Ruining childhoods one tax working group at a time

Let’s talk about tax.

Or more particularly let’s talk about who Labour should put on their tax working group if/when they become the next government.

Earlier this year Ghostbusters was remade with women in the lead roles. Reviews were quite binary being ‘absolutely brilliant’ or ‘its ruined my childhood’. The latter review is quite a big call when as a mother I am sure I messed up my children far more than any movie. Clearly these gentlemen – and I use the term very loosely – were blessed with parental experiences far superior to wot I provided.

But it got me thinking what would a tax working group remix look like with women in the key roles. In 2001 Shirley Jones – who wasn’t the mother of David Cassidy – was one of the five members of the review group and in 2008 Susan St John was a kinda ring in member in the 2008 Tax Working group. That’s it. Hardly stellar or at all representative of the smart kick arse women I came across in my time in tax.

So I thought I’d put together a long list for the next lefty government to pick from.

All these women I have either worked with, professionally disagreed with – often strenuously – and/or been influenced by. They span academia, private practice and the judiciary. They are all top of their game. I have excluded current public servants.

And yeah a number are personal  friends  – I hope even after this post – but that has never been a limiting factor for people putting such lists together in the past.

So who are the Daraenys Targaryens of tax best able to advise a next government wanting to ‘rebalance the tax system’.

Chair Dame Susan Glazebrook have no idea if sitting judges can serve on working groups but hey this is a blog post I can assume all the can openers  I want. She was co author of the still widely used book on financial arrangements which are seriously hard. She had a distinguished career as a tax lawyer and was well respected on both sides before going to the High Court in 2001. A serious brain mixed with good judgement. Couldn’t think of anyone better as Chair.


Lisa Marriott – Chartered Accountant and Associate Professor in tax at Victoria. Author of the seminal work on the differences of treatment of tax evasion and benefit fraud in the criminal justice system.

Susan St John – Economist and Associate Professor at Auckland University. Expert on tax benefit interface – or lack thereof.

Teresa Farac – Chartered Accountant and Partner at Deloittes. Never met anyone with her depth of technical knowledge. On technical issues she is always right. Just accept it.

Joanne Hodge – Lawyer and former Bell Gully partner. Astute and insightful mind. Has now given up tax twice. So seriously impressive judgement.

Kirsty Keating – Lawyer; Partner at EY law and former Senior Solicitor at IRD. A tax disputes expert – or tax controversy as they delightfully call it. Sees the results of when good tax policy goes bad as well as the operation of the department in its full technicolour glory.

Emma Richards – Lawyer; Director at PwC and a million years ago was an analyst in IRD’s Rulings unit. One of New Zealand’s top tax technicians. If I ever had a hard transaction – I would want her on it.

Deborah Russell – Senior Lecturer in Tax at Massey, former Senior Analyst at IRD and a woman with views. Her inclusion on the list is a tad surreal though. Not through lack of merit – but more that she could be the Minister of Revenue commissioning this group on a change of government.

Susan Guthrie – Economist and co author with Gareth Morgan on the Big Kahuna. Whatever its practical or political acceptability issues, it does interface tax and benefits and is always worth coming back to as a counterfactual.

Anne-Marie Brook – Economist, Policy Fellow at Motu and former senior Treasury Official. Past work on tax and savings now looking at Human Rights and economic success. Macroeconomics background including stints at Reserve Bank and OECD.

In fact I don’t know about a ‘long list’. It all looks pretty good to me – albeit a bit too white. Whether it is enough to make little girls want to grow up to be tax geeks – couldn’t tell you. Need to ask a little girl.

Grant and James – you’re welcome. But how about doing the same for your own parties economic representatives? The Nats have Paula. Do you want them to out progressive you?


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