Australia’s recovery from the economic slowdown may take longer because of biases and inefficiencies in the tax system, a major conference will hear today.
The Community Tax Forum symposium which begins in Canberra today (Wednesday) will be told how the tax system contributed to the conditions for a financial collapse that is now impacting on the entire economy. The symposium will examine potential reforms to make Australia’s tax system fairer, simpler and more efficient, and that will strengthen and protect our economy into the future.
The Community Tax Forum is an alliance of the ACTU, ACOSS, Australian Conservation Foundation and the Consumers’ Federation of Australia.
Chaired by Professor Julian Disney, the CTF was formed late last year to provide an alternative voice in the tax debate, including the tax review being headed by Treasury Secretary, Ken Henry.
At a two-day conference in Canberra beginning on Wednesday, representatives from unions, community services, environmental and consumer groups will hear that by international comparisons, Australia is a low taxing nation.
ACOSS chief executive Clare Martin said reform must focus on removing tax shelters and loopholes from the tax system to ensure people on higher incomes pay their share of tax and governments have revenue to provide essential services for all Australians.
“A fair and efficient tax system would strengthen Australia’s economy in the long term and mean Governments can fund essential community services like health care, schools and housing,” she said.
Ms Martin said there must also be a fairer and simpler system for tax breaks for contributions to superannuation in place of the present system where half or more of the value of tax breaks goes to the top 5% of workers.
ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said that under the Howard-Costello Government, Australia’s tax system contributed to a culture of greed, through a lack of restraint on tax avoidance by high income earners and short-term risk-taking by businesses.
“We need to come out of the downturn with a more equitable and robust tax system in which everyone pays their fair share, and which sustains revenues and spending on essential services.
“Reform also needs to remove loopholes and incentives for tax avoidance among high paid executives and practices that promote excessive risk taking by businesses.”
The CFA is focused on superannuation and the inequities in the tax scheme, particularly for low-income earners.
“This reflects a broader concern to ensure that equity, not just efficiency, underpins our tax system” said Catriona Lowe, Chair of the Consumers’ Federation of Australia.
“We are hearing plenty of discussion on business interests – the Forum is about ensuring the community voice is also heard.”
The Community Tax Forum symposium begins on Wednesday at Old Parliament House. Treasurer Wayne Swan will speak at the conference dinner on Wednesday night at the National Press Club.
For more information or to arrange interviews in Canberra
Tim Fitzsimmons: 0423 375 522
Clare Cameron (ACOSS): 0419 626 155