Tam­pon GST ex­emp­tion un­der fire

The Weekend Australian - - OUTLOOK CONFERENCE 2018 - MICHAEL RODDAN

The re­moval of the GST on tam­pons is em­blem­atic of the dire state of po­lit­i­cal ap­petite for tax re­form that would de­liver bet­ter re­sults for Aus­tralians, lead­ing tax ex­perts have de­clared.

“It’s hardly surprising that women are pissed off,” said Mel­bourne Univer­sity tax ex­pert Miranda Ste­wart. “(But) it’s wrong to in­tro­duce an­other ex­emp­tion.”

Ms Ste­wart told the Eco­nomic and So­cial Out­look Con­fer­ence that gov­ern­ments needed to re­alise they were stew­ards of the tax sys­tem that needed to pro­vide for all Aus­tralians.

“There are many in­equities in the sys­tem. The GST (rev­enue) is for the ben­e­fit of all,’’ she said.

“It needs to be broad­ened and strength­ened, not un­der­mined.”

State and ter­ri­tory trea­sur­ers unan­i­mously agreed last week to axe the GST on feminine hy­giene prod­ucts from Jan­uary.

Es­sen­tial items, such as fresh food and med­i­cal prod­ucts, are ex­empt from the 10 per cent tax that was in­tro­duced by the Howard govern­ment in 2000.

Ms Ste­wart said Aus­tralia could con­sider New Zealand’s con­sump­tion tax, which has no ex­emp­tions, al­low­ing the govern­ment to re­dis­tribute wealth thanks to the ro­bust rev­enue base.

Chris Richard­son of Deloitte Ac­cess Eco­nom­ics said this year’s out­look con­fer­ence was the “sad­dest” in his his­tory be­cause of the lack of op­ti­mism about the ap­petite to pos­i­tively change the tax sys­tem.

“We are hav­ing ter­ri­ble con­ver­sa­tions with our­selves. If you ask me what we can do, I say we pray,” Mr Richard­son said. “I’ve tried across my ca­reer to fight very hard to leave Aus­tralia and the world a bet­ter place. It’s not clear that we’re go­ing to move the dial that much. It will be about pro­tect­ing what we al­ready have.”

Robert Bre­unig, di­rec­tor of the Tax and Trans­fer Pol­icy In­sti­tute at the Craw­ford School of Pub­lic Pol­icy at Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity, said the tax sys­tem was in cri­sis.

It was overly com­plex, with more than 150 dif­fer­ent taxes, and los­ing 12 per cent of rev­enue through ad­min­is­tra­tion. He said Aus­tralia needed to in­tro­duce a death duty to deal with in­ter­gen­er­a­tional in­equal­ity.

“Death du­ties are good taxes. They don’t dis­tort be­hav­iour very much. You want to cre­ate a sys­tem where peo­ple can’t get around it,” he said.

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