ACT's 'we'll tax you harder' ad featuring Jacinda Ardern removed after complaint it was 'misleading'

ACT's 'we'll tax you harder' ad featuring Jacinda Ardern removed after complaint it was 'misleading'
Photo credit: Getty Images / File

ACT has removed an ad about Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a complaint it was misleading. 

The advert, which has been removed from Facebook, showed an image of Ardern with a group of children. Next to her is the quote: "If you study hard, get a good job, save money and invest wisely, we'll tax you harder."

The ad took aim at Labour's new 39 percent tax rate on income over $180,000. It included the caption: "Instead of punishing one group of people with divisive and harmful policies, Labour should be uniting New Zealand behind good ideas for a more prosperous country."

The ASA received a complaint from someone who felt the ad was misleading because it looked to them as though the quote next to Ardern was something she'd said before. 

"The use of quotation marks clearly is a grammatical indicator that someone has used those words verbatim on the record. I can find no record of this and would like the ASA to investigate," the complaint said. 

They feared it could harm Ardern's reputation. 

"At a time when the world is so alert to the detrimental effects of 'fake news' and the use of misleading political ads on social media platforms, I hope that this complaint will be investigated and upheld."

The ASA noted the complainant's concern that it was misleading to attribute a quote to the Prime Minister which she did not say. Before it went to the Complaints Board, ACT was given the opportunity to amend or remove the ad. 

"Upon receipt of the complaint the advertiser immediately removed the advertisement and confirmed it has no intention of reusing it in the form complained about," the ASA said on Friday. 

The matter is now considered settled.

ACT leader David Seymour wrote in response: "ACT is very sorry, we should have acknowledged Jacinda Ardern doesn't openly say this."

ACT's 'we'll tax you harder' ad featuring Jacinda Ardern removed after complaint it was 'misleading'
Photo credit: File

Labour itself faced a complaint about an ad promoting its housing policy in March, which included removing tax deductions on interest costs for rental properties - something Ardern has described as a "tax loophole".

The ad, posted on Facebook by Labour on March 23, says: "We're announcing a package of urgent and long term changes that will increase housing supply, relieve pressure on the market and make it easier for first home buyers."

The image posted with the caption includes bullet-points under the heading, "We're taking urgent action to tackle the housing crisis by" - one of which reads: "Closing a long-standing tax loophole that benefits property speculators."

The ASA received a complaint from someone who said the ad was misleading because Labour was claiming to solve the housing crisis, but a "tax on tenants" will not address it. 

Labour said in response it was within its rights to present an opinion about the potential future outcomes of certain Government policies.

"In the Labour's Party's opinion, the Advertising Standards Authority complaint process is not the appropriate forum for parties to debate the relative merits of Government policy announcements, nor the potential outcomes."

The ASA agreed Labour was within its rights to advocate for Government policies, including the expression of opinion about the future outcomes that will result from housing policy announcements.

It did not uphold the complaint.

The ASA received a further two complaints related to the Government's housing policy, this time about a National Party ad attacking it.

In the video ad posted on Twitter, National's shadow treasurer Andrew Bayly talks about the Government's changes to the bright-line test, which is essentially a tax on investment properties, which was extended from five years to 10 for properties sold after March 27. 

It means if you sell a residential property you have owned for less than 10 years you may have to pay income tax. Under the old rules, there were some exemptions for the family home, but the Government has tweaked them. 

If the family home is not used as the primary residence for longer than a year, it's subject to the bright-line test, and the tax, calculated on the time it was not being used as a family home. 

Bayly explained in the video how if you spend five years not living in your family home and end up selling it you will have to pay the tax on any increase in the capital gain of your property. 

The complainants said the ad was misleading because in the example given, the tax would only apply for the five years the person did not live in the house.

The ASA accepted National's defence that Inland Revenue's official explanation of the proposed changes used similar language.