Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger backs letter calling for tax on rich

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger is backing calls for taxes on the rich to be raised, saying the wealthy need to help pay for New Zealand's COVID-19 recovery.

"The tax system is totally unbalanced," Bolger says, "and the multibillionaires, and the billionaires, and the millionaires are all not paying their fair share of taxes."

His comments come after some of New Zealand's richest residents signed a letter urging governments across the world to raise taxes for the wealthy.

The Millionaires for Humanity letter was organised by the United States group The Patriotic Millionaires, and says that while they aren't essential workers with frontline skills, "we do have money, lots of it.

"We ask our governments to raise taxes on people like us. Immediately. Substantially. Permanently," the letter continues. 

The letter has been signed by The Warehouse Group founder Sir Stephen Tindall and Hire Things founder Peter Torr Smith, among 174 other millionaires across the world.

"People talk about 'make America great again', well America was great when the richest people in our country were paying tax rates far higher than they are now," says Morris Pearl, Patriotic Millionaires Chairperson.

The letter says: "We can ensure we adequately fund our health systems, schools, and security through a permanent tax increase on the wealthiest people on the planet, people like us."

In New Zealand the top 20 percent of households hold about 70 percent of our wealth.

The letter says the wealth gap can't be can't be narrowed by charity, no matter how generous the rich are.

"You can't run a country club on everyone paying whatever they feel like and you can't run a country that way either it just doesn't work," says Pearl.

The letter ends by words you don't hear everyday.

"Tax us. Tax us. Tax us. It is the right choice. It is the only choice."