Australians Promised Tax Cuts

By Global Tax Weekly

Isn’t it strange how governments seek to cut tax just before elections? It’s not by happenstance, and something that has happened for eons.

However, it used to be rare that anyone under the age of 40 would be considered for the highest national office. Now, millennials are winning elections left, right, and center, politically as well as figuratively.

Earlier this month the International Monetary Fund warned the Israeli Government to maintain fiscal discipline as elections approach, with cuts to individual and corporate income tax being considered.

And last week the Australian Government showered personal income taxpayers with tax gifts in what could be the last federal Budget before elections to the House of Representatives, where the Government is formed. Personal and corporate income taxpayers have been promised fairly significant tax cuts. But, with an election looming large, the risk is that the current Government will no longer be around to deliver them – if indeed it is able to, if reelected.

Because the Liberal/National coalition is a relatively weak government, it is not in a position to deliver sweeping changes to the tax system. Hence, it’s propensity to legislate for tax cuts over extended periods, as with the 10-year Enterprise Tax Plan, and its newly announced seven-year personal tax cut plan.

Again, this is an Australian policy that could have drawbacks as well as advantages.These multi-year tax plans allow taxpayers more time to adjust to change, but they also provide the political opposition more time to stop them in their tracks. We’ve already seen the Enterprise Tax Plan, under which corporate tax rate was supposed to be reduced for all companies to 25 percent by 2026, failing to be approved due to a lack of support in the Senate, where the Government lacks a majority. And with the opposition Labor Party having said that corporate tax cuts are not a priority, it’s anyone’s guess what’s going to happen next. But at least the current administration is trying to cut tax, even if its days are numbered. That’s just about worthy of praise, I suppose.

Matters aren’t helped by Australia’s confusing electoral cycle, with both the lower and upper houses up for re-election, but on different schedules.

Elections for one half of the Senate, representing those members from the states, can be held from August 4, 2018, but no later than May 18, 2019. Meanwhile, the full House of Representatives and the other half of the Senate (representing the territories), must be held no later than November 2, 2019. Unless there is another “double dissolution” like there was in 2016.

Under this procedure, when parliament is deadlocked on a certain legislative issue, the Prime Minister can call for both houses to be dissolved, triggering a full general election.

There’s no suggestion that Prime Minister Turnbull will use this constitutional lever a second time with the upcoming elections providing an opportunity for things to be freshened up politically. But it certainly adds to the intrigue. This is unfortunate for taxpayers, who tend to have an aversion to cliff-hangers, preferring to know the plot well in advance. However, with some state elections coming up too, voters in Australia, where voting is compulsory, must be growing weary of trudging to the polling booths, tax cuts or no tax cuts.

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