Business owners are tax avoiding rorters.
This is the very clear message that I picked up as I read through budget papers, press releases and stories.
It is a message from the Labor Government that is not only insulting to the millions of business owners who work extremely hard, create jobs, pay their taxes and do everything by the book – but it could also backfire big time on Labor.
The underlying theme appears a number of times; sometimes it is used in an off-hand way to explain why changes have been made.
For example, the tightening of tax rules for those who use laptops. The reason? It is a rort. Then there are the cuts to programs with the implication that the business owners who are using them do not really need them.
The Commercial Ready program, for example. The Government, which forecasts the cut will save $707.2 million over four years, quotes a 2007 Productivity Commission report which it says “found that there is robust evidence that the Commercial Ready program supports too many projects that would have proceeded without public support, and that the national benefits from the program are, at best, uncertain”.
Likewise the entrepreneur tax offsets (ETOs) that has been restricted to micro part-time businesses, phasing out where the business turnover exceeds $50,000 and ceasing at business turnover of $75,000.
There are also changes to family trusts and the employee share schemes.
The suggestion is that business owners are dipping into schemes when they don’t have to, and rorting the system for their own personal gain.
It is a disturbing allegation.
First, where is the proof? I don’t have a sense that a culture of rorting as broken out among business owners.
Second, is this a deliberate campaign by the Government to smear business owners and set them against working families? Because if it is, the smear won’t work. Many working families actually run their own businesses. And many business owners pride themselves on doing the right thing and living off their own efforts, not the public purse.
So here is a message to the Labor Government: Watch your language and don’t start to play the wedge politics that was a hallmark of the last government. Look where it got them.