BNZ chief calls for capital gains tax to fight the 'big gap between rich and poor'

Anthony Healy says a capital gains tax is needed to close the wealth gap. Photo credit: File

The head of one of New Zealand's largest banks has called for a capital gains tax to close the "big gap between rich and poor" that's emerged in the last decade.

Speaking to Newsroom, BNZ chief executive Anthony Healy said it's one of the four big priorities the bank wants the new Government - whoever that might be - to focus on.

"We still have too many that can't afford a home, homeless people, a big gap between rich and poor," he told business journalist Rod Oram.

While statistics show income inequality slowly rising or flatlining depending on how you define it, Mr Healy says the skyrocketing price of property is behind his call for a capital gains tax.

"When you've had a decade of high liquidity and asset price bubbles, those that have assets and those that don't have assets, that's where the biggest gap between rich and poor's emerging," he said.

"I think addressing that through redistribution, particularly with a capital gains tax, would certainly be something I'd like both Governments to be considering."

BNZ is one of the 'Big Four' Australian-owned banks that dominate New Zealand's banking sector.

Labour and the Greens have called for a capital gains tax on all property except the family home. Under pressure to clarify Labour's position during the election campaign, leader Jacinda Ardern said a tax wouldn't be introduced until after 2020.

National has always maintained there already is a capital gains tax on people buying and selling for profit, but introduced a two-year 'bright line' rule to make it clearer who had to pay.

Other priorities Mr Healy wants the Government to focus on are:

  • maintaining surpluses to pay down debt "because the lower the debt we have as a country, the more flexibility we have during the inevitable downturns and crises
  • adapting the education system so kids know how to do jobs "in the future that don't exist today"
  • keeping the social investment approach to the underprivileged and vulnerable, and "continuing to address those needs in our society are absolutely vital".

National revenue and finance spokespeople Judith Collins and Steven Joyce have been contacted for comment.