Budget 2014: National Commission of Audit sharpens axe as government moves to ditch tax returns for 1.4 million Australians

The National Commission of Audit is expected to recommend widespread cuts in its 900 page report this afternoon.

But the commission is unlikely to throw its weight behind the “debt tax” which is being considered by the government.

Instead, a series of leaks this morning suggest the National Commission of Audit will recommend including the family home in the pension assets test, cuts to education and health and a maximum co-payment of $20 to see a bulk-billing doctor.

The audit commissioners are also expected to propose the abolition and privatisation of some federal agencies and suggested responsibility for health and education and other services be given to the states and territories.

Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany he will be watching the commission’s recommendations carefully.

“We want to make sure the small business sector doesn’t have any speed bumps put in front of it. As we are the main tax collectors we want to make sure there is no impediment to innovation,” he says. 

“If they cut, they should cut to create more efficiency rather than just savings.”

One change Strong is hoping for from the commission is to streamline the process for employers dealing with workplace disputes.

“There are three different websites, the Fair Work Commission, Fair Work Ombudsman and Human Rights Commission,” he says.

“That’s ridiculous there should be one site for small business to go to.”

The government does look to be making a move on plans to abolish tax returns for 1.4 million Australians, as reported by SmartCompany last year.

Fairfax says employees with bank interest, dividends and straightforward tax deductions will be able to rely on a tax return already filled in by the Australian Tax Office’s systems from July 1 this year.

This means taxpayers with simple affairs could accept the ATO’s assessed tax refund without having to take any action but it is unclear how the tax office will cope with work-related deductions.

A spokesperson for the ATO told SmartCompany, “We’ve identified this as a possible service initiative and we’re working towards it.”

The Treasurer’s office said it could not comment on the reports ahead of the budget. 

The head of policy at CPA Australia, Paul Drum, told SmartCompany 1.4 million is not many returns in the scheme of the 15.1 million tax returns lodged annually. 

“Those 1.4 million people are going to have to be taxpayers with the most simplistic tax affairs,” he says.

“They don’t have a taxable position and are unlikely to in the future, they are likely to be retirees who are under the income thresholds.”

Drum cautions that business owners, partnerships, trusts, self-managed superannuation funds and companies are all going to still have to file tax returns.

“For businesses, it is business as usual,” he says.


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