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Terms of reference

Terms of Reference: Tax Working Group

Issue date: 
Thursday, 23 November 2017
Version note: 

Released by Hon Grant Robertson, Minister of Finance.

The Tax Working Group has been established by the Government in order to examine further improvements in the structure, fairness and balance of the tax system.

The New Zealand tax system has been justifiably commended internationally for being a simple and efficient system. The Government’s starting position is that the guiding principle for the New Zealand tax system – namely, that tax should operate neutrally and as much in the background as possible – is sound.

The Working Group will consider what improvements to this framework could improve the structure, fairness and balance of the tax system. In particular, the Working Group will consider the impact on the tax system of the likely economic environment over the next decade.

The Government has the following objectives for the tax system:

  • A tax system that is efficient, fair, simple and collected
  • A system that promotes the long-term sustainability and productivity of the economy
  • A system that supports a sustainable revenue base to fund government operating expenditure around its historical level of 30 per cent of GDP
  • A system that treats all income and assets in a fair, balanced and efficient manner, having special regard to housing affordability
  • A progressive tax and transfer system for individuals and families, and
  • An overall tax system that operates in a simple and coherent manner.

The Working Group should report to the Government on:

  • Whether the tax system operates fairly in relation to taxpayers, income, assets and wealth
  • Whether the tax system promotes the right balance between supporting the productive economy and the speculative economy
  • Whether there are changes to the tax system which would make it more fair, balanced and efficient, and
  • Whether there are other changes which would support the integrity of the income tax system, having regard to the interaction of the systems for taxing companies, trusts, and individuals.

In examining the points above, the Working Group should consider in particular the following:

  • The economic environment that will apply over the next 5-10 years, taking into account demographic change, and the impact of changes in technology and employment practices, and how these are driving different business models,
  • Whether a system of taxing capital gains or land (not applying to the family home or the land under it), or other housing tax measures, would improve the tax system.
  • Whether a progressive company tax (with a lower rate for small companies) would improve the tax system and the business environment, and
  • What role the taxation system can play in delivering positive environmental and ecological outcomes, especially over the longer term.

In considering the matters above, the Working Group should have due regard to the overall structure of the tax system to ensure it is fair, balanced and efficient, as well as simple for taxpayers to understand and comply with their tax obligations.

The following are outside the scope of the Working Group’s review:

  • Increasing any income tax rate or the rate of GST
  • Inheritance tax
  • Any other changes that would apply to the taxation of the family home or the land under it, and
  • The adequacy of the personal tax system and its interaction with the transfer system (this will be considered as part of a separate review of Working for Families).

In addition, the focus of the Working Group should not be on more technical matters already under review as part of the Tax Policy Work Programme, including:

  • International tax reform under the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting agenda, and
  • Policy changes as part of Inland Revenue’s Business Transformation programme.

The Working Group will be able to recommend further reviews be undertaken on specific issues which the group considers it has not been able to explore sufficiently, or that were excluded from its terms of reference but which could benefit from being considered in the context of its recommendations.

The Working Group’s membership will include individual(s) with expertise in Maori community and business environments.

The Working Group will be supported by a secretariat of officials from Treasury and Inland Revenue, and it will be able to seek independent advice and analysis on any matter within the scope of its Terms of Reference. The Working Group will have an independent advisor to analyse the various sources of advice received by the Working Group and help to analyse and distil the information to assist the Working Group’s deliberations. The Working Group will be expected to engage with the public in developing its recommendations.

The Working Group should have its first meeting no later than February 2018, issue an interim report to the Minister of Finance and Minister of Revenue no later than September 2018, and issue a final report to the Minister of Finance and Minister of Revenue no later than February 2019. These dates may be varied with the consent of the Minister of Finance.

Last updated: 
Thursday, 8 March 2018