New Zealand is losing millions of dollars of taxes to the ‘hidden economy’ because Revenue Minister Stuart Nash has taken his eye off the ball, National’s Revenue spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.
“In the hidden economy, work, services and business transactions occur under the radar – undeclared activity for which taxes should be paid but are not. No one knows just how much it is actually worth but experts have estimated it’s between $9 billion and $26 billion.
“Inland Revenue (IR) collected $77.9 billion worth of tax in 2019 but experts estimate that in respect of the country’s self-employed alone, it is losing at least $1 billion in tax on unreported income.
“IR has been so focused on dealing with problems created after it introduced the third stage of its business transformation computer upgrade in April that it’s actually costing the country money now.
“The third stage of the upgrade rolled out in April has led to a huge number of enquiries as people have sought to clarify their personal tax affairs. As a result staff have been diverted from other areas IR should be policing, including the hidden economy.
“The number of IR staff working on investigations of undeclared income fell from 200 in 2015-16 to 143 this year. Tax recouped from investigations from $152 million to $108 million.
“Mr Nash should be making sure the Government gets the full amount due in any given tax year. If we’re losing revenue the Government has to either generate more income or it has to put up taxes. No one wants that.
“Our tax system is based on everyone paying their fair share but the amount of money being recovered from the hidden economy is small. A good Minister would be ensuring this is sorted out immediately.”
Punishing call wait times at Inland Revenue are seeing hundreds of thousands of Kiwis either disconnected or hanging up in frustration, National’s Revenue spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.
“Inadequate staffing meant almost 700,000 calls to IR call centres were disconnected before they even entered the queue to have their call answered.
“An additional 181,000 callers hung up before speaking with an operator because it was taking too long.
“Usually the Inland Revenue website gives an approximate waiting time, this morning demand is so high the website simply says ‘We are currently restricting the amount of calls we are accepting due to high demand.’
“Revenue Minister Stuart Nash needs to recognise the stress his department is under and the frustration being caused to thousands of New Zealanders and step in to fix the problem.
“Mr Nash claims people should just go online. This isn’t an option for everyone. There are plenty of reasons who people prefer to discuss tax matters with a person over the phone rather than sort it online, where the information isn’t always easy to follow.
“Given recent changes to the tax system, numbers should have been beefed up to deal with the influx of callers.
“It’s important that Inland Revenue is easy for New Zealanders to access. Mr Nash needs to take charge of his department and fix this problem.”
National will deliver stability to the construction sector, making it more resilient to peaks and troughs, Building and Construction spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.
“Developers and builders face continual problems with consenting and a lack of site inspectors. Many councils are slow to process consents and issue codes of compliance.
“The rising cost of consents and delays associated with getting inspectors on site are major problems. National wants to standardise the consent process across all councils.
“National will reduce the time it takes to issue certification. One solution we are looking at is allowing approved third-party operators to prepare building consent applications, and significantly limiting the time for those consents to be processed.
“National is interested in whether the processing of more complicated building consents should be handled by specialist regional consenting organisations, removing the requirement that every council has access to these skills in-house.
“To reduce the risk being taken on by building and construction firms, National wants government procurement processes to adhere to Construction Contracts NZS 3910:2013 and 3915:2005 as a basis for contract negotiations, and ensure risk is allocated fairly.
National is also considering:
- A building warranty scheme that covers structural defects
- Updating the Building Act to reflect modern building practices
- Further refining retention arrangements to better protect sub-contractors
“National will support a strong and stable building and constructions sector.”
Our Discussion Documents can be found HERE
National has come up with a solution so taxpayers can keep their own money after Revenue Minister Stuart Nash tried to short change them, National’s Revenue spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.
“In 2018 the Government was warned default KiwiSaver account holders had already overpaid tax to the tune of $70 million on their investment (PIE) income.
“New Zealanders shouldn’t pay any more tax than necessary. This especially impacts those New Zealanders on low incomes, the Kiwis that just cannot afford to be paying more tax than they should be. We want to ensure they get their refund.
“Historically refunds were not made because the system couldn’t cope with them, however the new Inland Revenue IT system doesn’t have this restriction.
“Under the PIE arrangement, tax is deducted at a maximum of 28 per cent. Some taxpayers have been paying much less than they should have while others have paid much more.
“For those who’ve underpaid, the Minister has chosen to go back to the year from 1 April 2018 and ask them to stump up tax to the tune of almost $50 million. A similar amount will be paid in the 2019/20 financial year.
“Some couples will be in the situation where one half may have to pay back money to Inland Revenue but the other half isn’t entitled to their refund. How is that fair?
“The Minister knows a change of legislation is needed so taxpayers can be refunded what they’re owed. When I asked him repeatedly about it, he claimed it was an operational matter for Inland Revenue and then said it required a legislative change.
“National believes New Zealanders shouldn’t have to pay more tax than necessary. That’s why I’ve drafted a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) which will allow Mr Nash to make these changes in Parliament.
“I intend to table this as soon as the House resumes and I encourage Mr Nash to do the right thing so that New Zealanders can be paid back the money that belongs to them.
“There’s a principle with tax that you pay your fair share. Inland Revenue is also duty bound to refund any overpayment of tax.
“This is a tight-fisted Tax Minister who wants to take with one hand but not give back with the other. I’ve done all of the work for him, he now needs to do the right thing.”
Andrew Bayly's SOP can be found HERE.
The Government is blocking a law change that would better protect builders and construction firms from losing money on Government projects, National’s Building and Construction spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.
Mr Bayly introduced an amendment to the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission/Te Waihanga Bill into Parliament on Wednesday, which Labour, NZ First and the Green Party all voted against.
The amendment would have required the new Infrastructure Commission to review selected tender processes of government agencies and councils to ensure they met best practice.
The commission would have been tasked with looking at risk allocation. Its results would also have been made public so that any learnings would be available to other parties.
“Government agencies are still seeking to impose inappropriate contracts on building and construction firms, which mean contracting parties are exposed to most of the risks associated with the project,” Mr Bayly says.
“The burden this is placing on the industry was a recurring complaint at last week’s Constructive Forum, organised by the NZ Registered Master Builders Association.
“Under current legislation, all risks associated with government contracts are meant to be identified and allocated to those parties best able to manage them. Unfortunately, this does not happen in reality with most of the risk ending up with the builder or construction firm.
“In the event of failure, this can adversely impact sub-contractors – the most vulnerable people in the construction industry.
“My proposed amendment would have delivered a practical response to this undesirable practice but the Government, regrettably, voted it down on Wednesday night.
“The construction industry is crying out for solutions to this problem, not the petty politics it’s getting from the Government. Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford and Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa have both been missing in action on this issue.
“National, meanwhile, is being proactive and supporting the 250,000 people employed in this important industry, which is being let down by the Government’s inaction.”
The Government needs to show more support for pre-fab home manufacturers to help undo KiwiBuild’s damage, National’s Building and Construction spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.
“The news that Canterbury-based Welhaus Limited and its sister company Welstruct have been placed into liquidation does not auger well for the pre-engineered, panelised homes market in New Zealand.
“Also known as offsite manufacture (OSM) or modular construction, this method of house building has been tipped as a solution to deliver on the Government’s KiwiBuild promises.
“Although there have been soothing words of encouragement from both the Minister of Housing and Minister of Building & Construction, little tangible support has eventuated.
“What is required – and quickly – is the development of a National Standard to get around councils applying different ways of consenting this form of modern modular manufacture.
“If the Government is serious about supporting a New Zealand-based home modular industry then it should also be placing some orders.
“Many companies have spent hundreds of hours applying to become an accredited OSM contractor to KiwiBuild and, as yet, it does not appear anyone has been awarded a contract.
“Surely with all the delays plaguing KiwiBuild, the Government would be showing some urgency.
“Offsite manufacturing is an increasingly viable option, but these types of factories require committed manufacturing volumes to help cover the expensive capital cost of establishing these highly-mechanised manufacturing processes.
“It’s time for the Government to stop procrastinating and get on with it.”
It is outrageous Inland Revenue has decided to raise the interest rate it charges taxpayers on unpaid and underpaid tax, while cutting the rate it pays those it owes money, National’s Revenue spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.
“Inland Revenue says the interest rate charged on overdue tax will rise from 8.22 per cent to 8.35 per cent. At the same time the amount it pays to those who pay too much tax will fall from 1.02 per cent to 0.81 per cent. This runs contrary to what has been happening with bank interest rates, particularly over the past 12 months.
“Inland Revenue is now charging a lot more than the banks on what New Zealanders owe it, and paying a lot less than the banks on money it owes taxpayers.
“Charging more on money owed by taxpayers is outrageous when we have an environment of exceptionally low interest rates.
"The interest rate Inland Revenue charges taxpayers should be getting smaller, not bigger. Instead it has been steadily increasing in Inland Revenue's favour.
“That is patently unfair to taxpayers and cannot be justified. Neither can paying taxpayers an interest rate of 0.81 per cent on money owed when the banks pay short term deposit rates of up to 3.25 per cent.
“It is particularly hard to swallow as it comes off the back of Revenue Minister Stuart Nash’s confirmation that Inland Revenue won’t be paying back an estimated $42 million overpaid by KiwiSaver investors in PIE tax.
“So now we have a Government who is short changing Kiwis if it pays back what it owes you at all.”
Findings from the latest BDO Construction Survey Report paint a bleak picture of the industry, National’s Building and Construction spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.
“Many of the findings align with anecdotal evidence I heard at the KiwiBuild/Build NZ Conference held earlier this week in Auckland.
“While certain aspects have improved, one of the biggest concerns is that about half the industry participants cannot provide a performance bond as security. This means these builders cannot move on to a new job until previous committed bonds are released.
“This lack of liquidity, or financial capacity, is borne out by the issue of delays in receiving payments from developers and head contractors. In the 2018 survey, only 4 per cent of respondents said delays in receiving payment was an issue; this year it was 20 per cent.
“The industry is wrestling with issues like patchy forward order books, difficulty accessing and retaining good staff, unreasonable transfer of risk, and increasing cost of compliance.
“But the real problem is that there is too much talk and not enough action from the Government. Minsters have gone missing and builders are crying out for real solutions rather than hearing about the establishment of working groups and industry accords.
“This is, unfortunately, contributing to the industry’s mental health issues. A recent Site Safe report found building and construction has one of the highest suicide rates of all industry groups.
“This is an industry crying out for leadership. Unfortunately, the Government is heavy on platitudes and light on delivering concrete solutions.”
The woefully inadequate funding in Budget 2019 to make buildings earthquake-safe will do little to help owners and could put lives at risk by ensuring some buildings aren’t brought up to code any time soon, National’s Building and Construction spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.
“The Government’s response to this issue has been slow and poor. All we have heard from Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa and Finance Minister Grant Robertson has been soothing words but nothing concrete.
“The Botched Budget allocated a paltry $10 million for capital grants and a $13 million operational grant to administer the Earthquake Prone Building Regime. That’s hardly a meaningful contribution.
“The Government seems not to understand how much is at stake, given about $3.5 billion will be needed to bring earthquake-prone apartment buildings up to New Building Standards (NBS) in Wellington alone.
“When I questioned Minister Salesa in Select Committee this week, she labelled the $10 million Budget allocation a ‘good start’. Yet a recent meeting of inner-city Wellington apartment owners estimated the average cost of bringing many of their apartments up to NBS would be about $450,000. It’ll take a nano-second before that $10 million in capital grants is swallowed up.
“The lack of funding is of particular concern for rural towns where much of our traditional architecture is on display. In these smaller towns, rental returns aren’t sufficient to justify the expensive upgrades necessary to meet quake-safe standards.
“Building owners are now having to face the hard question – do we upgrade or demolish? Unfortunately, this Government is offering them next to nothing in terms of support.”
Revenue Minister Stuart Nash needs to take some responsibility for New Zealanders overpaying tax on KiwiSaver and ensure they are reimbursed, National’s Revenue spokesperson Andrew Bayly says.
“The Minister has known about people overpaying tax on their investment (PIE) income since July last year. This followed a group of financial planners stating they estimated default KiwiSaver account holders had overpaid to the tune of $70 million.
“New Zealanders shouldn’t pay any more tax than necessary. Historically refunds were not made because the system couldn’t cope with them, however the new IT system doesn’t have this restriction.
“The Minister says that repayments can’t be made because a piece of 2004 legislation prevents it. Mr Nash has had multiple opportunities to change this given there are up to four tax bills a year, including one before Parliament at the moment where the change could have been made.
“Inland Revenue is responsible for those who have been underpaid and they should not be made to pay this back.
“It was remarkable that the Minister could not say at Select Committee just a week ago the extent of the overpayment. It’s patently unfair that Kiwis have been taxed more than they should have. It has only come to light as a result of pressure on Inland Revenue. This is a Minister who is not leading but responding to pressure.”