How the talk of tax reform will pan out

TAX reform is back on the agenda, with the usual suspects establishing their positions. 

Unions have suggested a higher Medicare levy, a review of negative gearing, and increased taxes on superannuation. 

The employer groups responded with a call for a cut in company tax and the abolition of payroll tax.

Any changes in GST will be attacked as regressive, which means they hit the poorest the hardest, but that criticism can be applied to any built-in tax. 

The classic examples now are petrol tax and excise on liquor and cigarettes, which are all regressive. 

A major benefit of GST is that it's almost impossible to avoid, and is a great way of getting a chunk of the money that is currently circulating in the cash economy. 

While it may hurt low-income earners most, it actually hits high spenders the hardest, as they are the ones with the largest disposable income.

A call for a rise in the Medicare levy from 2% to 4% is just another way of asking for an increase in marginal tax rates- in the interests of transparency the term 'Medicare levy' should be abolished and incorporated in the current tax rates.

The Henry Review called on states to replace stamp duty with a land tax on every property. 

The reasoning was that stamp duty is an unreliable source of revenue, as it is dependent on booms and busts, and is also an impediment to moving.  The ACT liked the concept so much that they've already implemented it - well, at least partly. 

They've introduced land tax on the family home, but you guessed it, have retained stamp duty.  There have been numerous reports in the press about protests by Canberra home owners who've seen their cost of home ownership rise by more than 40%.

Expect to see death duties back on the agenda, but there is little likelihood that they will be implemented. 

You can't have death duties without gift duties, as older people could simply give their assets away to avoid death duties, and in any event we have de facto death duties now.

Although death does not trigger capital gains tax, the beneficiaries are liable for capital gains tax on bequeathed assets as soon as they sell them.  Also, there is a tax of 17% now on the taxable proportion of your superannuation that is left to a non-dependent.



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Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions. Email: noelwhit@gmail.com.


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