Property Investment Strategy - David Whitburn

By: David Whitburn  06-Dec-2011
Keywords: Tax, Capital Gains Tax

Life was particularly stressless on Otama Beach in the Coromandels with limited cellphone coverage

Elliffe and Huang wrote about how this is a great idea to help reduce Government debt and that it is fair and equitable to have a new tax, and this would not distort investment choices adversely.  They were disappointingly emotive in stating that having a capital gains tax would help save New Zealand from ‘fiscal suicide’.  Despite being respected academics, particularly Elliffe who has worked as a tax partner in a leading commercial law firm (Chapman Tripp), they have conveniently forgotten that New Zealand’s mountain of debt is mainly not government (or sovereign) debt.  In fact New Zealand is an outstanding performer globally when compared to most other countries around the world. Below I have included a graph from so you can see where the real debt issues lie.  Like Australia and China, we have low levels of public debt.  The countries in the red zone (just look at Italy, Japan and Zimbabwe) of the following graphic are the ones with a debt problem.  As a country we are in the safe dark grey zone with Government debt at (considerably) less than 30% of GDP.

Cut Government Spending

I don’t think for a minute that it is smart for our Government to borrow $300 million each and every week.  This figure has gone up over the past year as the tax take reduces, and we have more pressures for Government spending.  Whilst there have been arguments made about the ballooning of credit that we used for investment properties, farms, credit cards over the past decade, we clearly have a spending problem at the Government level.  So instead of increasing Government income by raising taxes, which makes things tougher for people choosing to work and striving to get ahead, we should consider something even simpler.  We should just cut Government spending.  After all how prudent is it to run a household that spends a large percentage more than what it earns, and plans to do so for over 6 years?  In our electoral system we voters have the chance to elect Governments and we are supposed to tell them what we want, and they as our servants (hence the term public or civil servants) carry out these tasks for us.  Do we want to borrow several billions of dollars every year until 2016 and create a noose for the taxpayers now, our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ generations in terms of servicing the interest on this debt?

That is not a New Zealand I want to life in.  So why we persevere with a universal pension at 65 years of age, when the statistics show that we are living much longer healthier lives in general, and that we can’t afford to keep funding it is beyond me, but for one thing – fear of being turfed out of Government in this MMP consensus style of politics with a very short 3 year electoral life cycle.

How else can we cut Government spending?  Let me give you just a few of my ideas to explore further as this is already a long blog:

  • Cut the number of MPs down to around 80 people
  • Cut MPs perks and benefits
  • Cut the entourage MPs have
  • Change the Electoral Act to have a longer term of Government (4 or 5 years) to encourage longer term thinking
  • Dispose of MMP and its costly consensus based politics (foreshore and seabed anyone?)
  • Reduce central government bureaucracy
  • Reduce local government bureaucracy (including the sheer number of civil servants and focus on customers needs, not council’s needs)
  • Sell non-core Government assets that have a poor return (on asset value – eg. Power Companies, Accident Compensation Corporation)
  • Make the benefit system a hand up not a hand-out (remove the ability to choose whether you work or not)
  • Question the doctors who certify people (including a past tenant) as medically unable to work, except they can lift kegs of beer with their “severe back injuries” and go fishing, and put an end to those vast numbers of people rorting the costly invalid’s benefit (note the sickness benefit is the temporary and short term one)
  • Raise the tax on cigarettes so they cost at least $25 per packet (that will stop a great number of smokers and therefore save a lot of money on our pressured healthcare system)
  • Ditch Working For Families
  • Cut the silly subsidies (did billionaire Sir Michael Fay’s daughter need a $50,000 NZ on Air grant?, revisit the SuperGold card free trips to Waiheke Island subsidy, having TVNZ + TV3 + Maori TV bid all subsidised is rather ridiculous and put the bid prices up for the International Rugby Board without any additional benefits to NZ taxpayers – we could watch private broadcasters TV3 for free or even pay for the Sky Sport service for 2 months)
  • Cut spending on tertiary education (but maintain the student loan scheme)
  • Charge interest on student loans
  • Don’t let people leave NZ until they have paid off their student loan (as chances are you will not get it all back)

No More New Taxes

We need another tax, like Rafael Nadal (world number 1 and holder of 9 grand slams at just 24 years of age) needs to be told how to play tennis.  The idea of a new tax really offends me.  It smacks of arrogance and a neanderthal like ‘big Government is good’ mentality without really thinking about it.  Do we really want to live in a country that seeks to strongly impact on an individuals liberties and intrude further on their personal freedoms?  Do we want to run the risk of more good Kiwis going overseas?

Lets encourage and praise those that want to make a better life for themselves and not be dependent on the Government for hand outs. Lets salute those patriots of New Zealand who own assets and contribute from paying for returns on those assets (eg term deposit holders in taxes on interest income; rental property owners in taxes on rental income and land rates; home and secondary property owners who pay land rates; share owners/managed funds/Kiwisaver funds who pay taxes on dividends etc).

I want to live in a New Zealand that rewards those who receive income, pay tax on this income and don’t spend all of their net income, so they have this money left over to built their asset base.  That is after all how I like thousands of others of New Zealanders have built our property investment portfolio and retirement nest egg.  It is a simple fact of life that many older New Zealanders don’t want to or can’t manage or don’t want the additional hassle of having ownership of their rental properties as the move into their 70s, 80s and 90s, so they sell them.  Sometimes proceeds are used to pay down or pay off debt, at other times term deposits are created.  Some even invest in high yielding shares.  Again these asset owners are making income which is taxable, to help Governments of the day, and they are far more self-sufficient than most Kiwis that own no assets.  So why is punishing these people with a capital gains tax a good idea?

Impact on Housing New Zealand?

Also if there was a capital gains tax in New Zealand, I wonder how many people would invest in Australia (that has a Capital Gains Tax with some exemptions).  Australian cities and towns have a higher capital growth rate than that of New Zealand over the years and they have a higher population growth forecasts than other New Zealand cities (apart from our financial hub Auckland).

With New Zealanders investing in Australia, how much pressure would this put on Housing New Zealand to borrow more money to buy houses for our nations poorest individuals?  This social aspect of property investment is an invaluable one and is often overlooked.  It has not been taken into account by Elliffe and Huang again either.

Raising Government income by its own means?

If it was not politically achievable to cut Government spending that is disappointing.  However we could always have fun like other Governments are doing with interfering with money supply, eg. quantitative easing (money printing) or do what we have already done and get our Reserve Bank back into trading the New Zealand Dollar to suppress it to help our exporters for an export led recovery, and to make billions of dollars in FX gains.  Baring disaster there will be pressure in 2011 for the Pound (GBP) to hit 0.5000 vs the NZD, and for the US Dollar (USD) to hit 0.8000. The Reserve Bank can buy some of these currencies when our dollar is high against them, and sell them as it gets low.  Other countries do this too – why can’t we?  New Zealand needs a capital gains tax as much as we need the plague to strike us.

The information in this article was current at 02 Dec 2011

Keywords: Capital Gains Tax, Tax

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