Budget Perspective (Winter 2016)
The 2016 budget has come and gone and the only people really shouting about it are the Opposition and the tobacco companies.
Perhaps the Government felt they have already given businesses enough to be excited about with their pre-Budget announcements of the proposed tax simplification and business transformation. Beyond the reform of the provisional tax system and other changes announced to be staged over 2017 and 2018, there were no dramatic shifts for business.
Health and education will see most of the new spending, $2.2b and $1.44b respectively over the next four years. However, total annual new spending will be around $1.6b shored up by whatever additional funds can be found in other cuts or underspends. $258m goes to provide more social housing in the epicentre of the nation's housing crisis, Auckland, with an additional $100m freeing up Crown land for housing. Science and innovation projects will receive an extra $410.5m over the next four years, with increases to support tertiary education and apprenticeships in science, engineering and agriculture as well as regional R&D initiatives.
While net debt is forecast to peak round 25.6% of GDP in 2017, the plan is for overall reduction, bringing it within the Treasurer's target of 20% for 2020. Surpluses are forecast for the next few years. Some of the figures, however, seem to rest on the hoped for dairy price recovery which remains to be seen. ETS subsidy: From 1 January 2017, the Emissions Trading Scheme subsidy will be removed. This was only ever a temporary measure during the global financial crisis, allowing some businesses to pay one emissions unit for every two tonnes of pollution emitted.
There is some promise of tax cuts and of lowering tax rates and thresholds, primarily to take some pressure off lower and middle income earners. However, that's on a wait and see basis for next year's Budget.
Inland Revenue's new tax administration system has been allocated $503m in new operating funding and $354m in new capital funding. This is closely aligned with giving effect to what the Government has planned for tax simplification and business transformation. A reshaping of Inland Revenue also seems inevitable. Balancing the additional allocations are cuts to Inland Revenue's existing budget – $284m over the next four years – those savings to be recycled back into business transformation. The overall aim, however, is to generate more tax revenue with a smoother system ensuring better tax compliance.
The Government announced that they will be making further changes targeted at multinational companies, to make it harder for them to avoid paying their fair share of tax. What those changes are, we don't yet know but it is probable they hinge on sharing tax compliance information internationally as the Government is now party to the OECD multilateral competent authority agreement. This enables automatic sharing of country-by-country reporting and is part of a larger OECD project to reform the international tax framework. Disclosure requirements for foreign trusts will also come under scrutiny.
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