Property industry in the wealth tax firing line

People in the property and land-heavy industries dominate the group of uber-wealthy New Zealanders at the heart of the Government’s research into tax paid by the wealthy.

Information released to the Herald under the Official Information Act showed the methodology used by IRD to draw up the sample of the top 0.1 per cent of wealthiest New Zealanders that will be used for its research.

IRD then divided the members of this sample into the primary, secondary, tertiary (non-property) and tertiary (property) sectors.

It then compared these numbers with the size of those sectors in terms of employment and their contribution to GDP. This was to show whether high wealth individuals were concentrated into particular sectors, and to question whether IRD’s sample was accurate.

“…property and land-based industries are highly represented in the data”, IRD said.

The paper said these industries were represented “at higher rates than both the employment share and GDP share of these industries in the general economy”.

About a quarter of high wealth individuals came from the property services sector, despite it employing less than five per cent of New Zealand’s total employees. Likewise, the share of high wealth individuals in the primary sector is double its share of the labour force.

The paper said there were “clear reasons” for the dominance of property, “given that there are certain activities (investment, property ownership) that would be expected to have greater involvement by those who accumulate significant wealth”.

The IRD drew up the sample using “environmental scanning”, which involved “monitoring large transactions or other indications that individuals had significant wealth holdings, using both public information, and… tax data”.

That list was then refined to remove non-tax residents and deceased people.

The paper was drawn up to make sure the sample of 0.1 per centers was representative and to correct for possible biases.

IRD said the fact that those sectors were overrepresented in its sample meant there was little risk they would be under-represented when it came to data collected.

The paper was dated last November and its findings may have changed subsequently.

It is part of a series of documents on a research project into the tax paid by very wealthy individuals, which was commissioned by Revenue Minister David Parker last year.

Parker has said this research will look at whether the super-wealthy are paying their fair share of tax.

The Government said the research was not being used to design new taxes, but said it could inform future policy, including what the party might take to the 2023 election.

This had led to speculation that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would implement taxes like a wealth tax, which would lift the amount of tax paid by the wealthy.

However, in Question time yesterday , Ardern said explicitly that she stood by statements made in 2020 that she had ruled out a wealth tax for as long as she is prime minister.

National leader Christopher Luxon asked Ardern whether she stood by this rule-out.

“I’ve said repeatedly that I stand by all the statements I’ve made, and I made the statement in 2020,” Ardern said to Luxon.

Parker’s office was approached for comment.

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