Malcolm Turnbull has raised the prospect of personal income tax relief to help middle-income earners, saying he is “actively working” on it.
As the government is still trying without success to get the remaining part of its company tax plan through parliament, which would deliver lower tax to big companies, Turnbull has moved to hold out the prospect of relief for individuals.
Speaking to the Business Council of Australia on Monday night, he noted the government had already lifted the second-highest income tax bracket threshold from A$80,000 to A$87,000, keeping some half-a-million people from moving into a higher bracket. It had also spared people facing a permanent top marginal rate of 49.5% by not making the temporary deficit levy permanent.
“You know our plans on corporate tax,” he said. “In the personal income tax space, I am actively working with the treasurer and all my cabinet colleagues to ease the burden on middle-income Australians, while also meeting our commitment to return the budget to surplus.”
He said his commitment to all Australians was: “Whether you are starting out in your first job, a worker providing for their family, or a business hiring staff, our goal is always to leave more money in your pocket, not in ours.
“Higher taxes penalise people who are trying to get ahead. But when you reward hard work and enterprise, you encourage hard work and enterprise.
“It’s pretty simple – more investment, more jobs. That’s the key.”
He recalled that his earliest foray into the personal income tax debate in 2005 as a fairly new MP was not uniformly welcomed. He did not spell out that then-treasurer Peter Costello was furious.
But the concerns that underpinned a report he released then still existed: “The tax system remains complex and compliance is a burden, our marginal tax rates are high, bracket creep is a constant challenge that needs to be addressed”.
Turnbull said that “just because we’re in challenging fiscal times doesn’t mean we should raise the white flag on making the tax system work better”.
A Treasury analysis showed Australia risked being left behind by the rest of the world in the competitiveness of its business tax, he said, citing in particular the US and the UK.
“If we don’t reduce our corporate rate to 25% as planned – in our Enterprise Tax Plan – over the coming decade, the only advanced nations that will exceed Australia’s tax rate are Japan and Malta.”