Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A new tax system

1.1 In August 1998, the Howard Government released its tax reform plan entitled Tax Reform: not a new tax, a new tax system. Subsequently, a package of 16 bills to introduce a new tax system were introduced into the House of Representatives in December 1998 and passed by that chamber on 10 December 1988. The package of Bills was introduced into the Senate on 10 December and currently remains at the second reading stage.

1.2 The remainder of this chapter is a brief summary of the document Tax Reform: not a new tax, a new tax system (ANTS). This summary is compiled directly from the ANTS document.

1.3 The new tax system proposed by the Howard Government encompasses five key principles:

No increase in the overall tax burden

1.4 Proposed reforms within the income tax system provide significant reductions in personal income tax through an increase in the tax free threshold and decreases in all marginal tax rates except the top rate. This measure is estimated to be worth around $13 billion a year and means 80 per cent of taxpayers will have a top marginal tax rate of 30 per cent or less. The current income tax scale, and that to take effect from 1 July 2000, is shown in Table 1 at Appendix VIII.

1.5 In view of reductions in tax rates, together with reductions in marginal tax rates on saving, the Government proposes to terminate the savings rebate from 1999-00.

Major reductions in personal income tax, with special regard to the tax treatment of families

1.6 A fundamental aim of the Government's tax package is to overcome perceived disincentives created by the current interaction of the tax and social security systems. High marginal tax rates are seen as discouraging Australians from undertaking extra work or training, or increasing personal savings, while concurrently encouraging tax minimisation.

1.7 The result of a reduction in the lowest marginal tax rate from 20% to 17% for low income families, in particular, is shown in Table 2 at Appendix VIII.

Broad-based indirect tax to replace some or all of the existing indirect taxes

Reforms to indirect tax and State finances

1.8 A multi stage value added tax on goods and services (GST) will be introduced on 1 July 2000 at the rate of 10%, excluding goods which are exported or services which are consumed outside Australia. GST will not apply to most health, education and childcare services and will replace the wholesale sales tax and a number of State taxes.

1.9 GST will be charged on the supply of land, goods and services for payment. All goods and services imported and entered into Australia for home consumption are to be subject to GST. An illustration of how the GST rate applies is shown as Example 1 at Appendix VIII.

1.10 There will be two types of non-taxable supplies :

1.11 GST paid by business on the purchases of goods and services for use in the business is credited to the business and in some cases can be refunded. The aim is that no part of the GST represents a cost to business. The effect of this crediting system is that GST rolls forward at each transaction to the point of sale to the end consumer.

1.12 Businesses that are registered as taxpayers will be required to charge GST on supplies of goods and services made by them. The GST so charged will be collected by the registered person from the purchaser and remitted to the ATO by means of lodging periodic returns.

1.13 The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will be granted special transitional powers to formally monitor retail prices as part of the Government's proposal to instigate additional consumer protection.

Reform of excise duties

1.14 The Government proposes to reduce excises on petrol and diesel to ensure that pump prices do not rise. In addition, registered businesses will be able to claim an input tax credit for the GST payable on fuel used for business purposes.

1.15 A diesel fuel credit will be available to registered businesses to reduce the effective excise payable on diesel fuel used in heavy transport and rail, from around 43 cents per litre to 18 cents per litre. All other off-road business use of diesel and like fuels (including diesel, bunker fuel and light fuel oil for marine business use) will qualify for a full credit of excise.

1.16 Proposed changes to the taxation of alcoholic beverages to take effect from 1 July 2000 include :

1.17 A per stick tobacco excise based on the number of cigarettes produced is proposed to take effect from 1 July 1999. Cigars and other tobacco products will continue to be subject to excise according to their tobacco weight. A summary of these changes is shown on Table 3 at Appendix VIII.

1.18 The Government proposes to introduce a retail tax on luxury cars, at a rate of 25 per cent of the value above a luxury threshold (a GST-inclusive value of $60,000). The effect of a luxury car tax is shown on Table 4 at Appendix VIII. This tax will ensure that luxury cars only fall in price by about the same amount as a car just below the luxury threshold.

Reforms to business taxes

1.19 Trusts will be taxed as companies to ensure that all distributions of profits by companies and trusts bear tax at the entity level, which is currently 36%.

Reforming the taxation of business entities

1.20 The current dividend streaming rules will be repealed.

1.21 The general anti-avoidance rules contained in Part IVA of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 will be reviewed so as to apply to existing and emerging tax avoidance activities utilising rebates, credits and losses.

1.22 The Government has announced a consultative process to allow groups of companies, trusts or co-operatives to prepare one tax return and have a single franking account, one capital loss account and one revenue loss account. The current treatment of dividends will be used as the benchmark for consistent treatment across dividends, share buy-backs and liquidations.

Reforming the taxation of business investments

1.23 Consultations on possible reform of the investment base will focus on the perceived poor treatment of changing asset and liability values. The three areas to be considered are physical assets; financial assets and liabilities; and the potential use of accounting principles.

1.24 CGT rollover relief and retirement exemption for small business will also be reviewed. These will be extended to include land and buildings integral to a business when these assets are owned separately.

Introduction of one tax instalment system for all taxpayers

1.25 The five existing payment and reporting systems (PAYE, PPS, RPS, provisional tax and company instalments) will be replaced with a comprehensive pay-as-you-go (PAYG) system. This system will feature business taxpayers paying their income tax at the same time, replacing the provisional tax and company instalments systems with PAYG, and business certainty regarding which payments are subject to withholding.

Tax simplification proposals

1.26 Measures designed to simplify the existing tax regime include a 2-year amendment period to adjust a taxpayer's tax position, oral advice which is binding on the ATO, a charging system for private binding rulings, use of electronic commerce in answering taxpayer queries, and simplifying or removing tax return lodgments.

Reforming customs administration

1.27 Existing Customs concessions, rebates, remissions and regulations will be rationalised as a result of replacing the Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme with a diesel fuel credit delivered through the GST.

Reform of the Fringe Benefits Tax provisions

1.28 The fringe benefits tax (“FBT”) provisions amendments are in the main:

FBT will be imposed on benefits in excess of $1,000 per annum provided by companies to their shareholders or by trustees to trust beneficiaries, where the benefits are not taxed currently.

FBT exemption for remote area housing provided by mining industry employers will be extended to equate to those provided by primary producers.

Compensation for those deserving of special consideration

1.29 The Family Tax Initiative (FTI) introduced in January 1997 will be extended, doubling tax-free thresholds from 1 July 2000. Table 5 at Appendix VIII shows the increases in assistance for different family types, including the total increase in assistance provided since introduction of the FTI.

1.30 The various benefits and how they will be re-structured into three key assistance packages: family tax benefit Part A; Family Tax Part B; Child Care Benefit are illustrated in Figure 1 on Appendix VIII and on Table 6 at Appendix VIII.

1.31 The proposed ChildCare Benefit provides an increase in the maximum level of assistance of $7.50 per week. Higher income families with incomes above $78,000 will be entitled to assistance equivalent to that available under the Childcare Cash Rebate at the 20 per cent rate.

1.32 From July 2000, social security, veteran' pensions and other income support payments will be increased as follows :

The pension income test will be eased to reduce the taper rate from 50 per cent to 40 per cent as of July 2000. In addition, an Aged Persons Savings Bonus of up to $1,000 per person, and a Self-Funded Retirees Supplementary Bonus of up to an additional $2,000 per person will be available to age pensioners and self-funded retirees.

1.33 An increase in the maximum Pensioner Tax Rebate and the Tax Rebate for low income aged persons is proposed to take effect from 1 July 2000.

1.34 A new 30 per cent tax rebate/benefit for private health insurance was introduced on 1 January 1999. The rebate is not means tested and applies to expenditure on private health insurance, including ancillary cover. It is available in addition to the existing medical expenses rebate and can be received as a tax rebate, lower premium rate, or as a direct payment from the Government.

Reform of Commonwealth-State financial relations

1.35 From 1 July 2000 all GST revenue and revenue generated from the luxury car tax and wine equalisation tax, will be provided to the States. Financial Assistance Grants and temporary arrangements for fees on petrol, liquor and tobacco will cease. The States will continue to have the capacity to meet rebate arrangements introduced following the 1997 High Court decision on business franchise fees.

1.36 The States will be required to compensate the Commonwealth for the cost of administering the GST. In return, the Commonwealth will ensure that in each of the three years following introduction of the GST, the States are no worse of financially than they would be under current arrangements. The proposed Reform program of the current indirect tax system is summarised in Table 3 at Appendix VIII.

1.37 Transfer of GST revenue to the States is also intended to equip States with sufficient funds to assume responsibility for general-purpose assistance to local governments. Payment of GST revenue to the States would be conditional on the States maintaining the growth in general purpose assistance to local government on a real per capita basis.

Modelling and cameo approach underpinning ANTS

1.38 Various cameos of different household types have been developed to depict the effect of the various measures in the reform package on households. These cameos will be discussed at length in the following chapter of this report.