Tax forum delayed until October

The Federal Government’s annual tax forum will be pushed back three months as part of an promise the Labor Party made with independent MPs.


Treasurer Wayne Swan used Twitter to announce the forum will be held on October 4 and 5, with 150 representatives from business, unions, community groups and state governments.


Normally held by June 30, the delay was part of a deal Labor struck with independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor during the 2010 election to form minority government.


The forum is set to cover personal tax, transfer payments, business tax, state taxes, environmental and social taxes, and tax system governance.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard has indicated she’s determined to start reforming the tax system prior to the forum, stating she doesn’t intend to engage in “days of inaction”.


The Government is aiming to take carbon pricing legislation to Parliament in the second half of 2011.


Tax cuts for low and middle income earners, welfare reform, industry assistance and renewable energy programs are expected to be included in the final carbon pricing package.


The Government is also working with industry on the final details of its minerals resource rent tax, and will introduce a one-off flood recovery tax by 2012.


In the lead-up to the tax forum, there will be a discussion paper and website on reform.


Meanwhile, tax experts have warned the tax forum may prove to be a disappointment, criticising the two-day timeframe and claiming key issues have been left off the agenda.


Dr Niv Tadmore, who heads up Clayton Utz’s Melbourne tax practice, says the issue deserves a week of discussions, and is disappointed the goods and services tax and carbon tax are not on the list of topics to be discussed.


Taxation Institute tax counsel Deepti Paton agrees everything needs to be on the table, including GST and the carbon tax, and is disappointed the Government hasn’t followed its calls for working groups to be established beforehand to discuss issues in order to present outcomes at the wider summit.


Tadmore’s wish list for the summit includes looking at ways to reduce the system’s complexity and increasing its efficiency, a study of company and individual tax rates, greater checks and balances for the tax office, and clarifying how tax issues can come onto the agenda.


Paton is keen for a look at “poorly designed” state taxes and the relationship between the Federal and state tax systems.


SME lobby groups are also likely to push for payroll tax to be thoroughly discussed at the summit.


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