18 Apr 2017

NZers among the lowest taxed in OECD

5:32 am on 18 April 2017

New Zealand wage earners are among the most lightly taxed in the developed world.


The OECD report found a single worker earning an average wage in New Zealand paid a tax rate of 17.9 percent. Photo: 123 RF

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) compared the tax burden on job holders in 35 countries, measuring the gap between what a worker gets paid and what they are left after taxes and benefits.

It found workers in New Zealand and Chile were taxed the least, and those in Belgium and France among the most.

"We are among the lowest taxed countries in the OECD. The worst offenders for high taxation are mainly in Europe, and Western European economies," New Zealand Initiative executive director Oliver Hartwich said.

Oliver Hartwich

Oliver Hartwich Photo: Supplied

"And if you just compare how much they are taxed compared to what we get here, it makes you feel all the more better to be in New Zealand."

The report found a single worker earning an average wage in Belgium paid a tax rate of 54 percent, three times higher than the average worker in New Zealand, at 17.9 percent.

The average for the OECD was 36 percent.

Looking at married couples with children, New Zealand had the lowest rate at 6 percent, thanks in part to Working For Families, with France at the top at 40 percent.

The OECD average stood at 27 percent.

The study excluded other taxes such as goods and services tax (GST) and value-added taxes, property tax, and tax on investment income.

"We are relatively highly-taxed with GST (15 percent)," Council of Trade Unions economist and policy adviser Bill Rosenberg said.

Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg

Bill Rosenberg Photo: Supplied

"Those taxes hurt low income families more than high income families."

Those on high incomes were also taxed at quite low rates by OECD standards, Dr Rosenberg said, and they should pay more to fund the growing problems of ill health, rising poverty and homelessness.

"We should be doing more to make our tax system more progressive, to raise more revenue so we can address these deficits which are causing more and more problems for people in the community."

The National-led government is considering tax cuts for low and middle income workers.

"If we wanted to do any tax cuts, it's pretty clear where they should be," Mr Hartwich said.

"It should be in the lower tax bands, not in the top rate of income tax because that is very competitive internationally.

"We know that New Zealand households, especially on lower incomes, are still struggling and they are trying to make ends meet, especially given the state of our housing market.

Mr Hartwich said he did not want New Zealand following Belgium, Germany or France, where more and more taxes were paid to fund an ever-expanding welfare state.

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