Changes? Essay, Research Paper
Why do we need taxes?
Taxation makes up majority of our government’s
income. With this income the government can provide us with proper infrastructure
and social services for little, if no cost at all. These include Medicare,
social security and education. (These facilities are known as recurrent
expenditures because it is needed time after time.)
Other expenditures include transportation,
lighting, recreation etc. These services are granted to us at no costs.
In many 3rd world countries where taxation is low or doesn’t exist, all
of these services are to come out of one’s own pocket.
Over the many centuries, in which taxation
was existent, people have cheated and avoided paying these taxes. Nowadays
people with high-income put their money into trusts, superannuation, or
incorporate it into businesses. Businesses would try and receive more cash
transactions. This has led to a decrease in our government’s revenues,
thus leading to a tax reform in hope of a more effective result.
What makes a good tax system?
There are four elements in a successful
tax system. They are effectiveness, efficiency, equitability, and simplicity.
1) Effectiveness: is the performance compared
to the desired effect. E.g. the number of people who pays tax, how much
tax is received.
2) Efficiency: is the cost of running
the system. The system may be very effective with a million tax officers,
but it would cost millions to hire so many people.
3) Equitability: is the fairness of the
system. This is an impossible goal to achieve. From different people’s
point of views, the system will always be unfair to them in some way. Not
to mention the tax cheats. The best solution is to broaden the number of
people who pay the tax, which is only fair.
4) Simplicity: A tax system should never
be too complexed, it is otherwise not efficient neither understandable.
The income tax Act that just started off at just 120 pages in 1936 is now
over 3300 pages and has doubled in size over the last 7 years. A complex
system means that those who can afford expensive tax advice minimize their
tax. But those that can’t, pay the full share. It is impossible to have
a system where all four elements are satisfactory. Where a system may be
effective and efficient it will not be equitable or simple. It is impossible
to fit the whole population all under one roof. Under these circumstances
the government proposed a new way of taxation- GST.
What is GST?
GST is a tax on the goods and services
that each and everyday households consume. Tax is collected at each stage
of production and distribution, but a credit is given for the GST on inputs.
Refunds are given for GST on exports. Therefore, only households bear this
tax. Australia currently has a WST in place of a GST. WST is whole sales
tax this tax is levied on the whole sale price and is collected by wholesalers.
A GST is in fact a VAT-value added tax. Meaning it is levied at each stage
of production and distribution. Over one hundred countries in the world
have a GST/VAT, but only six nations including Australia have a WST.
The advantages and disadvantages of a GST
It is hard to say whether the GST is favorable
or adverse because the government hasn’t yet proposed the whole system,
the exemptions and the exact figures of taxation. The following is only
speculation by the many supporters and those who disapprove.
1) Lower taxes means business can buy
and sell more competitively overseas.
2) The higher cost of prices will slow
3) At each level of production and sale,
except sale to a consumer, a rebate is claimable. The paperwork for these
claims helps to enforce compliance. This would also stop tax evasion.
4) It will hit the black economy because
the money earned will be used for consumption.
5) Replace existing distortional indirect
6) Prices on some good and services will
fall instead of rising. E.g. petrol
7) Less income tax gives people more incentive
8) The reduction in many taxes that were
of a heavy burden to businesses will be abolished thus giving the businesses
more power to employ extra workers. These taxes include the WST and many
other excise duties such as the taxes on many house hold goods.
10) The GST will be able to with stand
tomorrow’s many challenges which the current system will not be able to
handle. E.g. an aging population.
11) Current indirect taxes are levied
on a limited array of goods, which are a declining proportion of household
budgets. This problem can be solved only with a broad-based tax system
such as the GST.
12) GST will be simpler than the existing
13) Last but not least, foolishly yet
truthfully the liberal party claims that the robust system of taxing goods
and services is to provide the government with the capacity to fund-through
increased taxes and revenue.
1) Even with less income tax people will
be declined to spend as much as before, consumption will decrease.
2) If the introduced GST was to be equitable
and effective, it will have many exemptions, thus leading to complication.
3) Many services will lower their prices
in order to receive cash thus avoiding the GST.
4) With the introduction of GST, the government
also has to increase social welfare and many other government services
to keep up living standards.
5) The following years in which a GST
will be introduced, the inflation will stay very low thus many coin/note/bond
holders will transfer their money to the government. And most importantly,
yields the government billions through its impact on collection from the
progressive personal income taxes. With out inflation this taxation by
stealth disappears. This will benefit the community, but the government
will need to raise its tax revenue is it wants to increase expenditure.
6) If assumed without any exemptions,
many luxury goods that were highly tax by WST will now be cheaper, advantaging
the minority rich people of Australia.
7) Higher prices on goods and services
will discourage tourism. Thus unemployment will rise.
8) Higher interests due to GST will mean
that current mortgage owners will have to pay more.
9) Due to the abolishment of WST, families
that current rent and don’t own a property will have to pay more to buy
a house and more to rent. (Real estate commission will rise, building materials
will rise etc.)
10) It could lead to a state where employees
feel they need more money to support their family (especially those with
only one member working) and go on industrial strikes this will trigger
a series of severe fund loss from the government.
11) The reduction to custom duty may advantage
businesses that import from overseas but it has also left many Australian
businesses unprotected from foreign funds. Overseas businesses are already
more competitive than us, with the reduction to the custom duties, they
will be even more dangerous to us.
12) The system will not be fair towards
those with the lowest income bracket, children and those who worked all
their life and have just retired to pay GST for the second half of their
In all, there are hundreds of arguments
for each side, and there is no proof of any of it being true. We can only
comment when it is put into practice, then and only then do we know if
it is as good or is it as bad as they said.
Do we need any tax changes?
As mentioned before, the government has
added bits and patched parts of the Australian tax system over many years.
The liberal party who supports a GST thinks there needs to be changes,
not only minor patches but to change the whole system. They have put up
a list of reasons why our system is working badly. They put their reasons
into three main categories. An unfair system, An out dated system, and
a complex system.
AN UNFAIR SYSTEM
Statistics show average Australian income
earners have had to pay three times more tax now than we had to forty years
ago. People are paying almost half of their income to the government especially
wage and salary earners who are hardest hit by this. Such high taxation
reduces the incentive for people to work, save and learn but encourages
them to avoid being taxed. They join the ‘black economy’ through such practices
Paying employees ‘cash in the hand’
Taking a job, or a second and not declaring
Cheating on social security, by not declaring
Not reporting cash sales.
Let’s face it, with such a ‘wonderful’
social security system, many families could be much better off taking the
dole than working.
AN OUTDATED SYSTEM
The income tax and WST were both introduced
in1930 and up till now both are encountering problems of efficiency. The
WST was introduced as a method of battling the Great Depression. It was
imposed on goods only at a rate of 2.5%. This 2.5% changed when it was
WWII. The government introduced multiple rates as a wartime necessity measure
“This Government has now found it necessary to introduce a different rate
of tax, and also to vary certain principles of the tax, in order to meet
the extraordinary cost of the war in which we are now involved.” (Mr. Fadden,
Treasurer, 10 Dec 1940). This amount never looked back. Now, household
appliances such as radios, watches, tape recorders etc. are taxed at the
Back in 1930, Australia mainly produced
goods unlike now in the 90’s services are a larger part of the economy
than goods. The WST is not only old but also uncommonly used. As mentioned
before, only half a dozen of nations in the world still adapt it, and most
of those countries have already began to introduce VAT. But Australia remains
adamant. And because of this, it was necessary for the government to increase
revenue, which was lost to the lack of taxation from goods. They decided
to increase sales tax. In every day households, we pay hidden sales taxes
on most goods. These include: 22% on detergent/cleaners, 12% on flavored
milk, juice, ice cream, biscuits etc. Milk, bread, fruit, vegetables, eggs,
flour, meat and butter are the only exceptions. In the bathroom, cosmetics,
shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper etc. are all taxed at
22%. The hand basin, bath, toilet and towels are taxed at 12%. Toothbrushes
and medicated mouthwashes are excepted. The list goes! on, from lounge
to the garage. Manufacturers facing a price increase problem tries and
classify their product into the lowest possible rate. This creates a recipe
for aggressive tax practices. This often results in a windfall gain to
retailers. As well, the sales tax applies to exports, thus making us less
competitive leading to less job opportunities. The WST just has too many
mistakes and unfairness in it we need a better, more advanced system.
A COMPLEX SYSTEM
Australia’s current taxes are a mess.
As mentioned before, the income tax ACT have increased twenty seven times
in size from 1936 till now. There are too many tax brackets for different
people and too many exceptions that not even your tax return agent could
remember. The sales tax classifies goods into one of seven hidden rates:
0, 12, 22, 32, 37, 41, or 45%. This is not only unfair and complicated,
it is also absurd, leading to situations such as where toothpaste is taxed
but toothbrushes aren’t. It is also costly because the combination of different
rates requires businesses, the tax office and courts deciding which goods
fit into which categories and which rates. And that is only sales tax!
There are many other indirect taxes looked after by different levels of
government. These include: WST, excise duties, custom duties which are
looked after by the commonwealth government. Payroll tax, stamp duty, financial
transactions taxes, motor vehicle taxes, gambling taxes, land t! axes and
rates which are looked after by the state and territory government. Theses
taxes may prove to be effective in that it raised sixty billion in 1996-7
(one third of total tax revenue) But it definitely isn’t simple and is
very inefficient to run.
Principles of tax reform
On Nov 6th 1997, the federal, state and
territory governments agreed that Australia needed a fundamental change
to its tax system as we enter the twenty-first Century. Before that, the
government has already set up a Taxation Task Force who prepared options
for the changes to our taxation system. The following were their goals.
there should be no increase in the overall
any new taxation system should involve
major reductions in personal income tax with special regard to the taxation
treatment of families
consideration should be given to broad-based
indirect tax to replace some or all of the existing indirect taxes
There should be appropriate compensation
for those deserving of special consideration and
Reform of Commonwealth/State financial
relations must be addressed.
The Prime minister has indicated that before
the next election, the Australian public will have a clear idea of the
government’s plans for modernization and reform of Australia’s taxation
In all, people believe Australia should
have a tax reform. The current system does have too many loopholes for
cheats to fit in. A GST may be an idealistic idea but not realistic for
the time being. Through the 1992 election between Mr. Keating and Dr. Hewson,
it is clear that the public fears the GST. It could be that most are not
sure what it really is. There is need for time and education about GST,
allowing voters to understand it. Until then, it’s going to be a long harsh
process planning and considering all the aspects of a healthy and fair