Election 2023: National caught using stock images for examples of how tax policy would help 'real people'

The National Party has been caught out using stock images in its tax policy document which included several "real life" examples of how the party believes it would help Kiwis.

National released its tax policy on Wednesday, which it said targeted the "squeezed middle".

The $14.6 billion tax relief plan will be funded by reprioritising spending and introducing targeted revenue measures like a new foreign buyer tax on some houses.

National said an "average household" with children with an income of $120,000 would be better off by up to $250 per fortnight, while an average household with no children will get up to $100 per fortnight and a full-time minimum-wage earner will get up to $20 per fortnight. A superannuitant couple will get up to $26 more per fortnight, the party said.

The 'Back Pocket Boost' package includes changes to income tax brackets to compensate for inflation, introducing National's FamilyBoost child care tax credit and increasing Working for Families tax credits. This would come in from July 1, 2024.

In the tax policy, there were several examples of how it would impact New Zealanders - including a family of four with two children, a retired couple and an 18-year-old cafe worker.

Nicola Willis was asked on AM on Thursday whether the images accompanying the article were generated by artificial intelligence (AI).

"They're real people," she responded. "And I can tell you they're a lot more real than the supposed tax relief you would be getting from Labour under their GST policy," Willis told AM's Ryan Bridge.

It's not the first time National has come under fire for the images it uses in policy documents. Earlier in the year, the party admitted to using AI to create fake photos for its political attack ads. The admission came after leader Christopher Luxon earlier denied the use of AI when Newshub showed him the ads.

But it turns out the photos used alongside the examples are stock images. A reverse-image search found the photo that accompanies 18-year-old cafe worker Nathan's blurb on Adobe's stock image website.

In the policy, Nathan is described as an 18-year-old school leaver who lives in Whangārei and is taking a year off studying to work full time. Nathan works 40 hours per week on minimum wage and would get an extra $530 a year, the document said.

But the man, on the Adobe website, is described as a "Cafe handsome Asia man waitress cashes in order bill register working happy at coffee shop".

Willis later told Newshub the people were stock images but they were real, not AI generated. "They were stock images but they were real people. When Ryan asked me about that on AM this morning I thought he was saying are they AI generated people. They are photos of real people," Willis told reporters on Thursday afternoon.

She also revealed the stories weren't based on real people either.

"The stories are characterisations. So what we were choosing to do is work through examples of how the tax would apply to different households and different circumstances and then we've taken stock images and put those next to those stories. They are scenarios," Willis said.

Another one of the examples, professional couple Ben and Tabitha, were also found on Adobe.

According to National, Ben and Tabitha are in their early 30s and have no children. They earn $150,000 each and are saving for a house.

They would get an extra $2085 per year in tax relief under National's plan.

But on the Adobe Stock images website, they are described as a "couple enjoying on vacation".

Solo parent Simon and his son also appear on a stock image website. In its tax document, National says single parent to two teenagers Simon would get an extra $90 a fortnight in tax relief and Working For Families payments.

He earns $80,000 a year and has full custody of his kids, aged 13 and 16. He would get $1043 in tax relief each year and additional Working for Families payments worth $1300.

Overall, he would get tax relief of $2343 per year. Then, from 2026, he would get an additional $76 per fortnight when the Working for Families threshold is adjusted.

Meanwhile, Wiremu, Mia and their two school-aged children were also found on stock image website iStock by Getty Images.

National said Wiremu and Mia both work full-time, earning $60,000 each, for an average household income of $120,000. They have two primary school-aged children.

Under National's tax plan, they would get tax relief of $1600 a year and Independent Earner Tax Credits of $1040. Overall, they would get an extra $2640 per year in tax relief and credits.

The image on iStock is captioned, "Quality time at home with family".

Building apprentice Alice is another example National used in their policy.

The Christchurch apprentice earns $55,000 per year and would pay $800 less in income tax as well as being eligible for the $520 Independent Earner Income Tax Credit, according to National. Overall, Alice would get an extra $1320 per year.

The photo accompanying Alice's blurb is from Getty Images and is described as a "young female construction worker".

A retired couple living in Whakatāne, Bob and Jacqui, were also found on a stock image website.

National says the pair would be better off by a combined $680 per year.

The stock image website describes them as a "happy senior couple in living room using remote control to change channel".

National isn't the only party that has been caught out by using stock images. In 2019 it was revealed the woman on the cover of Labour's Wellbeing Budget had actually moved to Australia because the cost of living was too high in Aotearoa.