Observe, listen and learn - words to live by

Observe, listen and learn - words to live by

The new Minister of Revenue, Mr Stuart Nash, gave the opening address to the CAANZ Annual Tax Conference on 16th November 2017.  There he set out the new Government’s 100-day plan (the tax part of it anyway).  You can access a copy of his full speech here

In summary the 100-day plan is this:

  • Repeal the previous government’s tax cuts and redirect that to families, and more targeted assistance to support social services and infrastructure. 
  • Legislate to pass the Families Package, including the Winter Energy Payment, Best Start and increases to Paid Parental Leave.
  • Establish the Tax Working Group, led by the Minister of Finance (Grant Robertson) and the Minister for Revenue (Stuart Nash).   By Christmas, they will release the terms of reference and membership of the Tax Working Group.   

Mr Nash said the Government wanted a group of experts to advise on the future of the tax system, for ways to improve and simplify how taxpayers interact with the Inland Revenue, and taking a wider, more future looking review, bearing in mind the changing nature of business, doing business, international trends and actors, community and social aspects and, the changing nature of a person’s working life (but a few of the wide-ranging review elements).  He referred to this as being a generational shift in thinking. 

“Although there have been a number of Tax Working Groups over the years, our tax system hasn’t had a major overhaul in a generation.

So the first question for the Working Group will be: “is our tax system fit for the future?” Perhaps the Working Group will say that the system is fine and they will come back with no substantive recommendations.  But I suspect there are inherent inequities in the system that need addressing.

How broad this review will be is currently being discussed.  But personally, I think this is an opportunity to think longer term about some of the bigger opportunities and threats to our tax system.  An opportunity to future-proof it.”

The Minister also noted that there were too many tax bills before Parliament.  And I can only agree with that observation, and would add there are also too many Officials Discussion Documents and draft Issues Papers, and draft Interpretation Statements.  When there are too many, with different, similar and/or interacting topics not only do you get confused between them, but the detail and implications of the content can be lost on professionals, taxpayers and officials alike.  We need to slow down, and breathe. 

Over recent years I have observed a growing trend in business and politics that there must be “a 100-day” plan.  Why?  What is so special about the first 100 days (and in New Zealand we have to take into account the Great New Zealand Summer Holiday hiatus)?  A few years ago, when being interviewed for a (now previous) job, I was asked what my “100 day plan” was.  My answer (and I hadn’t expected the question) was: To observe, to listen and to learn.  To say otherwise was, in my view, the height of arrogance that I should claim to know what (if anything) needed changing in a company and in a business sector that I was not familiar with before I knew what was working or not working. 

If this new Government slows down and allows us all to breathe; if it observes, listens and learns, that has got to be a good thing. 

Posted: Wednesday 22 November 2017