Research shows scrapping inefficient taxes could yield nearly $1000 per household

New research from Victoria University shows that removing two redundant taxes could save households money.
Monday 17 October 2022

Research from Victoria University’s Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS) shows that eliminating two damaging state taxes would deliver a dividend to the country equivalent to around $935 per Australian household.

The study looked specifically at property transfer duties (taxes paid by property purchasers in all Australian states) and insurance duties (taxes paid on insurance policies). It found they caused losses in economic activity of 80 cents and 40 cents per dollar of revenue raised respectively.

Co-author Associate Professor Jason Nassios said both clearly had a strong negative effect on the decision-making and activities of businesses and individuals, reducing productivity.

The research showed that even if the rates for these two inefficient state taxes were significantly lowered, the damage to the economy continued to exceed alternative revenue sources for government.

The modelling examined a scenario of reducing property transfer duties to one hundredth of their current rates – or from an average level of 4.5% to 0.045% – finding the economic cost was still 39 cents on the dollar.

This remains much higher than the 25 cents in economic costs attributable to both the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and to income tax.

“Property transfer and insurance taxes are highly costly at even very low rates, and so it is well past time that a serious effort was made to eliminate them completely,” he said.

“It is well known that many state taxes are relatively inefficient, but the challenge on the eve of the Australian Government’s Budget announcement on 25 October, is to consider whether the tax system across the Commonwealth is efficient, equitable and sustainable.”

The modelling suggests that dumping the Government’s controversial plan for so-called ‘Stage 3’ tax cuts - due to come into effect in July 2024 and forecast by the Parliamentary Budget Office to cost about $30.5 billion annually by 2031 – would raise enough Commonwealth revenue to help the states eliminate stamp duties on housing transfers.

The researchers determined these are the most damaging to the Australian economy among all the property transfer duties the Government collects. Eliminating insurance duties, and the remaining share of property transfer duties on commercial, industrial and retail property, could then be funded via a modest rise in GST.

Our modelling shows a package of this kind would be budget-neutral across the Commonwealth, and unlock an economic dividend worth about $935 per household.

The CoPS research is part of a growing body of evidence calling for reforms to inefficient state taxes.

Read the report: Inefficient at any Level: A Comparative Efficiency Argument for Complete Elimination of Property Transfer Duties and Insurance Taxes.

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