Tax cuts 'very important', but not top priority for most Kiwis
Housing and healthcare topped the list of Kiwis' priorities in a pre-Budget poll carried out by accounting body Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ).
The poll sent a mixed message on tax cuts, CAANZ country manager Peter Vial said.
Nearly half of the 750 people polled (49 per cent) said tax cuts were very important.
But 64 per cent believed there were more important calls on any Government largesse, with only 11 per cent in disagreement.
"Our poll shows that the Government will have to tread a fine line between delivering on demands for both tax reductions and also channelling greater spending into healthcare, education and poverty-reduction measures," Vial said.
"It will be a delicate balancing act."
Twenty-three per cent regarded housing as the single "number one" priority for the Budget, followed by 20 per cent citing healthcare.
Education – while lower down the list for most – was also mentioned by 30 per cent of people as a "top-three item", followed poverty (26 per cent) and employment (25 per cent).
CAANZ said immigration (20 per cent) and crime (19 per cent) were "bubbling issues".
There have been strong hints the Government will unveil at least modest tax cuts by loosening tax thresholds.
But only one in five thought that was the best way to make tax cuts, with most favouring a mix of higher thresholds and tax-rate cuts.
Finance Minister Steven Joyce has also talked up the importance of reducing government debt, to put the country in a better position to weather future shocks such as a major global economic crisis or earthquake.
He has said he would like to see the Government's net debt fall to between 10 and 15 per cent of GDP by 2025, which would put it in a better position to borrow money if needed.
Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton said the Government would have to "dig into its pockets" if there was a quake on the scale of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake as there would not be enough money to cover its commitments in the Earthquake Commission's "significantly depleted" Natural Disaster Fund or reinsurance contracts.
"It is prudent to have the government books in good order and to be reducing debt to provide the capacity to respond to circumstances."
Financial "resilience" would also help the Government prepare for the costs that would be associated with issues such as global warming and rising sea levels, he said.
But he said the trade-off between tax cuts and paying-off debt was a "political one", and tax cuts could help people pay for the insurance they needed.
He didn't have the information to say whether Joyce's 2025 net debt target was the right one, he said.
An overwhelming majority of people polled by CAANZ thought any tax cuts should be centred on low and middle-income earners.
Lower income earners can be more likely to see higher percentage gains in their take-home pay from threshold changes, depending on how they are structured.
But higher earners tend to benefit the most in dollar-terms from any tax cuts, including threshold changes.
Economic growth 7pc
Fighting crime 6pc
Tax reform 4pc