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STAMP duty on housing loans could be abolished after the Henry tax review, which is likely to recommend states be given a share of income tax to make up the difference.

The most likely path to do this would be for the Commonwealth to give the states the ability to impose their own surcharge on income tax, which would be collected for them by the Australian Tax Office.

 The Henry review has been inundated with submissions calling for the end of stamp duty.

Tax economists argue that the tax on moving house, although easy to collect, leads to poor use of the housing stock and poor labour mobility, The Australian reports.Having to pay stamp duty not only discourages elderly people from moving to more appropriate accommodation, it also deters people from moving house to a better jobs market. 

At a conference conducted by the Henry tax review at the Melbourne Institute last week, both international and Australian tax economists said stamp duty should go, with Melbourne University professor John Freebairn describing the tax as “a piece of garbage”.

The review panel is being influenced by state submissions arguing that replacing stamp duty by extending other state taxes, such as payroll tax or land tax, would be too difficult to implement nationally.

Tasmanian Treasury secretary Don Challen, who is close to the inquiry’s head, federal Treasury secretary Ken Henry, told last week’s conference that reform of state taxes would succeed only with leadership from the national government.                                                                                                                                                      stamp duty

“If you want to achieve a difficult reform, you’ve got to make it a national one,” Mr Challen said.

He said it would be too hard to win political consensus to extend land or payroll taxes.

“It requires eight lots of political commitment and eight lots of legislation and that path is doomed to failure,” he said.

However, he said he believed states would be willing to act on stamp duty if the commonwealth provided an avenue for alternative revenue.

The idea of giving states a cut of income tax was pressed two years ago by the OECD, which suggested the states “piggy-back” on income tax. The OECD also urged states to drop stamp duty.

One of the world’s leading experts on federal taxes, Canada’s Richard Bird, said the states were heading for a financial crisis because they did not have a sufficient tax base to support their burgeoning health and education costs, which were all rising much faster than the consumer price index.

One of the problems with stamp duty for the states is that it is vulnerable to the state of property markets.

Stamp duty usually raises about $14 billion a year for the states, but the recent state budgets showed big falls of more than $1bn each in NSW and Queensland, in 2008-09, for example.

“In Australia, it should certainly be feasible to permit states to impose a surcharge on the federal personal income tax base,” Professor Bird said.

He said that, ideally, Australia would follow the Scandinavian practice of allowing states to have a flat tax surcharge on income, rather than mirroring the commonwealth’s progressive taxation.

The states would be allowed to set their own level, making states more responsible for their own finances.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Job creation and capital works projects will form the cornerstone of this year’s state budget, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says. 

The WA government on Thursday will deliver its first budget since elected last year.

“It will be responsible and I think you will see it supports maintaining  jobs and supports the future development of this state,” Mr Barnett said on Wednesday.

“And you will see not only that, but a number of measures designed to maintain jobs, particularly in the small- to medium-size business sector.”

The government is under pressure to maintain a surplus after Mr Barnett’s commitment to deliver surpluses in the next two budgets.

While seeking to maintain the state’s AAA credit rating, the government is also facing demands from WA’s peak business lobby to deliver on an election promise to cut taxes by $250 million.

Mr Barnett said the state’s budget and finances would need some “rejigging” to match a $263 million federal government commitment in Wednesday’s federal budget to put the Perth rail line and bus station underground.

“Yes, we will have to have some rejigging of the state budget and finances because we originally sought 50/50 funding just to sink the rail line,” Mr Barnett said.

“The commonwealth’s taken up the point. It was an issue I discussed with the prime minister in Perth about three weeks ago and I just made the point to him quite informally that if we’re going to sink the rail line it would actually be commonsense to sink the bus station too …

“He’s obviously taken it on board so we’re going to make sure that happens.”

The federal government also pledged $339 million for a deepwater port at Oakajee, in the state’s midwest, which will boost iron ore exports in the region.

The WA government had already spent about $20 million on Oakajee and private proponents were now spending $100 million on the design of the deepwater port and rail line, he said. Continued…

www.watoday.com.au

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