5 Oct 2022

Tax rates a factor for attracting candidates for top jobs, Luxon says

10:31 am on 5 October 2022
National Party leader Christopher Luxon

Christopher Luxon says the government's cost of living payments are not an enduring response to rising prices. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

National Party leader Christopher Luxon is standing firm on cutting taxes for the highest paid despite the turmoil caused by a similar plan in the United Kingdom.

The pound has rebounded after the UK government's major U-turn on plans to scrap the top tax rate.

But the pressure remains on new Prime Minister Liz Truss over a mini-budget that would cut costs and put more into the pockets of everyday Britons.

In New Zealand, the National Party says it will cut spending and taxes if elected next year.

Luxon is adamant New Zealand's economy is in very different shape from the United Kingdom's.

While the public, markets and many backbench Tory MPs had rejected the UK's plan to cut taxes for the wealthy, Luxon said the situation in the two countries was very different.

In the UK, wholesale changes to the tax system were being proposed while the UK government was also offering "a massive amount of stimulus" for energy payments (to help consumers pay their bills), he said.

In New Zealand, the government was spending freely, tax revenues were up and debt was rising at the same time as interest rates, he said.

The major focus of the National Party's tax policy was the indexing of tax thresholds to inflation and unwinding Labour's seven new taxes, he said.

Asked about reducing the top tax rate for high-income earners, he said New Zealand had a higher cost of living and lower wages than other countries and in a competitive world, it needed tax incentives to be able to attract foreign surgeons and engineers.

He said the applicable tax rate would be a factor for the likes of a foreign doctor weighing up accepting a role in Canada, Australia or New Zealand.

"It's one of the components and it's important that we stay competitive and are attractive in that regard."

Luxon criticised the government's cost of living payments which finished this week, saying adjusting the tax thresholds would be a smarter approach.

"Inflation is higher today than when the government announced it [the cost of living payments]. That's not an enduring response to a cost of living crisis."

Climate change spending

Asked about the possibility of National cutting some of the $339 million the government has provided to the Centre for Climate Action on agricultural emissions, he said it would not if elected to government.

National wanted to continue supporting research and development into agriculture in particular, especially when the sector did not have a technology pathway to reduce emissions at present, he said.

However, it was critical of half of the 330 actions outlined by the government, because there was too much emphasis on talk-fests.

It also did not support the $650m put aside for "corporate welfare" as another part of the government's action on climate change. Large multi-nationals should be reducing their emissions on their own without financial backing from taxpayers, Luxon said.

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