I note, with appreciation, the Opposition’s announcement of a white paper on tax reform, from which any government proposals for change will be put to the Australian people for their approval at the 2016 election. The fact that someone is prepared to put tax reform on the table (including the GST) for an open and frank debate is to be applauded — we welcomed the Henry Review, and the promise of a white paper to build on this is encouraging.
With regard to the GST, our political leaders, both federal and state, have pussy-footed around this issue for too long. Recent history includes: let’s review the tax system but the GST cannot be part of this discussion; and let’s look at GST distributions but not the rate or base of the tax itself.
Goods and services tax revenue is estimated to provide $51b for our state and territory governments in 2013-14. It is our third largest tax revenue stream. We currently collect 90% of our tax revenue from only 10 taxes, with an additional 115 taxes generating the remaining 10%.
Tax professionals and business have been making the case for tax reform for too long. Our world is advancing at a rate of knots and, in some cases, faster than we can adapt. Having a 21st century tax system will underpin a modern economy that will allow us to better address the global challenges of the decades ahead. Reforming our tax system will necessarily lead to productivity gains.
Tax reform is not just a discussion about increasing the GST rate. It is about reviewing our tax system, including the multitude of state and federal taxes and their efficiency, taking stock of what was promised with the introduction of GST, what our economy can afford, how our tax system can work more efficiently, what changes are necessary in our tax system to recognise the rate of change in global trade and the mechanics of those transactions, and then setting a course in which individual and business can operate with certainty. Ken Henry started this journey; now, more than ever, it needs to continue.
Having hopped off my hobby horse, please join me in your continued support for The Tax Institute. Our team, both in our state and national offices, are working hard to provide and improve our services to you. I know each of them is working on improving your experience as a member. The external surveys we participate in continue to rank us very highly and again we welcome your feedback.
Stephen Westaway is President of the National Council at The Tax Institute.
The Tax Institute is Australia's leading professional association in tax. Its 13,000 members include tax agents, accountants and lawyers as well as tax practitioners in corporations, government and academia.