Numbers, words and sport all add up for tax-expert Terry

16 June 2017
Terry Baucher The Devonport Flagstaff

Terry Baucher became hooked on New Zealand after arriving here as a Lions supporter 24 years ago. Since then, he has combined his career in the financial world with his sporting passions – and has also just co-authored his first book. He talks to Maire Vieth.

It’s been a frantic three months for Terry Baucher. The end-of-tax-year workload at his consultancy firm in March was followed by six World Masters Games cycle races in April, and then the launch of Tax and Fairness, a book he authored with Deborah Russell, in May – timed to be in book stores before the budget was presented on 25 May.

They wrote the short book as a “debate piece” for the general reader, arguing that the nation’s archaic tax system is failing to keep up with economic and social changes, and becoming increasingly unfair in the process.

Baucher says the tax regime is particularly unfair on those who save. “Most people didn’t know that their KiwiSaver savings are taxed much more harshly than a house or an investment property.”

With 2.7 million New Zealanders contributing billions of dollars each year, the tax system makes KiwiSaver one of the country’s top tax generators, he says.

A much smaller number of landlords own nearly double the assets in property but pay considerably less tax, he says.

Unless the tax system is changed, this imbalance will increase for future generations. “Many young New Zealanders are unlikely to afford houses but are expected to pay into their KiwiSavers. It’s a real distortion in the system.”

What would Baucher propose were he Finance Minister? “A capital gains tax is one answer but you would also have to look at a more comprehensive taxation of land, carbon taxing, changes in GST and multinationals’ taxation,” he says. “You may even reshape the policy to have a system where people on earnings pay less tax and those with capital pay more.”

Taxation is a moral issue for Baucher. “It’s the price we pay for civilisation,” he says, adapting a quote chiselled into the façade of the US Internal Revenue Service building in Washington.
Baucher appreciates a meaningful turn of phrase and enjoys writing. For the past five years, he has been a regular contributor to the financial online journal interest.co.nz.

He first got into writing while working at accountancy multinational Ernst & Young during the 1990s, when he reviewed films for the monthly in-house magazine. “I think my first review was of Desperado,” he says.

Baucher met his future wife, Devonport painter Tina Frantzen, through writing. Both had signed up for a University of Auckland weekend creative-writing course. “It was the 19th of September 1998. I am very good at remembering dates,” he says.

“We struck up a conversation and that was it.” It was his second marriage. Baucher moved to Devonport that year and the couple married five years later.

Baucher, originally from Northern Ireland, arrived in New Zealand to watch the 1993 British Lions Tour.

As a rugby coach for the University of Manchester, he was on a mission to work out why New Zealand rugby was so good, and to return home with some new coaching ideas for his team. “I saw more training sessions than matches. I spoke to coaching directors and filled up notebooks,” he says.

Baucher learned his first lesson about New Zealand’s skill level watching a bunch of kids. “At the first training session at Eden Park they ran a session for boys and girls aged 12 and 13. I thought, I couldn’t get my 20-year-old players to do what they did. The average level of skills of my players was nowhere near theirs.”

The weight restrictions impressed him as well. “They make skill more important than size.”
By the time his trip came to an end, Baucher was hooked. “I thought, I like it here, didn’t feel a compelling need to go back to Manchester and decided to stay. I went back to get my things and a work permit and that was it.”

Baucher was a senior tax manager for Ernst & Young from 1995 until 2001. After three years as an associate for Pieter Holl & Associates, he opened his own consulting firm in Takapuna.

He kept up his rugby coaching at Te Papapa Onehunga rugby club, taking an under-21 team, then the senior reserves, and in his final season co-coaching the senior team. “It was pretty intense,” he admits.

Baucher got into rugby as a kid, growing up in Tandragee, 50km southwest of Belfast. “I was terrible at football and didn’t have great hand-eye coordination, but I could stay involved in a rugby game and enjoyed running into and over people,” he says.

Because of his Northern Irish background, Baucher prefers not to say whether he is Catholic or Protestant. “It ends up defining you and at home it could be a lethal question. Once I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got beaten up because I answered it wrong.”

He left Northern Ireland to study at the University of Manchester. He continued to play rugby in England, first for the university, then Manchester Rugby Club, before he suffered a career-ending shoulder injury at the age of 27.

He learned to referee, then started to coach. Not having been a natural player helped with coaching, he says. “From when I was 18, I would sit down after every game and write down notes about what I had done right and what I had done wrong. I became quite serious and analytical about it. Deconstructing games like that taught me a lot.”

While studying law at university, he enjoyed the tax course much more than his other papers. After graduating, he stumbled into a job with the British tax department, soon switching to an accounting firm. He became a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation and qualified as a chartered tax advisor in 1989.

Baucher got into cycling as a student – at first as a means of transport. He didn’t get a driver’s licence until he was 26. After his rugby injury, road cycling became his way to stay fit. His first road race was from London to Cambridge in 1988.

On his New Zealand trip, he bought a touring bike and cycled around the country, including from Paihia to Whangarei, where he watched the Lions’ first game. From there he cycled to Auckland for the second game against North Harbour.

He also rode from Picton to Westport, via the Heaphy Track. “It was when I realised how big New Zealand is and how big its hills are,” he says.

Living in Auckland, Baucher resumed road cycling and before long raced around Lake Taupo – first in 1998, and again in 2000 – and competed twice in the K2 around the Coromandel. “And I’m pretty sure I was the first Devonport rider to do the Enduro, which is going around [Lake Taupo] twice, in 2004.

I tried to repeat it in 2006 and failed but then succeeded in 2007,” he says.

In 2011, Baucher had a serious cycling accident. He was time-trialling on Tamaki Drive when a driver made an unexpected U-turn. Baucher broke his collarbone, shoulder blade and several ribs, and punctured his lung. “Fortunately I had no head injury but it still took me a long time to come back from it,” he says.

He says he got back into cycling properly only two years ago, switching from the road to the track last September.

In the lead-up to the World Masters Games in Auckland this year, he trained on the Manukau Velodrome with New Zealand track cyclist Myron Simpson.

At the games in April, he was back time trialling on Tamaki Drive. On the track, he competed in the 2km individual pursuit, the 500m individual time trial, the points race, scratch race and sprints, achieving personal bests in all timed races.

An avid reader, Baucher admits to recently being distracted by quality TV. “So much so I have set myself a goal to read 18 books this year.” On his list are Robert Harris, Hillary Mantel, Vincent O’Malley and, currently under way, Matt Taibbi’s Insane Clown President.

His only ticket for this year’s Lions Tour was for last week’s Blues match. He hasn’t been to a test match since the 2011 Rugby World Cup final. “That game was so intense and such a draining experience, I still have burnout,” he says.

This article was originally published in The Devonport Flagstaff (16th June 2017, page 22).

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