Image: Tax Policy Scholarship Competition

Tax Policy Scholarship Competition finalists

Photo: Tax Policy Scholarship Competition finalists

A negative income tax coupled with a flat tax rate for individuals and the creation of a trusted taxpayer regime.

These are among the ideas judges will hear as part of the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition.

A tax on biogenic methane emissions and freshwater as well as reforming the R&D tax credit regime are the others options on the table.

Spark’s Nigel Jemson, and the Deloitte duo of John Lohrentz and Shay Webster are this year’s finalists.

They are vying to win $10,000 prize money.

The three finalists’ proposals are an interesting mix of environmental, social assistance and behavioural messages, says Tax Policy Scholarship Competition judge and Tax Policy Charitable Trust chair John Shewan.


Image: Tax Policy Scholarship Competition
From left: Nigel Jemson, IRD commissioner Naomi Ferguson, former IRD deputy commissioner Robin Oliver and Tax Policy Charitable Trust chair John Shewan. Photo: Colin McDiarmid


The ideas of the quartet

Jemson is pushing for the creation of a trusted taxpayer regime.

This will see businesses receive a 10 percent discounted tax rate by opting to regularly report financial information to IRD.

Anyone part of the scheme for three years or more will also have their annual tax return requirement removed.

A small business would be eligible for the scheme if they are using the accounting income method to pay provisional tax and operating a “predominantly cash-free” business.

As for Webster, he favours using tax to create a broad, universal welfare system to tackle inequality, reduce the cost of welfare and stimulate the economy.

He proposes doing this by implementing a negative income tax combined with a flat rate of 33 percent for individuals.

Under this, those earning less than $31,500 will receive a tax credit or a weekly or fortnightly cash payment from the Government.

Meanwhile, Lohrentz supports a progressive tax on biogenic methane emissions in the agriculture sector.

Revenue from the tax would go back into agricultural. That would be in the form of:

  • A fund to grant money to those changing land use, planting trees, retraining or implementing more efficient practices and technology.
  • An R&D tax credit exclusively for climate change-orientated R&D in the agriculture sector.

Not only that, but he also promotes a 40 percent R&D tax credit. This would be for taxpayers undertaking a core R&D activity that fosters ‘natural capital’ in New Zealand’s agriculture sector.


The next stage of the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition

The finalist will present to the judges in Wellington in November.

Shewan says their proposals have the potential to make a difference to New Zealand society.

Still, the judges will be considering other factors when making their final assessment. That’s because these ideas may also place additional pressure on the tax system or have unintentional consequences.

“The judging panel will be looking closely at issues such as complexity, economic impact, the potential for distortions and technical feasibility in judging the final submissions,” says Shewan.

As well as Shewan, the other judges on the panel are former Reserve Bank of New Zealand governor Alan Bollard, tax barrister David McLay, former Bell Gully tax partner Joanne Hodge and former IRD deputy commissioner Robin Oliver.

While the winner will collect $10,000, the runner-up will receive $4000 and the other finalist $1000.


Tax Policy Scholarship Competition background

Every two years, the Tax Policy Charitable Trust invites young tax professionals with an interest in tax policy to make a submission.

Submissions for the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition must outline a significant reform to the New Zealand tax system.

It is open to those under the age of 35 working (or eligible to work) in New Zealand. Those in the public and private sector or academia can enter.

There were 14 entries this year.

“Several submissions focused on the use of tax to achieve social and environmental outcomes, and to incentivise taxpayers to behave in particular ways,” says Shewan.

This is the third Tax Policy Scholarship Competition.

Previous winners include Matt Woolley and Talia Smart (both 2017) and Caleb McConnell (2015).


Image: Tax Policy Charitable Trust


About the Tax Policy Charitable Trust

Tax Management NZ founder Ian Kuperus is responsible for creating the Tax Policy Charitable Trust.

His aim is to support the continuation of leading tax policy research and thinking and inspire future tax policy leaders.

In addition to the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition, the trust also sponsors the visit of a leading tax expert to New Zealand.

This is to ensure New Zealand benefits from the best tax thinking from overseas.

Last year, it held an event with the Tax Working Group members after the release of their draft report.