Tax revenue still a barrier

The Government's accounts continue to edge closer to the forecast wafer-thin surplus but tax revenue still remains a barrier to realising Finance Minister Bill English's long-awaited goal of a black line on the accounts.

Timing issues continue to be blamed for the lower-than-forecast tax take. This time, timing issues around GST payments were to blame.

The Treasury yesterday released the financial statements of the Government for the 10 months ended April which showed the operating balance before gains and losses (obegal) was a deficit of $1.4 billon, $148 million less than expected.

Core Crown revenue of $55.5 billion was fractionally lower than what was forecast in Budget 2014. Core crown expenses of $57.9 billion were 0.2% less than expected.

At the same time last year, the obegal was a deficit of just below $4 billion, core Crown revenue was $52.6 billion and core Crown expenses were $57.8 billion.

The operating balance, including gains and losses from investments held mainly through the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and ACC, was a surplus of $3.8 billion, $252 million ahead of forecast. Continued strength in equity markets saw gains recorded on financial investments of $3.9 billion, which was $709 million ahead of forecast. The gains were offset mainly by an increase in ACC's insurance liability due to recent decreases in short-term discount rates.

A year ago, the balance was a surplus of $2.8 billion.

Mr English said the finances were largely in line with Budget forecasts. And he seemed confident National would lead the next Government following the September 20 election.

''In the next four years, the Government will continue to focus on achieving better results as the main way of restraining future government spending and increasing the surplus. We're already making good progress.''

The accounts showed spending on social security and welfare, health and education all increased from April last year but spending on core government services fell 21.5% to $3.36 billion from $4.27 billion.

Finance costs were down slightly to $7.9 billion.

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