Where to with tax?

Since John Davidson posted the Greens’ ideas on tax there has been a lively debate. Here I give some links to views I have found interesting.

John Quiggin has started his own tax policy review Rethinking tax policy for Australia, a work in progress with a proposal so far to tax the “immensely profitable” banks to the tune of $5 to 10 billion.

Quiggin’s Guardian article is essential reading. Amongst the points he makes:

  • The review itself is poor quality, adding little to the thinking of the Asprey Review of 1975. There are major omissions.
  • The government is hoping for an increase in the GST, achieved through some combination of higher rates and the elimination of exemptions. This isn’t going to happen.
  • “The fallback position, on which bipartisan agreement looks feasible, is a scaling back of the massive tax expenditures on superannuation. If that is the only outcome of Re:think, the exercise will have been a worthwhile one.”

Ben Eltham at New Matilda points out “reform” has become a dirty word. With this government it has come to mean mostly policies that are deeply regressive and unpopular. The government discussion paper on tax:

is the latest front in the Coalition’s neoliberal war on working Australians. It will fail for the same reasons the “reforms” to health and education failed: voters don’t want reform. They want high-quality public services, affordable housing, and a good job. They know companies aren’t paying their fair share, and they want them to pay more.

When will the government and business spinmeisters learn that “reform” is a massive turnoff for voters?

Clearly we need to pay more tax. The government’s way around this problem is to increase the GST. Peter Martin says that we should concentrate on captive sources of revenue:

The trick is to grab more of the money that’s bolted down and unable to leave the country, and less of the money that’s footloose. It’s anything but fair, but tax is about raising revenue more than it is about fairness, and we can’t raise revenue we frighten away.

So that means eliminating dividend imputation for shareholders, taxing superannuation and taxing people for owning property rather than buying it.

Don’t worry about the Googles, Microsofts and Apples. They’ll gravitate to the cheapest tax haven they can find.

Martin reckons that is we knock off dividend imputation the company tax could be reduced to 19 or even 15%. In any case it’s trending to zero.

Ian McAuley at New Matilda has a perceptive piece. He says:

Australia does need tax reform. There is even a case for increasing the rate and extent of the GST, but only if it is part of a comprehensive package aimed at collecting more revenue and making the whole system fairer.

But when tax reform is in the context of revenue neutrality, or even a reduction in overall taxes, and the message is that corporations should pay less tax while consumers pay more, the proposals are politically dead in the water.

McAuley is also not impressed with the notion that companies should pay less.

The regular World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Reports tend to show that business tax concessions are the inducement of last resort, offered by countries with low education standards, poor infrastructure and unstable government.

Perhaps Hockey’s push for lower corporate taxes is in realisation that Australia is becoming that type of economy.

So to sum up, the Government’s main strategy seems to be to hold Commonwealth taxes to current levels, or less, but to shove off responsibility to the states for hospitals and schools necessitating an increase in the GST

However, they say that a change to the GST needs to be bipartisan. Labor sees it as highly regressive and won’t have a bar of it. Similarly the LNP won’t go near a price on carbon or a mining tax. There does seem to be some consensus now that super has to be part of the equation. In itself it’s unlikely to be sufficient.

What the exercise does do is to put the wood on both major parties to come up with proposals to take to the next election that are coherent, understandable and make a difference.

11 thoughts on “Where to with tax?”

  1. I wonder the net tax payed by the employers of the ” opinionistas ” above.

    We know of Peter Martin; (and Quiggin in the AFR )

    Fairfax Media has an effective tax rate of 15.78% – well below the 30% statutory rate. In addition that is well below the average effective tax rate that the TAX JUSTICE Network Australia calculates for the ASX 200

    New Matilda is owned by the Scott Trust ( British ) and pays no corporate tax.

    ABC, when chiming in pays zero.

    Stone throwing glass house dweller !

  2. Zoot @2

    Sssh. Nobody mention Rupert. (tiptoes away)

    What ? Someone at News LTD is being a hypocrite by bagging tax minimisation when their own employer does it !
    That’s deplorable !
    Can you please show us ?

  3. Jumpy, what can I say? I was wrong.
    I was under the impression that you were peeved because the bodies you mentioned weren’t paying the same usurious rate of tax that is driving you into penury.
    Instead, you had your knickers in a twist because these organisations don’t enforce the promulgation of their management’s views.
    They publish opinions that don’t toe the company line, and may even be contrary to those of management (what we used to think of as an independent media).
    Please accept my most grovelling, abject, heartfelt apologies.

  4. The interesting thing Val is that the mood seems to swinging towards the Greens view on taxes and the rich.
    Hockey seems to have finally realized that, if he doesn’t want to be known as one of Australias worst treasurers ever, he is going to have to do many of the sort of things that Christine Milne has been talking about.

  5. John D @6:
    No matter what he does now, he’ll still be remembered as one of the worst treasurers ever. Certainly the worst in my lifetime (so far – perhaps the ALP can sink even lower, but I doubt it).

  6. Thanks Val, I wasn’t following that part of the thread too closely. Hope your PhD-ing has been going well.

    zoot, that implies Labor will regain the Treasury benches in your lifetime!

  7. True Brian, true.
    But with Mr Abbott’s sterling efforts on behalf of the ALP (much like Mr Rudd’s previous efforts on behalf of the LNP) there is still a chance.

  8. Miranda Divine has written a good article about why New Zealands economy is going way better than ours.

    Some of her Key points -(hehe)

    For instance, Key increased the GST in NZ to 15 per cent without a blip to his popularity. He did it by reducing the top marginal rate of tax to 33 per cent — compared with Australia’s uncompetitive 49 per cent — and he and English discussed their “tax switch” for 18 months beforehand.

    He’s privatised just about everything, and has cut billions out of the welfare system, not by being punitive but by ­encouraging people on welfare back into the workforce.

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