Finance Minister pooh-poohs visitor and departure taxes

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Finance Minister Bill English gave the thumbs-down to visitor and departure taxes during a speech in Queenstown today. 

English – who’s also the local Member of Parliament – was addressing a post-Budget breakfast function organised by the local Chamber of Commerce. 

Asked if he’d favour a visitor tax to fund local infrastructure projects like the proposed convention centre, he said: “Generally, we’re not that keen on them because it’s another tax, and once you open the door on that you’ll get all sorts of specific local taxes for all sorts of specific local things. 

“The Government’s, I think, indicated a positive view about supporting the convention centre in a way that would reduce the burden on local businesses and local ratepayers. 

“That’s probably more likely the way that Government would assist, one-off assistance, so that you’re not bedding in new taxes. 

“Look, bed taxes are quite common around the world, they’re not unusual, so I wouldn’t say it will never happen, but we’re a bit sceptical and the hurdle’s pretty high.” 

English said departure taxes are also very common around the world. 

“Should we have a departure tax of $20 a head to fund all our tourism promotion? 

“Well, of course you can do it but is it the best thing to do at this time when our tourist numbers have been down and we want them to get up? 

“Probably not – it would just be a bit of a turn-off at the margin.” 

It’s been reported that Government officials recently recommended a departure tax, however the Cabinet scotched the idea before this month’s Budget.