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Wealth gaps on the increase

PRESS RELEASE: Tax Justice Aotearoa New Zealand

21 January 2019

Wealth gaps on the increase

Oxfam’s challenge to governments round the world is set out in its latest report, Public Good or Private Wealth? Tax Justice Aotearoa (TJA) welcomes the study which shines a light on how the extreme gap between the rich and poor is undermining the fight against poverty. It is also damaging our economies and the environment.

We in New Zealand used to pride ourselves on being relatively egalitarian but, even here, inequality continues to grow. Oxfam revealed that the two richest people in New Zealand added an astounding NZ$1.1 billion to their fortunes in 2017-2018, while the wealth of the poorest half of the country decreased overall.

TJA Spokesperson, Louise Delany says that “We know inequality is a problem in New Zealand and that we can do more about it. Oxfam’s report shows that a fairer tax system could provide much-needed revenue to invest in the public services needed by hardworking, ordinary kiwi families. If all sectors of society contribute their fair share this would mean we could afford excellent schools for our children, quality health services to prevent and respond to ill-health, and community policing to reduce crime.”

A fair tax system for New Zealand would mean: reducing the tax payments expected from poorer people; reducing GST, a greater emphasis on wealth taxes, and cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion. “We need a capital gains tax. The Tax Working Group must grasp the nettle to make robust recommendations that will help stop the increasing gap between the rich and the poor in New Zealand.

Louise Delany also endorsed Oxfam’s emphasis on the links between taxation and gender inequality, relevant to New Zealand given continued differences in wealth between men and women. Wealth disparities are also apparent, and may have worsened, between Māori and Pacific households compared with other New Zealanders.

“We also recommend that the government ensure that more information is publicly available on matters relevant to tax. In particular, this means a public register of the ultimate owners of companies and trusts (“beneficial” ownership) – and transparency in multinational corporate behaviour through public country-by-country reporting.

Oxfam’s report reminds us that inequality is not inevitable: it is a choice. This government has taken some strong action to improve inequality and the Child Poverty Bill is a great start.

But to really have an impact we need a tax system where everyone is paying their fair share.

That is how we will build a New Zealand that is healthy, happy and prosperous for all.


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