Taxi tax fear

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY DEAN LAW­SON

The owner of a Wim­mera taxi ser­vice be­lieves a pro­posed $2 levy for taxi fares is fright­en­ing elderly and dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple who rely on taxi ser­vices in the re­gion.

Hor­sham Taxis owner-man­ager Rus­sell Carter said he and his staff had al­ready fielded a va­ri­ety of con­cerns from peo­ple who feared they would be un­able to af­ford the in­creased costs.

The State Gov­ern­ment wants an in­def­i­nite $2 levy sys­tem in place for all taxi fares by next year to fund a taxi-li­cense buy-back scheme.

Mr Carter said the con­cerns had prompted him to or­gan­ise a pe­ti­tion for Hor­sham district res­i­dents to con­vince the gov­ern­ment to aban­don the plan.

Mr Carter said peo­ple in the Wim­mera could ill-af­ford to be with­out re­gional taxi ser­vices and re­gional taxi ser­vices could ill-af­ford to be with­out clients.

“This is cer­tainly the sce­nario we might be look­ing at if the levy be­came a re­al­ity,” he said.

“I’m not sure the de­ci­sion mak­ers in Spring Street would re­alise that about 70 per­cent of fares for a taxi busi­ness op­er­at­ing in Hor­sham would be for elderly and-or dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple. If they did, they would not have con­sid­ered the levy a vi­able op­tion.

“The gov­ern­ment is al­ways busy try­ing to pro­vide elderly peo­ple with good ser­vices, but what we’re see­ing in this cir­cum­stance is giv­ing with one hand and tak­ing away with the other.

“If these peo­ple sud­denly be­lieve they can’t af­ford a taxi, they will forego some of their op­por­tu­ni­ties for so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, let alone med­i­cal needs, and that’s not good for any­one.

“And of course, we haven’t even men­tioned the im­pact on Joe and Jill Av­er­age who might want to sim­ply go out some­where or get home.”

Im­post

Mr Carter said the levy pro­posal fell short of deal­ing with the is­sue from a statewide per­spec­tive.

“The sys­tem the gov­ern­ment wants to in­tro­duce won’t work fairly across the state, es­pe­cially in re­gional ar­eas. It is not a one-size-fits-all idea and will be a greater im­post on re­gional ar­eas than in metropoli­tan cen­tres.”

He added that pro­vid­ing a taxi ser­vice in the coun­try was about of­fer­ing a vast va­ri­ety of ser­vices and the levy sys­tem pe­nalised the short-trip fare, which rep­re­sented a crit­i­cal part of re­gional taxi busi­ness.

“We’re do­ing a lot more short fares com­pared with the city, which means we would gather more tax from ev­ery­day peo­ple than our city coun­ter­parts. “It’s just not eq­ui­table or fair.” Hor­sham Taxis is dis­tribut­ing pe­ti­tions and is des­per­ate for the com­mu­nity to get on board in pre­vent­ing the levy scheme get­ting through State Par­lia­ment.

Mr Carter said the pe­ti­tions would be on the counter at Hor­sham med­i­cal cen­tres and re­tire­ment vil­lages.

“Look, our main con­cern is the amount of elderly peo­ple who rely on our ser­vices. It is ter­ri­ble for them to be caught up in a what comes across as a sneaky tax with no end date,” he said.

“And to be hon­est, be­ing used as a debt or tax col­lec­tor for the gov­ern­ment, which would also cre­ate a high fi­nan­cial cost for us as a busi­ness, doesn’t sit well ei­ther.”

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