, including the UK, the US and Australia. The US-based Tax Policy Center states that:

    Capital gains are generally included in taxable income

    What, exactly, does an American tax policy paper have to do with New Zealand tax law?
    In New Zealand, capital gains are (generally, with some specific exceptions which have been subjected to a lot of gaming in the past) not treated as income therefore they are not taxable. If they were income, they’d be taxed as income. They’re not, therefore they are not.

    ETA: I'm using "income" in the strict, Income Tax Act 2007 sense, not the colloquial sense. In this discussion, the ITA sense is the only one that matters.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    the dairy sector: $26mln in corporate and personal income tax during ’09. With dairy exports in the $11bln range, that’s a lot of unpaid tax.

    Or historic losses carried forward, as the industry claims. It's not a straightforward problem to establish how an industry with such high revenue could generate so little taxable income, but the figures do vary an enormous amount from year to year which gives at least some weight to heavy losses in previous years being carried forward. Also a high-capital industry with very long depreciation times on key equipment (IIRC the depreciation time on a rotary milking shed is about 15 years).

    That they're working on such slim margins, though, says that there's gotta be something keeping the farmers going than just the annual pay-out from Fonterra.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Mathew: I think that people arguing here for a change in the law to tax most capital gains as income - saying we shouldn't advocate it should be income because it's currently not taxed that way sort of defeats any discussion about changing the law.

    Pointing out the NZ is out of step with the rest of the first world in its treatment of taxation of capital gains is a perfectly good way of pointing out that what we do is odd. As it is in NZ some capital gains are taxable and some are not apparently due to the "intent" of what you are doing - that's just plain weird.

    If a farmer works his or her entire life expecting that mostly they are going to earn capital gains when they quit that does sound a lot like income to me. If I spend my whole life building a wonderful machine and sell it at the end for a lot of money how is that any different than building up a farm and then selling it? I think more it's a legal tax fiddle for on of National's core constituencies.

    I have no problem with genuine tax losses being carried forward year to year (for a limited time, even for capital gains).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    I think that people arguing here for a change in the law to tax most capital gains as income – saying we shouldn’t advocate it should be income because it’s currently not taxed that way sort of defeats any discussion about changing the law.

    At what point did I say I didn't support a CGT? At what point did I advocate for the status quo?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    What, exactly, does an American tax policy paper have to do with New Zealand tax law? [...] If [capital gains] were income, they’d be taxed as income. They’re not, therefore they are not.

    I think you may have misunderstood my original point, which was about New Zealand's income distribution rather than the operation of our tax legislation.

    The fact that capital gains generally fall outside of the ITA's definition of income means that upper income earners face lower average tax rates than those implied by the IRD figures Keith has used. This is because a proportion of what economists and tax policy experts consider to be income is not treated as income by the IRD and is therefore earned tax free.

    You may not be surprised to learn that I also support the introduction of a CGT. One of the key arguments for a CGT is the principle of horizontal equity - the idea that all kinds of income should be subject to tax on a similar basis. Your suggestion that capital gains are not a form of income because they are not taxed as income in New Zealand reduces to circularity, and I referred you to a couple of policy papers to help show you how the point tends to be considered.

    Since Nov 2006 • 784 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to WH,

    I think you may have misunderstood my original point, which was about New Zealand’s income distribution rather than the operation of our tax legislation.

    Your original question was:

    Do the IRD’s figures include capital gains (such as increases in the value of investments) as income?

    I answered, in the context of NZ tax law, as is appropriate to a discussion about New Zealand taxation. IRD only reports as income that which gets reported to it as income. They do not have any knowledge of "income" that is not taxable.
    People then bringing up opinions from foreign jurisdictions about whether capital gains are income is irrelevant to this discussion.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to WH,

    @Matthew

    People then bringing up opinions from foreign jurisdictions about whether capital gains are income is irrelevant to this discussion.

    I think you missed WHs point. He’s talking about whether they should be considered income, and looking at how it’s done elsewhere is quite relevant. I read the question about whether income is included in the calculation as being a very fair question about how accurate a portrayal of real income we can get by only looking at official income, when a very, very major way of making massive amounts of money is simply left out of the calculation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Agreed, I think that it walks and quacks like income. It's also on a pretty massive scale. We're not talking about peanuts.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    I did not miss the point. I read the question, and answered it. Why would IRD report generally on capital gains when they're not taxable? IRD is only interested in things that can be taxed, it's the sole reason IRD exists.

    If you want to get a handle on capital gains, you need Stats, not IRD. Stats reports on "all sources" income, not just on taxable income.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Chavez 4 Ever,

    Ng.. you are right!! All the rich cockroaches should be taxed into extinction for the benefit of the masses.
    The government gains more; beneficiaries and low wage workers get more, and NZ becomes a better, fairer more successful state, like us and Cuba.
    Venezuela has shut down most money-sucking businesses, most of them have left, and so now everyone is better off.

    christchurch,nz • Since May 2014 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    I did not miss the point. I read the question, and answered it

    Yes, and the discussion then moved on to the point of the question. I think everyone got your point by now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    We seem to be arguing around the edges, the real problem is our current Government.
    Roll on September.
    I just had to post on one of John Armstrong's almost daily sycophantic ramblings.
    I repost here so you don't have to go there....

    "It is hard to put a finger on exactly what has made the difference such that Labour is now doing things right."
    That is so true John. When you are blinded by the glare of John Key's smile and immune to anything other than National Party propaganda it must be hard to see anything but the silver lining of the big black cloud that hangs over New Zealand like the shadow of Death.
    Key and his ilk must go in September, another three years of these thieves will leave a mess so big that we may never recover.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Chavez 4 Ever,

    This kind of trolling does not usually deserve a response except that it is more than an isolated view.

    Nobody here has suggested any of the measures you describe - what Kieth has shown is that John Key is lying when he claims the rich are paying all the taxes. I certainly don't want the extreme case you present. I do however believe that the wealthy should contribute more to paying for the things we agree the government should provide. A progressive tax system - with as few loopholes as possible.

    I don't want such a tax system for any ideological reasons - but simply because amongst all the tax systems around the world the progressive tax system results in a better* society. It works - lets do it.


    *less crime, better health outcomes for everyone, educated productive workforce etc etc.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    This kind of trolling does not usually deserve a response except that it is more than an isolated view.

    Exactly. It's not hard to spot a half-baked attempt at Reductio ad Stalinum.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5418 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I do however believe that the wealthy should contribute more to paying for the things we agree the government should provide.

    For reasons not least of which is that they have done well from the government’s provision of services and infrastructure thus far. They get an educated, (moderately) healthy workforce; they don’t have to hire their own investigative/prosecutorial and fire suppression forces; they have access to transport and telecommunications infrastructure; etc, etc. The Elizabeth Warren doctrine.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Furthermore, one could be a capitalist at heart, and yet think that the income distribution we have is still not a good idea. This is the thinking behind showing the distribution for what it is, not what people would like it to be, or even what they think it is. The reality is starker than both of those.

    Even quite staunch capitalists would probably suggest a flatter income distribution, and most people would say that they believe it’s not as flat as they’d like. That it is further not even as flat as what they believe is the final icing on the “this needs some fixing” cake.

    How many NZers do really realize that the top decile earns as much at the bottom 7 deciles put together, and twice as much as the 9th decile? Even supposedly wealthy people in this picture are quite poorly served, when it comes to their slice of the pie. I’m quite astonished that it takes until the 9th decile to crack the 60kpa mark. I wouldn’t consider such people rich pricks at all, even if I was the kind of person to think like that. Not even close.

    All of the real wealth happens in the top decile. People in the 9th decile still have to take 10-20 years to pay off the mortgage on an average NZ home. Only in the 10th decile will people have the kind of disposable income by which people land themselves in lifelong financial security at a young age. Everyone else is a battler until they retire. I don’t think this is even the American Dream, let alone the Kiwi dream.

    I’d expect this distribution is highly generationally skewed, though. A person making 60k, but who owns their home outright is in a considerably better position that someone who doesn’t. They’ve quite possibly got twice the disposable income. So my above comment about lifelong security will not ring true for older people*. They’ve got that already, and will probably struggle to understand what the fuss is all about.

    Which is part of the reason that capital and capital gain has become such an important question for this country.

    *ETA: Read that as "Many older people". Obviously many of them do not own their homes, and many are un(der)employed. The comment is about the averages relating to this demographic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to BenWilson,

    They’ve got that already, and will probably struggle to understand what the fuss is all about.

    Always worth remembering even the philthy rich can be smart, aware, and have a conscience. Like race or gender, 'class' doesn't limit the ability to think or imagine.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    the philthy rich

    Ben's not talking about that level, though. He's talking about people who own (at least mostly) their own home and have a moderate income. Their home may well be worth in the vicinity of a million dollars, courtesy of house price inflation, but their income is not enough to put them into the top decile or, quite possibly, even into the ninth decile. They're far from being "philthy rich", but they aren't on median incomes with a student loan and watching the bottom rung of the housing ladder disappearing into the clouds.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to BenWilson,

    Even quite staunch capitalists would probably suggest a flatter income distribution, and most people would say that they believe it’s not as flat as they’d like. That it is further not even as flat as what they believe is the final icing on the “this needs some fixing” cake.

    On Twitter, Selwyn Pellett could hardly be described as a raging socialist. Yet by the tone of the Rogernome set's responses to him, they'd have us believe that he's a wishy-washy champagne socialist.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5418 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    He's to the left of where they are, so he's a leftie. Ipso facto.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    This is Paul Mason's Guardian piece about the FT's critique of Piketty.

    Of course, inequality is just one of the reasons New Zealand's housing market is so pernicious.

    Since Nov 2006 • 784 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.