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When burritos become sandwiches

In recent days we have heard how NZ First leader Winston Peters wants to take GST off some foods, but not others. While any reduction in the tax-burden should be welcomed, this picking and choosing of which items should include a sales tax causes unnecessary confusion for suppliers, retailers and consumers. 

Take the humble burrito. 

It’s a Mexican staple; a food that’s becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand. And in New York State there is significant debate (think tax lawyers and accountants) on the question of whether it counts as a sandwich for tax reasons.

When politicians pick and choose sale taxes willy-nilly there are often unforeseen circumstances. In New York this has meant that the eight percent “sandwich tax” has become applicable to burritos. It’s also led to numerous hours of government officials and tax experts debating the trivial point of just what constitutes a sandwich. 

At a cost of at least $3bn, removing GST on items of Mr Peters’ choosing is a big-ticket policy. But as with New York sandwiches, there would be endless regulations, descriptions and exemptions.

If politicians want to truly reduce the tax burden facing New Zealanders, they should start by cutting sales or income taxes across the board. Playing politics with your pantry is an expensive exercise that leads to some truly bizarre outcomes.

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Double dipping MP should pay money back

This morning's Dominion Post covers the double dipping of New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin, who until October was on the Rodney Local Board.

NZ First MP Tracey Martin was paid more than $70,000 as a local council board member - on top of her almost $150,000-a-year MP's salary.

Martin, who entered Parliament on the party list in November 2011, was a member of the Rodney local board until elections in October last year. Auckland Council confirmed yesterday she was paid a local board salary during this time. She also received a ratepayer-funded cellphone, a council spokesman confirmed. Parliamentary Service supplies MPs with a smartphone.

Martin was also entitled to a mileage allowance for any travel undertaken on behalf of the board.

MPs are not barred from collecting the salary as long as they declare it in the Registry of Pecuniary Interests - which she did last year.

Outgoing Labour MP Ross Robertson was elected deputy chairman of the Otara-Papatoetoe local board last year, and said yesterday he planned to donate his $39,000 salary to a local school.

Martin says she makes donations to charity and community projects but refused to specify how much.

"Don't know - never added up all the things I paid for around the community. I guess I could but I would need more time to go through my records."

She said she helps fund a Women's Refuge project and local art projects. The hours serving the local board were "extensive" with many held on weekends.

Martin confirmed she accepted the phones. "One for parliamentary work, one for council work, and a third phone for personal business," she said.

A council spokesman confirmed Martin was paid between 2011 and 2013. The annual salary was between $34,000 and $35,000.

"There is no defined number of hours that members are required to work. Elected members receive a salary for their role, governed independently by the Remuneration Authority. The Remuneration Authority considers that Local Board members are not fulltime."

Read more.

Being an MP is a well paid and full time job. Ms Martin should pay Auckland ratepayers back for the double dipping.

What an outrageous sense of entitlement to be accepting payment from ratepayers while sitting in Wellington as an MP. Winston Peters should be demanding the money is paid back to Auckland ratepayers, and paid back now.

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