I’d quit as finance minister if my tax cut plan fails

The National Party’s finance spokesperson and deputy leader Nicola Willis said should she be finance minister after the election and her party fail to deliver its pledged tax reduction plan, she would resign.

It comes as three independent economists released their own modelling this week, which claimed National’s foreign buyers tax policy had a shortfall of around $500 million.

The policy aims to give tax cuts to Kiwis, in part funded by reopening the housing market to foreign buyers and taxing them 15% on purchases over $2m.

The foreign buyer tax is planned to bring in a large source of revenue to pay for the party’s income band adjustments and other spending in its tax plan.

In a recent 1News Verian poll, 39% supported National’s plan, while 46% opposed it. The rest didn’t know or preferred not to say.

There are increasing calls for the party to release its modelling to see the numbers behind the policy.

As the pressure mounts, Willis defended it on Breakfast this morning.

She said the economists’ conclusions were based on “assumptions” and “opinions”.

“Our tax plan is credible, that matters to National, and it does add up,” she said.

“Those economists who came out yesterday have a different opinion about the number of houses that will sell if the foreign buyer ban is lifted.

“We, however, have based our numbers on pretty conservative assumptions.”

Willis said their policy had been checked by a number of “economic advisers”, and insisted they were confident in the policy.

She insisted there is a large appetite among foreign buyers who want to own luxury property in New Zealand “despite a tax”.

“For our policy to work, fewer than 2% of those would have to sell to foreign buyers in a given year, and we think that’s reasonable.

“We’ve already had real estate agents contact us to say we’ve had foreign buyers in touch saying they’re keen on buying homes.”

She believed the party had been “transparent” when releasing how they came to their conclusions.

“We’ve gone above and beyond here, this isn’t just our opinion here. We’ve had external advisers to check.

“The next step would be to start releasing Excel spreadsheets?

“I’m not aware of any politician having previously done that. I don’t actually think that’s what New Zealand voters want to see.”

But economist Michael Reddell – a fiscal conservative – said the policy makes him “nervous”, telling Breakfast there has been a lack of transparency around the modelling.

“What it does is sort of corrode a sense of confidence in their credibility in managing processes,” he said.

“Luxon has a strong reputation for being a strong manager, but this is a process that doesn’t look like it was very well managed.”

Reddell is just one of a number of voices calling for National to release their modelling, so the party’s thinking behind their conclusions is clear.

“And when you get challenged, the natural thing is to be open about it.”

“Instead, they’ve taken the hunkering down approach, so for me as just one voter, just one commentator, it does make me more nervous that these are the people who want to run the government.”

Willis was then asked by Breakfast’s Matty McLean whether, if National win the election and she was named finance minister, she would resign if she couldn’t deliver tax cuts because the numbers in their plan didn’t add up.

“I am going to ensure that National meets it commitment to deliver tax reduction. I do care that it adds up. If we didn’t deliver tax reduction, yes, I would resign, because we are making a commitment to the New Zealand people, and we intend to keep it.”