Hawke's Bay Today

NZ’s lack of Capital Gains Tax ‘unusual’

Kiwis have ‘mixed feelings’ about proposed CGT, says global expert

- Liam Dann

A lot of countries do have a Capital Gains Tax, it is unusual not to. But to me you have to look at the tax code in its entirety for New Zealand.

NKate Barton (left)

ew Zealand is unusual in not having Capital Gains Tax, says EY global chairwoman of tax, Kate Barton. But that doesn’t mean putting a CGT in place will be easy, New Yorkbased Barton says. Barton, who has been in New Zealand meeting local EY staff and clients, said she had picked up that there were “mixed feelings” about the Capital Gains Tax ahead of the release of the Tax Working Group report. The report will be released publicly next Wednesday and is widely expected to recommend the introducti­on of a Capital Gains Tax. The Government has not committed to following through on the recommenda­tion and says, if it did, any changes would be implemente­d after the next election so it could effectivel­y go to a public vote. It has also ruled out any tax on the family home and says any changes must be revenue neutral. “A lot of countries do have a Capital Gains Tax, it is unusual not to,” Barton said. “But to me you have to look at the tax code in its entirety for New Zealand. You already have GST, you have corporate income tax. Do you really need another source of revenue and for what reason?” In the US, capital gains taxes tended to be quite complex, she said. “It’s very complicate­d. There’s nothing in the States that’s simple. But even after the last tax reforms, people thought that tax would get simpler and there are 475 new forms for corporatio­ns to fill out — on top of the forms they already had.” Every new reform seemed to add a layer of complexity, Barton said. “Certainly it’s not easy for companies to file on the Capital Gains Tax. There are many ways to tackle how you get your fair share of taxes from property,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a Capital Gains Tax — there are property tax levies, stamp taxes. There are a lot of indirect taxes that could be levied.” Barton said most of the feedback she’d had so far suggested most companies were of the view that the tax code in this country was good as it is. “But I was with a bunch of clients yesterday and I’d say there was a healthy debate on what could work if the country wants to move forward in this way.” The other hot topic in the tax world at the moment was the issue of taxing multinatio­nal companies that were increasing­ly operating without a physical presence in a country. “All multinatio­nals are trying to digitalise their footprint,” she said. “So how do you tax that as you move more into a virtual world?”. The OECD has laid the groundwork for a global policy on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). Under the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS, more than 125 countries and jurisdicti­ons are collaborat­ing to implement the BEPS measures. Progress has been made and there has been a lot of improvemen­t in the framework, Barton said. “That said, there still needs to be more work on how we tax digital companies — whether they should be taxed on a gross revenue basis. Or are you better off with some form of global minimum tax?” Barton says the pace of change in tax policy has accelerate­d globally in the past few years. “It is unpreceden­ted to have this much change at the same time,” she says. “One out of three countries has change in the top leadership and every one of them seems to be bringing in a change in the tax laws.” The rise of populist political movements had certainly played a part in driving the change, she said.

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