Wealth tax: ACT's David Seymour denounces well-off New Zealanders asking to be taxed more

ACT leader David Seymour has blasted a group of wealthy New Zealanders' calling to be taxed more, describing it as a "tiresome humblebrag".

The Government has been written to by 97 Kiwis asking for their taxes to be increased after a report last month revealed the wealthiest New Zealanders were paying taxes at half the rate of the average middle-class bracket. 

Labour, however, has said it will not make tax changes in next week's Budget. It has yet to announce its tax policy ahead of October's election.

The Green Party has called for the Government to "act and urgently tax wealth and lift people out of poverty". Right-bloc parties National and ACT, however, have long castigated any idea of a wealth or capital gains tax. 

National, instead, has a policy of indexing tax thresholds to inflation - an idea Finance Minister Grant Robertson doesn't believe is appropriate in the current economic environment. 

In their open letter to the Government, the signatories including actress Robyn Malcolm, businessman Sir Ian Taylor, Ecostore founder Malcolm Rands and Former Retirement Commissioner Dame Diana Crossan, said: "We want to pay more. As people leading financially comfortable lives, we might be expected to be anti-tax. But we recognise tax as a shared contribution to our collective success."

Seymour said in a statement on Thursday the group's call for a wealth tax was "anti-aspiration and will do nothing to make us a more successful country". 

"If a group of wealthy New Zealanders wants to pay more tax, ACT will share the IRD's bank account number with them, so there's no need for them to force their values on other New Zealanders.

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: AM

"The most tiresome humblebrag comes up in tax debates around the world every few years, 'I'm so rich I want to pay more tax' … Wealth doesn't entitle someone to a greater say about public policy."

In a separate statement, Greens Commerce and Consumer Affairs spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March, reacting to news food prices had risen by the most since GST was introduced in 1986, highlighted why his party was for any kind of wealth or capital gains tax. 

"Almost half a million people in Aotearoa rely on food banks to afford to eat. Meanwhile, the wealthiest few are continuing to get richer. 

"It could not be more stark how unfair the system is and always has been."

Ricardo Menéndez March.
Ricardo Menéndez March. Photo credit: File

Seymour said "some people" were "obsessed with dividing, rather than creating, wealth".

"But simply shuffling wealth around will not help us retain our status as a first-world nation."

He also hit out at the Greens.

"A capital gains tax applied to houses, such as the Greens promote, will apply to mum and dad property investors as well as the superrich, although I doubt the humblebraggers thought that through," Seymour said.

But Menéndez March said the status quo "simply cannot continue".

"For decades, tax-free capital gains on property have made some people in Aotearoa extremely wealthy. But for those living paycheck to paycheck, the reality looks very different.

"It's beyond doubt that the money we need to support everyone in Aotearoa is already there. The only thing standing in the way of using it is political willpower."

In 2021, the World Bank published an article urging countries to consider a wealth tax to help reduce inequality, replenish state coffers depleted by COVID-19 relief schemes and regain social trust.

New Zealand's top income tax rate is 39 percent on $180,000 and above.