Election 2020: Finance Minister Grant Robertson says current tax system 'fair and balanced' as Greens call for high-income earners to pay more

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says Labour will take its time to announce its tax policy as questions continue to be asked about whether it will introduce a new rate for high-income earners.

At the weekend, the Green Party announced its tax policy and proposed higher rates for richer people in New Zealand.

"Those who have large amounts of wealth are not asked to contribute to help everyone else. This hole in the tax system has allowed most of Aotearoa's wealth to accumulate with a small number of people," co-leader Marama Davidson said on Sunday.

Robertson said work is ongoing to establish Labour's tax policy but wouldn't be drawn on what it will entail.

"Every party needs a tax policy going into the election but there are lots of different elements to our tax policy," Robertson told The AM Show on Wednesday. "We'll announce that when the time comes. One party's already announced theirs - good on them - but the other parties will take our time to put that out during the election campaign."

He said Labour would announce its policy "well before" September's election.

"I just ask people to judge us how we've gone in this term - we've been very careful and steady with the way we've managed the economy."

Robertson acknowledged some Labour policies such as KiwiBuild "have not gone the way we wanted them to".

Grant Robertson.
Grant Robertson. Photo credit: The AM Show

"We've been very upfront and honest about that," he said. "We also work in a Coalition Government environment and, from time to time, there are policies that not all the parties agree on.

"At the same time - for every one of those things that haven't gone as well as we liked, there are many, many others that have improved the lives of New Zealanders," said Robertson, referring to extended paid parental leave and the free apprenticeship scheme which came into force on Wednesday.

The Green Party wants salaries more than $100,000 taxed at 37 percent and anything over $150,000 taxed at 42 percent. Currently, the highest tax bracket is every dollar earned over $70,000 taxed at 33 percent.

Robertson said he was in favour of a "progressive" tax system, which New Zealand already has in place.

But it's not quite as progressive as Australia - their tax brackets go as high as $180,001 and over. Those who earn that salary or above are taxed $54,097 (30 percent) plus 45 cents for each $1 earned over $180,000. 

The maximum earners can be taxed is 45 percent. The next bracket down is people earning between $87,001 and $180,000 (22.78 - 30.13 percent), followed by $37,001 - $87,000 (9.65 - 22.78 percent), and $18,201 - $37,000 (0 - 9.65 percent).

Australians who earn $18,200 or less do not have to pay income tax, according to the Australian Taxation Office.

Robertson said New Zealand's system was "fair and balanced" and has been in place for decades.

"I do support it," he told host Duncan Garner.

ACT leader David Seymour said New Zealanders don't need extra tax as they experience "serious economic pain" in the wake of COVID-19.

He claims Labour's election strategy is to "make even more money from New Zealanders".

"Now is the worst possible time to increase living costs for New Zealanders," he said.

Seymour suggested Labour has "no plan" to get the economy moving.

Labour's tax policy would be released in "due course", Robertson said, adding the Government has been focused on the COVID-19 recovery.