The Tax Institute welcomes the opportunity to make a submission in response to the call by the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, the Hon Stephen Jones MP, on 1 December 2023 for such submissions regarding priorities for the Federal Budget 2024–25.
In the development of this submission, we have closely consulted with our National Technical Committees and broader membership to prepare a considered response that outlines the key issues related to the Australian tax, transfer and superannuation systems that we consider should be prioritised by the Government.
2023 was an uncertain year for the Australian people and economy. Since the pandemic, Australians have faced a series of persisting problems such as soaring inflation and the burden of rising living costs. During this time of uncertainty, several major changes to our tax and super system have been announced or introduced, often resulting in increased complexity and compliance costs for taxpayers. The challenges posed by the current unsustainable system are likely to grow in the future. As highlighted in the Intergenerational report 2023, Australia needs to manage and address the spending and societal pressures brought on by an ageing population and declining levels of economic growth and living standards for future generations.
Our current tax and superannuation systems are not suitable to support our people and economy during these future challenges. The current heavy reliance on inefficient taxes, particularly personal income tax, hinder the Government’s ability to raise sufficient revenue to provide a better future for Australians. Further, the ever-increasing complexity of our tax and superannuation systems makes it increasingly difficult for taxpayers to voluntarily comply in a cost-effective manner. The Tax Institute is of the view that the Government should begin the process of implementing holistic reform of Australia’s tax and superannuation systems, and re-design them with the core concepts of efficiency, simplicity, and fairness in mind. It is important to begin this process now, given that meaningful and lasting reform will take time to design and implement.
Further, within the existing tax system, there are several key areas which require the Government’s attention, such as consideration of the concept of a ‘worker’ to replace the existing concepts of ‘employee’ and ‘contractor’, addressing the use of inefficient taxes such as the Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) and luxury car tax (LCT), and simplification of superannuation caps, thresholds and concessions.
While holistic reform is progressed, we consider that there are a number of interim priorities that the Government should address. Importantly, the administration and overall integrity of our tax system face a risk due to a decline in student numbers studying accounting, law and related fields. Over a prolonged period, this will result in a shortage of needed skilled resources. This is a known issue and has been recognised by the Government by including tax accountants in the temporary skills shortage list.
We acknowledge that the persistent shortage of skilled resources in this field is not limited to Australia; it is a global problem that cannot be adequately addressed through migration alone, even when combined with technology. However, the complexity of our tax system further exacerbates these challenges. To overcome these issues, it is crucial to enhance the skills, knowledge, and tax literacy of all Australians. This can be achieved by improving funding structures within the government, streamlining dispute processes, increasing funding for tax clinics to support the most vulnerable Australians, and implementing better education programs about the importance and functioning of the tax system in schools nationwide.
In addition, the Government should provide certainty on the extensive and growing list of announced but unenacted measures (ABUMs) and outstanding Board of Taxation (Board) reviews. The Australian community needs certainty over their taxation obligations to enable them to make decisions that grow their businesses, support their livelihoods, and promote the health of the economy.
These steps are necessary to ensure that our tax and superannuation systems are better prepared for the upcoming future challenges.
Our detailed response is contained in Appendix A.
The Tax Institute is the leading forum for the tax community in Australia. We are committed to shaping the future of the tax profession and the continuous improvement of the tax system for the benefit of all. In this regard, The Tax Institute seeks to influence tax and revenue policy at the highest level with a view to achieving a better Australian tax system for all. Please refer to Appendix B for more information about The Tax Institute.