NZ Election 2020: Free money for all under National - irresistible or irresponsible?

National is promising tax cuts which would put thousands of dollars into the back pockets of middle and high-income earners - a dramatic tax policy that lifts all income tax thresholds, so you'd be taxed less on what you earn for 16 months. 

For people earning between $60k and $80k, it means savings of around $3000. The tax cuts will cost $4.7 billion and National is taking it out of the COVID-19 rainy-day fund, and to pay down debt it will spend less than Labour on things like health and education.

Plus there will be cuts. Fees-free university is gone, so is KiwiBuild, and Super Fund contributions would be suspended. 

National Party leader Judith Collins denies it's an election bribe, but Labour's describing the tax cut promise as "reckless" and "totally irresponsible".

"It's clear that you need to keep more of your money," Collins said on Friday. 

National is promising tax cuts 29 days out from polling day. 

It would mean between $36 and $46 dollars more a week for middle-income earners, and it would kick in in time for Christmas, lasting for 16 months. 

If you earn between $60k and $80k a year you'll get between $2500 and $3500. Lower-income earners get way less - $560 to $900 if you're on $50k.

The bigger end of town earning over $90k pockets $4000, including Collins on her $240k salary.

"I'll probably buy something," she said. 

"Times are tough I've got four children," her finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said. 

Collins joked, "They'll spend it for him."

It didn't take Labour long to brainstorm and coordinate its tax attack lines. 

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern described the proposed tax cuts as "totally irresponsible", an analysis her finance spokesperson Grant Robertson agreed with. 

"This is not the actions of a responsible party," Robertson said. "It's clearly been done in a desperate way."

Ardern adding, "Now is simply not the time."

The cuts cost $4.7 billion paid for from the Government's COVID-19 'just in case' fund, and Ardern is not happy about that. 

"They are raiding that for tax cuts and that's just not right and it is not the actions of a responsible party, let alone a responsible economic manager," she said. 

National would spend $6 billion less than Labour on general operating costs - things like education, health and social services. 

It would axe fees-free tertiary and KiwiBuild - no love lost there - and contributions to the Super Fund would also be suspended. 

"It's crude and extreme," New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said. 

National's tax cuts work like this: Income is taxed incrementally in brackets, so you pay more the more you earn. National's proposal lifts all income tax thresholds, so you pay less tax for more of your salary and less for the tax man means more for you. 

The tax bands would return to normal in March 2022. 

"We can't yoyo in and out of tax cuts just like we have with alert levels," ACT leader David Seymour said. "You're not going to cancel the kids' swimming lessons because the tax cuts ended."

ACT wants the cuts permanent, and they just might. 

"Obviously we'd love to be able to keep it permanently but we can't promise that now given the state of the books," Goldsmith said. 

Collins said, "I would say to every teacher police officer and nurse there's no one going to back you like we will."

Nothing quite says I back you like cold, hard cash. 

Analysis by Political Editor Tova O'Brien

It's definitely election game on! It's a major flagship policy that totally differentiates National from Labour.

To date, we've seen a lot of good policy from both major parties but it's all been fairly interchangeable - real centrist stuff that could have been announced by either National or Labour.

This sets a clear demarcation. It's also a major U-turn for National after Collins ruled out tax cuts just last month. 

She says the second lockdown changed everything - a looming election day probably contributed too.