WOULD you work long hours in a hard labour job for minimum wage if you lost nearly a third of your wage to tax?
From July next year that's exactly what tens of thousands of foreign workers and backpackers will face if the Federal Government passes legislation on the budgeted move to scrap the tax-free threshold.
Taxed 32.5c in the dollar, from the very first dollar they earn, tourism operator and owner of 1770 Castaway and Survivor Island Adventures Bruce Rhoades urged the government to reconsider, labelling the move "highway robbery".
However Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers executive officer Peter Hockings said while the tax change was not the best solution, it would go some way towards addressing a bigger picture.
"This is in regard to a lot of the itinerant workforce not being paid appropriately. This actually closes a bit of a loophole that some firms are actually using to not pay the full award rates or pay supersaturation," he said.
"So yes it is an extra tax that backpackers will have, but it actually closes a few loopholes and means they will gain further entitlements that they are entitled to.
Should the tax-free threshold be scrapped?
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"It's one of the factors that may alleviate some of the other factors that are going on out there.
"So whilst it's not the best solution, it is part of the solution."
But Mr Rhoades believed the tax hike would be unfair.
"Why can they get away with taxing people who one - don't have a right to vote - and two - don't get any benefits out of the tax they pay?" he said.
"On a tax scale it's highway robbery. If they were taxing them as the same scale as we Australian's pay, that would be fair.
"But they've suddenly decided they've found a group of the visiting community they can rip off and who have no right and no way to protest except to not come to Australia - and that's what will happen."
Mr Rhoades said backpackers were vital to the horticultural industry and the money they earned was injected back into the tourism industry.
"There are two areas of the working community that rely on backpackers," he said.
"It's very poorly thought out this idea; I think they (the Federal Government) think they've hit a gold mine."
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said at any one time there were 230,000 people in Australia on working holiday visas or 416 Pacific Island visas and he was waiting to discuss the reasons behind the proposed changes with the Treasurer before it went before the House.
"Certainly being on the books, being a registered taxpayer, helps ensure that you're not exploited," he said.
"I think it's important they don't see Australia as a venue which is difficult for them to earn money.
"But I don't think it unreasonable that they have to contribute to taxation in some way, like everybody else."
What do you think about this? Should foreign workers and backpackers be taxed from the very first dollar they earn? Is this tax hike "highway robbery"?
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Laura Collins: "Currently, foreign backpackers on working holidays in Australia share the same personal tax-free allowance given to Australian citizens, meaning they pay no tax on earnings up to AU$18,200 (£9,161), and pay 19pc tax on income above that up to AU$37,000 (£18,623). On income between AU$37,001 and AU$80,000 (£40,252), they incur a 32.5pc tax charge.This new law isn't just about removing the 18k threshold, they will also be taxed the highest tax rate which is currently only imposed on every dollar over 37k to every single dollar they earn. It's a crazy amount of tax to expect anyone to pay. Its the highest tax rate on the people who the majority of work for a couple of months earn a few grand at best and then spend that money traveling in Australia. People will stop coming here, Think of all the backpacker tourist spots all over the country that will be affected. Greyhound buses full of backpackers spending money here will be empty."
Carole BringansL "Every dollar they earn they spend here...they are not entitled to Medicare or any other benefits but if they are taxed would they be?......I would be more interested in seeing the middle man for these workers cut out and the employers paying the going rate....it hard back breaking work...those on the unemployment benefits who are able to do this work should be encouraged to do so. But they must be paid a fair...liveable wage. And at the end of be prepared to pay more in the supermarkets for your fruit and vegetables."
Sam Evans: "Makes sense to me. If you're going to live in Australia and use highways, national parks, etc you should pay the taxes like everybody else!"
Mick James: "Lol about time the government whinges about youth unemployment but the farms around here only hire backpackers n foreigners giv the youth a chance tax them in fact giv a youth a chance."
Chris Greenfield: "It's crazy, agriculture and manufacturing businesses rely on backpackers to do the jobs aussies won't do. Why not get rid of a third of the bureaucracy in Government and save that way. We should promote Australia to foreign workers on a visa holiday basis."
Lyn Turpin: "I have worked with a lot of backpackers, they love Australia as they can earn high wages by working long hours, save a heap of money and take it all home with them without contributing to Australia. I think they should be taxed the same as us."
Sarah Wilkinson: "This will affect the average Australian more than backpackers. The tax-free threshold was a great initiate and very welcome for low wage and casual workers. Sure, go ahead and tax average Australians and poor people more.....meanwhile.....no word on changing the laws and making large, rich corporations pay their fair share of tax (or ANY tax for that matter) or closing the loopholes for rich people to tax dodge and negatively gear everything..."
Meggy Anderson: "Um.... if they abolish the tax free threshold.... wont it affect all of us?????"
Jenni Miners: "I've spoken to a few back packers that come through bundy and they don't earn very much picking etc if they get taxed on their already poor wages won't that make them think twice about coming to aus, earning and spending? especially considering they only work to pay their way around aus..."
Adrienne Symons: "I pay tax on my first dollar ? why not everyone. When they leave the country they get their GST and super back in a lump sum."
Monica Jean: "So a majority of backpackers will only be taking home about 67.5c an hour as most farmers rip them off anyway."
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