@kerensa: I’m not European (Kiwi with an American FI), but I figured I’d respond, as our system is more similar to Europe than the US, although there are definately areas in which ,we are closer to the US and, like any country, areas that can be improved on. Disclaimer: I haven’t actually lived in NZ for 2 1/2 years, and won’t be living there in the forseeable future, so things may be out of date. Here in Japan my situation is odd, so not worth commenting on.
A quick google search states that in NZ the top tax bracket is 33%, for any money earned over $70K New Zealand (about 55K US). The brackets below that are 30% (over 48K NZ), 17.5% (over 14K) and 10.5% (under 14K). GST (sales tax) is 15%. We don’t have a federal/ state system, because the whole country is smaller than a number of your states. Compared with the US, the minimum wage is higher, but the average wage is lower.
For this there is universal healthcare (we have to pay a small amount for a GP visit, and have an optional private system. All prescriptions are $5NZ ($4US approx) and all in hospital care is free), 20 hours per week free childcare for over 3s, in centres with mostly bachelor degree qualified teachers, 14 weeks paid maternity (fairly low amount though, around minimum wage if I remember), subsidised univerisity education, interest free student loans (so long as you are in NZ) and a student living allowance if you meet specific criteria that I never met. The pension is also paid out of taxes, but there is a new savings scheme in place, so it may be different in the future.
As a law there must be 4 weeks paid holidays, 11? public holidays if they fall on a work day (if you work on one you get paid time and a half, and get to take a different, paid day off), and the option of having one year off for maternity leave.
There are some things NZ doesn’t pay for with taxes that the US does. NZ doesn’t have the food or oil subsidies the US has, and as a result these are VERY expensive. There are no mortgage interest tax credits in NZ, to my knowledge. The armed forces are also much, much smaller.
Neither country is perfect, but it is interesting to see what your tax “buys” in different countries!