Grant Robertson rules out tax cuts for wealthiest Kiwis, won't reveal whether low and middle-income earners should expect relief

Grant Robertson has ruled out tax cuts for the wealthiest Kiwis but won't reveal whether low and middle-income New Zealanders should expect relief. 

As Aotearoa grapples with a cost of living crisis many people will be keeping their eyes out for some election sweeteners. 

The general election will be held in 2023 and the opposition has already promised tax cuts if it wins. 

But the Government is taking a more cautious approach. Speaking with AM on Tuesday Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the party is yet to finalise its tax policies for the next term, but he did rule out relief for one group of people. 

"We've said in this term of government we're not doing major changes to the tax system. There's a lot for us to be getting on with. When it comes to the election next year, the Labour Party hasn't set its tax policy yet, we will have that and it will be up against the other parties' policies," Robertson told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green. 

"What I can absolutely guarantee though is in the tax policy we will not be cutting taxes for the highest income earners. That is not where the focus should be for the Government. We've got a lot of investment in public services and a lot of work to do to support low and middle-income earners. It ain't the time for tax cuts for the wealthiest."

Robertson's comments are a thinly veiled dig at National's tax policy which would see tax brackets lifted to match the cost of living increases.

The Party has also promised to completely remove the 39 percent top tax rate for income over $180,000 a year which Labour brought in after the 2017 election. 

But despite assurances the top tax rate would be left alone, Robertson wouldn't reveal any details about what Kiwis can expect from the Party. 

"We just haven't set our policy for the next election yet. I certainly understand that people have been doing it tough, households have been doing it tough both through COVID and with the inflation spike we're seeing now. 

"We want to do what we can to support low and middle-income households. We'll keep doing that and then we will also have our election policy. So that'll come through over the course of the next year. But we made a commitment in this term of government, we actually lifted that top rate of tax. We said that would be the major change that we would make… cutting that top rate now, I think, would be a terrible thing to do both for the New Zealand economy and New Zealand society."

The Finance Minister did acknowledge high inflation had pushed up wage growth and meant more people were in higher tax brackets. 

"Every government would want to be able to adjust those tax brackets and make sure that people do keep more of that money in their take-home pay. [But] we have to balance that against all of the needs we've got in delivering the health system… delivering education, building houses, making sure that we provide all the public services people rely on. 

"So we'll take a look at that as we move into the next period and we look at our policies for the next election. But it's always a balance."

The Government has come under increasing pressure to reveal its tax plans after National revealed it would introduce widespread tax cuts. If elected the Party has promised to lift almost all of the brackets by just over 11.5 percent, to match the 11.5 percent increase in the cost of living over the last four years. 

But the policy has come under criticism because its policy would see someone on the most typical salary in New Zealand of $55,000, save about $800 a year. While someone earning $45,000 would only get about $112. 

But because the top tax rate is being scrapped it would see National leader Christopher Luxon receive a whopping $18,000 tax cut if he became Prime Minister.