Views on the bill
This chapter explores the views stakeholders expressed regarding the
proposed personal income tax plan.
General views on the bill
There was a broad level of support for lowering the personal income tax
burden, both through the low and middle income tax offsets and reducing
personal income tax rates generally.
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) urged the Senate to pass the
bill without amendment:
The Business Council supports the three-stage personal income
tax plan, which will reduce the tax burden faced by individuals. It will
deliver a more competitive personal tax system that improves incentives to work
and save. It achieves this while maintaining a highly progressive tax and
Ernst and Young also supported the bill as it provides appropriate
incentives for individuals to participate in the workforce and increases the
relative competitiveness of Australia for individuals with skills that are
PwC concluded from its own modelling that:
...the Government's proposed PITP [Personal Income Tax Plan] provides
much-needed relief from the pressures of bracket creep to Australian taxpayers
and it does so in a way which retains the central character of progressivity in
Australia's income tax system. For these reasons, we support the PITP as an
appropriate response to these issues.
The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) supported
the simplification and flatting of the tax system under the personal income tax
plan, and also noted that tax relief would provide a boost for small business
The other issue for small business people is that we quite
often just pay ourselves a small amount of money until the business gets going.
When we have a good year, we often have a really good year, and we pay an awful
lot of tax in that year. This is something that says to a small business person
there's a bit more certainty about planning as well. When you have a great
year, you can plan on that.
More money means more spending and people in hospitality and
retail, et cetera, will be happier, and hopefully they'll see their share of
it. But the big win for us, when I talk to my members, is that removal of the
complexity and the fear people have of moving into tax brackets...
Other stakeholders were more qualified in their support for the personal
income tax plan.
The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) supported the 'main thrust' of
the personal income tax plan but considered that it could be improved to better
promote economic efficiency. The CIS was also concerned that the introduction
of the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO) would increase the complexity
of the income tax system in the short term and increase effective marginal tax
The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) welcomed the government's
endeavour to reduce the tax burden on Australian workers:
The two major components of the income tax plan put forward
2018–19 Budget¾increasing the top
threshold of the 32.5 per cent bracket from $87,000 to $120,000 from 2022 and
removing the 37 per cent tax bracket from 2024–25¾present
the most substantial changes to the tax system in years and will benefit every
While supporting the proposed changes, the IPA was critical that the
government had not engaged in 'deep, structural reform of the tax and transfer
The Tax Institute also advocated for broad tax reform:
While the measures in the 'Personal Income Tax Plan' (Plan)
are a 'step in the right direction', they fall short of a holistic solution to
the revenue reliance on personal taxes and the issues associated with the
personal tax rate regime.
However, not all stakeholders supported the proposed personal income tax
plan. These concerns mainly centred on not seeing tax relief as a priority when
they believe the revenue is needed for social and community services. For this
reason, the Tax Justice Network-Australia (TJN-Aus) concluded that:
...in Schedule 1 the TJN-Aus opposes the tax offset for those
on incomes above $90,000 per year. Similarly TJN-Aus opposes the reduction in
the rate of personal income tax proposed in the Bill for those with salaries
greater than $90,000 per year. 
The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and the Community and
Public Sector Union (CPSU) went further and submitted that the government
needed to increase revenue, not provide tax cuts as proposed under the personal
income tax plan.
Timing of the plan
A number of stakeholders advocated for the personal income tax plan to
be fully implemented sooner than proposed.
The IPA recommended that the government implement the entire plan from
the start of the 2018–19 financial year:
...the delayed and drawn out implementation time frame for
these major changes is concerning and raises questions about how serious the
government is about implementing them. The implementation date should be
brought forward to the coming financial years, 2018–19, to ensure that
Australian workers are more likely to receive the full benefits of the
government's proposed income tax plan.
Although not as extreme in its position, the CIS advocated for an
earlier introduction on the grounds of greater public credibility:
Credibility would be enhanced by an earlier introduction,
such as full implementation within the life of the next parliament and within
the four-year forward estimates horizon for the 2018–19 Budget. This would
imply full implementation by 1 July 2021 rather than 2024.
Mr John Daley from the Grattan Institute raised concerns about
legislating for tax cuts too far into the future:
... if you legislate for tax cuts that are future dated and
then the world changes, you can be left in a budgetary position that is not
really one that you would choose and politically it tends to be very hard to
unwind the tax cuts that have already been legislated.
Similarly, Mr Matt Grudnoff from The Australia Institute considered
I don't think that we should be legislating out beyond the
forward estimates; but certainly the government could announce that this is where
they intend to go, and, as we get closer to that time, they can then legislate,
having a better idea of what the economy is doing and where the economy is
However, Mr Strong, CEO of COSBOA, considered that it was prudent to
have a long term plan. Mr Strong noted that successful large businesses have
long term plans.
Various stakeholders highlighted that the tax system will continue to be
progressive under the government's personal income tax plan.
For example, analysis undertaken by the Grattan Institute confirmed that
progressivity does not change significantly under the personal income tax plan.
Further, Treasury's analysis also showed effective marginal tax rates do
not materially worsen under the government's personal income tax plan.
Information provided by The Tax Institute highlighted the difference
between marginal tax rates and average tax rates. For example, in 2024–25 under
the personal income tax plan, while a $41,000 income earner would face the same
marginal tax rate as a $200,000 income earner their average tax rates would be
substantially different. An income earner on $200,000 would pay around thirteen
times more tax than the person on $41,000 and their average tax rate would be
around three times higher.
The Grattan Institute also highlighted that high income earners, such as
those on the top marginal tax rate, would continue to pay a similar proportion
of overall personal income tax collections under the government's plan compared
to the current system.
Modelling by PwC showed:
The amount of tax paid by the top 20 per cent of taxpayers
year-on-year during the period of the PITP, as would be expected from a system
that maintains progressive tax rates for taxpayers on high incomes.
...we note that the highest earning taxpayers in Australia will
pay a top marginal rate of tax which is high relative to other comparable
nations (45 per cent for taxable incomes exceeding $200,000). For example,
Australia's rate is equal top in the following list of federal taxes for
Australia 45% (proposed)
United Kingdom 45%
United States 37%
New Zealand 33%
Other stakeholders raised concerns that lower income earners received
less tax relief. For example, Professor Miranda Stewart and Emily Millane
...the removal of the third rate in the progressive rate
structure is unnecessary and a retrograde step. It is a permanent change to the
personal income tax rate structure that will make the income tax less
progressive. It undermines the fundamental principle of our progressive income
tax which aims to tax on the basis of ability to pay...It is appropriate to
maintain progressivity across the middle and upper middle of the wage
The Australia Institute concluded that low income earners (50 per cent
of all taxpayers) would only receive seven per cent of the benefits.
While the ACTU commented that:
This personal income tax plan is targeted at those in the
higher income deciles. A staggering 62% of the income tax plan will go to high
The Grattan Institute highlighted that:
...while the components of the Tax Plan will be introduced in a
staggered way, their impact will be permanent and ongoing. So although the last
tranche comprises only 29 per cent of the cost of the package over eleven
years, it will cost approximately 40 per cent in each year thereafter.
Associate Professor Jinjing Li from the National Centre for Social and
Economic Modelling (NATSEM) outlined the distributional effects between urban
and regional areas:
Geographically, people who live in the central part of the
capital cities are more likely to benefit from the proposed changes when
they're fully implemented due to the distribution of the income spatially.
However, Treasury pointed out that this assessment did not look at the
whole picture. Treasury explained that as low income earners pay less tax, and,
in proportional terms, benefit considerably more from tax relief under the government's
personal income tax plan. Under the personal income tax plan over the period
2018–19 to 2024–25, a person on a taxable income of $50,000 would receive
cumulative tax relief of 6.25 per cent, compared to a person on $90,000
receiving cumulative tax relief of 2.94 per cent and a person on $200,000
receiving cumulative tax relief of 2.51 per cent. Further, a person on $50,000
would pay cumulative tax of $56,089 over this period, a person on $90,000
cumulative tax of $154,439 and a person on $200,000 cumulative tax of $458,809.
The Australia Institute drew attention to the gender distributional split
caused by the proposed personal income tax cuts:
The over representation of men at higher income levels
coupled with the fact that the tax cuts favour high income earners means that
men get a larger proportion of the tax cuts than women. Men get twice the tax
cut compared to women.
Professor Miranda Stewart and Emily Millane discussed alternatives to
the personal income tax plan, such as universal family payments, to improve
incentives for second household income earners. They concluded that:
...the government has alternatives available to it that would
more directly respond to concerns of lower and middle earners while continuing
to deliver equity and efficiency in the personal income tax system.
Treasury noted that the personal income tax system was currently gender
neutral and would continue to be so under the government's personal income tax
One of the main reasons cited by the government for introducing the personal
income tax plan was to address bracket creep.
Bracket creep, often referred to as 'fiscal drag', occurs when an
individual's income increases over time and a higher tax rate starts to apply,
but tax thresholds are held steady. Bracket creep reduces progressivity of the
individual's income tax scales over time. This is because the tax increase for
individuals with lower incomes is greater as a proportion of their income than
for those at higher incomes.
The BCA explained the effects of bracket creep:
Left unchecked, bracket creep will steadily make the personal
tax system less progressive. Bracket creep increases taxes by stealth through
inflation. It disproportionately and unfairly hurts lower-and middle-income
earners. Bracket creep is regressive and hidden.
Ernst and Young suggested that the reforms in the Bill help to address
In our view, the bracket creep and its layering additional
tax burdens onto Australia’s working age population is not good policy. It:
Creates disincentives to work
Creates incentives to tax
structuring rather than to work to grow Australia
And the incentives to tax
structuring are greater, the greater the divergence between personal tax and
corporate tax rates.
The bill addresses all of these challenges.
The ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods considered, after
undertaking its own analysis of the plan, that:
The bracket creep analysis shows that the tax cuts are
significant but they do not entirely remove bracket creep and average tax rates
increase across low, middle and high income households. They return to
taxpayers some, but not all, of the fiscal drag being generated by the
non-indexation of tax thresholds.
The BCA concluded that:
The Bill does not fully eliminate bracket creep, which
requires constant recalibration or indexation of tax thresholds, but the
changes are a positive step and provide the foundation for broader reform. High
personal tax rates that cut in at relatively low income thresholds mean that
people may choose not to work overtime or seek promotion.
Indeed, Mr John Daley from the Grattan Institute concluded that:
So the net impact of the tax is it will give back all of
bracket creep, pretty much, to those in the top 10 percent but nothing like all
of the bracket creep to those who are further down the distribution.
The key facts are that bracket creep will reduce the
progressivity of the system over the next 10 years, and the tax plan doesn't
materially unwind it.
Similarly, Per Capita commented that:
The simplest and most effective way to deal with bracket creep
is to index tax bracket thresholds to inflation (including the tax-free
threshold)... Simple indexation would mean that addressing bracket creep could no
longer be falsely labelled as tax reform or tax cuts and that personal income
tax changes that erode the progressivity of the tax system could not be sold as
if they are simply addressing bracket creep.
It's also worth noting that moving from below the tax-free
threshold into the lowest tax bracket is also bracket creep and no effort has
been made to address this in the Bill.
The CIS advocated for ongoing indexation of income tax thresholds to
address bracket creep:
The CIS believes that the government's current tax proposal
should be enhanced by formally indexing income tax thresholds once the proposed
discretionary increases in thresholds are fully implemented.
The committee acknowledges that decisions to implement significant
changes to the personal tax and transfer system often invoke highly charged
responses to which reasonable minds can differ. In this context, the committee
welcomes the various views put forward by stakeholders throughout this inquiry
in the spirit of a balanced public debate.
That said, the committee considers that measures outlined in the bill
will provide certainty to taxpayers for the next seven years and will help
households manage the budget pressures they face. Permanent tax relief as
proposed in the bill will leave more of Australian's hard earned income in
their pockets and ensure that the personal tax system continues to reward
effort and foster aspiration.
Changes to the tax and transfer system are not mutually exclusive and
the committee acknowledges the work of the government to encourage greater
workforce participation by providing more support to low and middle income
families through the new Child Care Subsidy.
While recognising the different views of stakeholders, the committee is
comforted by Treasury's assurance that there will probably be very little
change to the overall progressivity of the tax system arising from the
implementation of the personal income tax plan.
Accordingly, the committee considers that the personal income tax plan
should be passed so as to deliver a personal income tax system that is simpler
The committee recommends that the Senate should pass the bill.
Senator Jane Hume
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