Tax cuts to help women on lower incomes but 'taper effect' will trim gains | Australia news
The Turnbull government’s tax cuts for low and middle income earners will benefit women, who on average earn less than men, but the proposed tax offset increases the effective marginal tax rate, which is a disincentive for people to find work, according to a new analysis.
A study of the major budget initiatives by the National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW), to be released on Sunday before the resumption of parliament, says the tax offsets proposed for 2018 would help a large number of low to middle income Australians. However, “the tax offset increases the effective marginal tax rate by 1.5% for taxpayers within the taper zone, which increases work disincentives for women and other low income taxpayers”.
The median taxable income in 2015-16 for women was $48,690 compared with $63,430 for men.
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“The potential to increase workforce participation by part-time workers through a lower tax rate is therefore moderated by the effect of the taper rate,” the analysis, which examines the impact of the budget on women, says.
It concludes that the system the Turnbull government proposes “introduces increased complexity to the system, particularly in the way in which the two tax offsets are layered and stepped with different withdrawal thresholds”.
The NFAW also says the government should not pursue stages two and three of its income tax cut plan because the proposed flattening of the tax rates “reduces the progressivity of the tax system and represents a major and inequitable turning point”.
A separate analysis of the Turnbull government’s seven-year income tax cut plan by the Grattan Institute says 60% of the annual reduction will be retained by the top 20% of income earners. That analysis suggests that once the tax plan is fully implemented in 2024-25, $15bn of the annual $25bn cost will result from collecting less tax from the top 20% of income earners.
The final stage of the tax cut plan – the one currently meeting most political resistance – would reduce the number of income tax brackets from five to four, and require the majority of taxpayers – everyone who earns between $41,000 and $200,000 a year – to pay a marginal tax rate of 32.5 cents.
The Turnbull government has been on the road for the past week selling the budget, and the prime minister, and the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, have been campaigning in seats that will be the subject of byelections triggered by the high court’s decision in the Katy Gallagher case.
With a mini-election season under way in seats in Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, the political tussle over the budget returns to Canberra on Monday as federal parliament resumes, with the government putting pressure on the Senate to pass the income tax package as a job lot.
In addition to the commentary on the tax measures, the NFAW post-budget analysis notes that spending growth is now projected to average just 1.1% in real terms over three years, compared with 2.1% average growth in real terms over the government’s two terms in office.
It notes that only funding to schools and the national disability insurance scheme will grow in real terms under the projections outlined on 7 May.
The group welcomes the elements of the budget investments in aged care. It ticks improvements to My Aged Care processes; the introduction of quality assurance processes; the establishment of a Quality and Safety Commission; mental health trials for residents in aged care suffering social isolation or loneliness; money to address elder abuse; extra funding for palliative care; extra funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flexible aged care; and a trial introducing consumer centred funding, which is similar to the NDIS.
“The centrepiece of the package is 14,000 extra home care packages at a cost of $1.6b,” the analysis says. “Women currently receive two-thirds of home care packages. However, over 100 000 aged Australians are already on the waiting lists. The increased expenditure for this item also appears to be redirected from an underspend in residential aged care, where women also make up two thirds of residents.”
The analysis notes the budget “does little in areas such as domestic violence, pay equity, housing, assistance to the marginalised – no increase in Newstart or Commonwealth rent assistance – the environment, health promotion and prevention.”
It also notes that there are no longer-term structural approaches to reforms required to meet government services needs over the long term.
The minister for women, Kelly O’Dwyer, says the government will deliver a statement on women’s economic security in September. That statement is expected to address issues such as workforce participation, pay equity and superannuation.
The NFAW has called on the government to use that statement to examine areas of job design and skills development in the disability sector, with a view to reducing turnover in the sector and improving outcomes for employees and their clients.
It wants a detailed gender analysis of government policy and a recurrent time use survey. “NFAW recommends that the government adopt measures to address the undervaluation of work in the caring sector on which it partly relies to make savings to fund its other priorities. In particular, we recommend that it reinstate the $300m budget measure to support child care and the $1.5b measure to fund pay rises for aged care workers, and examine similar measures to support job design and earnings in the disability care sector.”
The Henry review proposed abolishing the low income tax offset and increasing the tax threshold instead.