The tax cuts announced in yesterday’s Budget essentially involve handing back bracket creep. But how much bracket creep? The threshold for the main (30 cent) tax bracket has been raised by 8 per cent from $20000 to $21600. If you take the common definition of bracket creep ‘inflation pushing people into higher tax brackets’ and assume inflation is running at about 2 per cent per year, that would mean the cuts gave back four years worth of bracket creep.
But, as the Treasurer is happy to point out, real incomes are rising. If the ratio of income tax to national income is to be held constant, tax brackets must be adjusted in line with increases in nominal income per person. At the income levels we’re looking at here, this basically means movements in average weekly earnings, which have been growing at 4 or 5 per cent per year lately, depending on the measure you use. So on this definition the tax cuts offset between eighteen months and two years worth of bracket creep.
The top bracket wasn’t adjusted at all, so those on incomes above $50 000 didn’t get much relief from bracket creep this time, however, you mention it. But they (or rather we) have done pretty well under this government, with big cuts when the GST came in and the halving of capital gains tax, as well as the absence of any serious attack on tax avoidance through trusts and companies.
Update 15/5 The last para of this post was completely wrong. All the thresholds were adjusted. The 42 per cent threshold was increased from $50,000 to $52,000 and the 47 per cent threshold from $60,000 to $62,500. Both are about 4 per cent, equal to two years inflation or one years wage growth.