Next week thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders will wake up to a cut in their take-home pay because of policy decisions by the National/United Future government.
From 1 April 2013 the minimum KiwiSaver contribution is increasing from 2% to 3%, while the Student Loan compulsory repayment jumps a whopping 20% to 12 cents in every dollar earned over the repayment threshold.
Now Labour stands for a gradual move to universal, employment-based KiwiSaver contributions over time, because that will grow the economy and secure savers in retirement.
But with unemployment today at record levels, and with so many families only just getting by, it’s crucial that changes which hit people in the pocket are well-signalled and well-understood before they take effect.
Complex communications around tax changes need to be relevant. Some Kiwis watch the 6pm news; others will see billboards on the daily commute; and web-savvy students might expect important information to be pushed to them through social media.
Ultimately the obligation for quality communications falls squarely to Revenue Minister and United Future leader Peter Dunne.
But over and over again I’ve heard that many Kiwis have no idea how next week they’ll have less cash-in-hand to feed the kids and pay the mortgage.
That’s not good enough from Mr Dunne. That’s not good enough from the National/United Future Government.
Now too many Kiwi taxpayers find a phone call to the IRD an exercise in frustration.
But you can bet there’ll be lots of calls on pay day next week.
Too often people who phone the IRD contact line get put in a long, long queue (last time I tried I waited 45 minutes).
Even worse, callers are sometimes flatly told by a machine “We’re too busy – call back later” then disconnected. This is just not good enough. It is the taxpayer who is liable if issues are not resolved. Any Government has a duty to facilitate good compliance.
Therefore it’s a bit of a worry that IRD had its staffing slashed by 6% last year.
Who is going to answer all the calls?
And with the external communications so lacklustre, how can we be confident that Peter Dunne has ensured IRD’s own staff know what’s going on?
Fortunately (for the first time in quite a long while) Mr Dunne has pinned his colours to the mast.
I asked Dunne Parliamentary Written Question 1401 (2013), and here’s what the Revenue Minister has assured the public:
Minister: Hon Peter Dunne
Question: Is he confident that the Inland Revenue Department is adequately staffed to manage any requests from businesses related to the change in minimum KiwiSaver contributions?
Answer Text: Yes.
Next week we shall see whether Peter Dunne’s word is more credible than his department’s communications.