Increasing GST: not worth the effort. How about inheritance taxes?

I posted this analysis in December, suggesting that, once the necessary compensation is paid for, an increase in GST wouldn’t be worth the effort. Apparently Treasury modelling (which I haven’t yet located) produces the same conclusion. Given that everything is supposedly on the table, maybe it’s time to look at some new options. An obvious example is inheritance taxes, which raised a fair bit of money before being scrapped in the late 20th century. As the inequality of wealth increases, the case for such taxes becomes every stronger.

Repost

The Grattan Institute has just released a report suggesting that the government should get more revenue from the GST, either by broadening the base to include food, health and education (yielding an extra $17 billion) or by raising the rate to 15 per cent (yielding an extra $27 billion). As you’d expect from Grattan, the analysis is sound and careful. As long as you accept the standard framing of the tax reform debate, in terms of the need to shift from direct to indirect taxation, it is reasonably convincing.

Grattan suggest using 30 per cent of the extra revenue to increase welfare payments and 30 per cent in cutting the bottom two tax rates, thereby compensating low income earners. The overview concludes:

Around 40 per cent of the additional revenue from a higher GST would be left over after welfare increases and tax cuts. At least some will need to go to state governments to help them address their looming hospital funding gap, as the price for their support of the change. This would leave a little – but not much – to reduce the Commonwealth’s budget deficit, or to pay for other tax cuts that promote economic growth.

(emphasis added).

Is that enough to sell the package? I can’t imagine the states going along with a deal like this for less than 20 per cent of the total extra revenue, which implies the Feds are left with 20 per cent, somewhere between $3.5 and $5.5 billion. From a political viewpoint, it’s hard to see this being worth the effort for the Turnbull government, especially with no guarantee of success.

As a comparison, the FBT concession for motor vehicles, reinstated by Tony Abbott costs the budget around $1.5 billion. Exemptions for non-profits, which have been comprehensively rorted, cost at least as much. Add in a few ‘rats and mice” concessions, and the Federal government would have as much as it could get, in net terms, from the Grattan package (Getting rid of the non-profit concession would probably require some compensating expenditure, but the same is true of the health and education concessions under the GST.)

That’s before we get to the elephants: superannuation concessions (also supported by the Grattan report), corporate tax avoidance, land tax and higher income taxes for (say) the top 5 per cent of income earners (reflecting elite opinion, the Grattan report suggests cutting these rates). All of these are hard, but not obviously harder than the GST.

So, why is GST reform at the top of the government’s list? The answer is simple enough. The advocates of reform haven’t had a new idea, on taxation or anything else, in 30 years. They didn’t get the GST out of Keating’s Tax Summit in 1984 and they didn’t get the version they wanted from Howard and Costello in 2000. So, the same old idea keeps on coming up.

104 thoughts on “Increasing GST: not worth the effort. How about inheritance taxes?

  1. @Ernestine Gross

    I agree with you, you weren’t cherry picking

    In that case you would have agreed with global warming denialists that they weren’t cherry-picking when they said there was no statistically significant global warming since 1998.

  2. @Ivor

    And not accepting industry standards

    Why do you accuse me of necessarily not accepting 10 years?

    I don’t like your pick of starting date. I’ll choose the 7/3/2003. The 10 year capital gain from that date in the ASX200 is 87%. And that’s still ignoring dividends anyway which are 3-4 times the gross rental yield on residential property in Sydney and Melbourne.

    You also seem to be suffering some cognitive dissonance while claiming on the one hand:

    The best way to get secure return from shares is through a industry super fund.

    and yet you seem to have some problem with the shares those industry super funds buy to get their “secure return from shares”. How is it that industry super funds turn “no growth over the last 10 years” into a “secure return from shares”?

  3. @Chris O’Neill

    You do not know what you are talking about.

    87% is just the gain in the index. You have to adjust for inflation.

    Capital gain is just less than a half 87%, and is around 3.66% pa compounding.

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