Matt McCarten: On bosses' side over carpark tax

Staff carparks could become a thing of the past. Photo / Jeff Brass
Staff carparks could become a thing of the past. Photo / Jeff Brass

I spent my Monday lunchtime with Employers and Manufacturers Association boss Kim Campbell.

We were fronting television cameras in launching a campaign to oppose a new tax on business. Before you think I've completely lost my marbles, let me explain.

The Government has come up with a plan for a fringe benefit tax on bosses' carparks in the Auckland and Wellington CBDs. My initial reaction was, who cares? Then I read the fine print.

The IRD will set a carpark market rate and tax it at 49 per cent. The figures suggested are about $150 a month. That's a new $8 daily tax.

The bureaucrats in Wellington claim it will raise $17 million, although they don't provide any detailed costings. It won't raise anything like it.

Many businesses will merely issue a memo informing their employees that their carparks are now for customers only.

Therefore no tax is payable. The instruction goes on file and is ignored by all.

The only employers who can't avoid the tax will be large employers in the two inner cities. By making it area based, it's even more ridiculous. The Auckland Hospital pays; Manukau and North Shore hospitals don't. The University of Auckland and AUT pay; MIT and Unitec don't. Auckland Girls' Grammar School pays; Auckland Grammar and Epsom Girls Grammar School do not. TVNZ is in; TV3 is out.

We have a ludicrous situation in which tax-funded entities pay the Government its own money back. It's a compliance headache with no net revenue gain.

Amusingly, the employers' office on Khyber Pass Rd falls outside the designated area. The EPMU, the trade union, is on the other side of the road and is included.

The only big private employer that can't get out of it is SkyCity casino, which provides staff carparks for $4 a day. My day job is union advocate for SkyCity workers. Driving to work is a necessity because more than 1500 workers either start or finish their shift at 4am every day of the week. There is no public transport at that time. If SkyCity passed the cost on to its employees, their parking charges would triple to $12 a day, or $3000 a year, from their take-home pay.

And then there's another group I care about: several hundred cleaners come into work in the city overnight. Our union has negotiated with various owners for some workers to park their cars for free in their indoor carparks. If these owners are taxed they could withdraw the arrangements. These workers will have to park on dark streets again.

The only ones who will really get pinged by this carpark tax will be low-paid inner-city workers. Because of that, I will turn up to a forum and hold hands with any boss.

- Herald on Sunday

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