David Parker releases 'truly groundbreaking' tax report - how's it going down with political parties?

New research has found the wealthiest handful of Kiwi families are worth an average of $276 million.

They're also effectively only paying half the tax of everyday Kiwis. The Revenue Minister says it shows in black and white the tax system is unfair. But he hasn't explained plans to fix it - yet.

Wealth. We all - mostly - dream of it. But what is it?

"If you've got hundreds or thousands leftover at the end of the week, you're wealthy," said one Kiwi Newshub spoke to. 

"Having lots of disposable income," said another.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he regards himself as wealthy "in the sense that when I go to the supermarket I don't have to worry about being able to pay the bill when I get to the checkout".

It turns out the most minted among us have substantially more than a shopping trolley - try a collective wealth of $85 billion. 

"This finding is truly groundbreaking," said Revenue Minister David Parker.

Thanks to a law change, the tax department spent two years and $3.2 million investigating the financial affairs of the richest 311 families.

"For the first time, we have hard data confirming fundamental unfairness in our tax system," Parker said.

That unfairness is because most Kiwis are taxed on every dollar they earn as well as paying GST.

So middle income effectively pays 20.2 percent in tax. But these high-wealth families effectively pay just 9.4 percent.

That's because they don't grow their wealth from income. Most is from other largely untaxable things like trusts, property and investments.

"And when I say most, I meant 93 percent," said Parker. 

Kiwis Newshub spoke said "that's not okay" and "that's disgusting". 

Looking at properties alone, the wealthy families own almost 7000.

"The top 1 percent of households hold more than a quarter of all the financial assets in New Zealand," said Parker.

The rich are really getting richer. In 2017 the families were earning $1 billion. In 2021, their income was $14.6 billion.

The Opposition accused Labour of planting a seed with the public about tax changes.

"The top 2 percent of New Zealanders are paying about 26 percent of all our income taxes," National Party leader Christopher Luxon said.

He said that's fair. 

"The Government will use this report as part of a witchhunt, but witchhunts won't make us wealthier," said ACT leader David Seymour.

"The Government's research has outlined that they can do things differently and this is their call to action," said Greens' revenue spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick.

Parker said he's got the courage to fix the system - but just not today.

"We have made it clear we are not making significant tax changes today."

And probably not tomorrow either.

Amelia Wade Analysis

So how long until we do hear about Labour's tax ideas?

Not before the Budget and probably not until a few months before the election.

But David Parker has made it clear he really likes the idea of a "tax switch" so cutting tax for low-income earners or possibly a tax-free threshold so everyone gets a cut.

And now with Jacinda Ardern gone, along with her promise to never introduce a capital gains tax, that's now back on the table.

The tax attacks have already started so Labour will need to tell Kiwis what they are planning so can rule out what they're not and aren't fighting ghosts.

The Prime Minister has a significant pre-Budget speech in Auckland on Thursday.

Hipkins will use that to hose down tax speculation. He'll focus on restraining Government spending and set out their plan on how to pay for the cyclone.