Joint Community-business tax reform dialogue gains momentum

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the Business Coalition on Tax Reform (BCTR) have today jointly urged Australian governments to take up the challenge of tax reform as a national priority, following a major joint Tax Forum co-hosted by the two peak groups.

ACOSS and the BCTR joined forces late last year in an effort to start an open, honest and respectful discussion on tax reform.

The joint ACOSS/BCTR Tax Forum, held on 15 December, brought together prominent tax experts and representatives from sixty major national business and community organisations.

The groups emphasised the need for the Government and the Parliament to take up the challenge of tax reform, and to start by engaging with the community in an open, facts-based dialogue about why it is needed.

Governments at all levels face serious challenges such as Budget weakness, slower economic growth, rising unemployment, and an ageing population. In this context, tax reform is necessary to finance the services required by an ageing population, support affordable housing markets, and keep the economy and jobs growing in challenging economic conditions.

BCTR Chairman Tom Pockett said:

“It’s time for the Government, Parliament and the community to face tax reform in a spirit of openness and cooperation. A structured, wide-ranging and inclusive taxation debate is so clearly required.

“Business and community organisations do not always see eye to eye. We have come together on this occasion because the opportunity to reform the tax system is too important to waste.

“A discussion paper is needed that outlines in an objective and non-partisan way the key problems with our tax system. A discussion paper must presents the facts on who pays tax and what effects the system has on securing a sustainable revenue base, economic growth, jobs growth, investment, workforce participation and equity” Mr Pockett said.

ACOSS Chief Executive Officer Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“Any major reform is hard in today’s combative political environment, but tax reform is essential. It will only happen if the community is convinced it will help solve problems that concern us all.

“Tax reform cannot be rushed and it takes time to get it right. The success of tax reform is not about ‘selling’ a government agenda, or cherry-picking reforms. It will require genuine engagement and wide public debate in the development of reform options, as part of a comprehensive, integrated tax reform package.

“We came into the conference agreeing on some key issues. We agree that reform is necessary to ensure Governments have the revenue they need to enable them to meet the community’s reasonable needs for benefits, services and infrastructure, that tax reform should strengthen productivity and jobs producing growth and not diminish it, and that it must be equitable, with people taxed in a consistent way taking account of their ability to pay,” Dr Goldie said.

Agreement was reached on some initial key directions for tax reform, including amongst these the need to improve consistency in the tax treatment of investment incomes, ensure the tax system assists effective housing markets, encourages participation and better meets the goals of the retirement income system. It was also agreed that there is a need to ensure adequate revenue for the economic, social and environmental challenges the nation faces.

Conference participants also agreed that all tax reform proposals need to take into account Federal/State relations and that this debate must be held in conjunction with the tax reform debate.

Our organisations commit to work with governments and parliaments to achieve fair and efficient tax reform.

Media contacts:
BCTR Contact Tom Pockett: 0411204784
ACOSS Media Advisor, Fernando de Freitas: 0419 626 155

More information:
Statement of Intent: Tax reform for the common good

BCTR Members: Australian Bankers Association, Australian Financial Markets Association, Australian Industry Group, Australian Institute of Company Directors, Business Council of Australia, Corporate Tax Association of Australia Incorporated, CPA Australia, Financial Services Council Limited, Group of 100, Insurance Council of Australia, Minerals Council of Australia, Property Council of Australia, Real Estate Institute of Australia, Woolworths Limited.

The Australian Council of Social Service is the national peak body for the community sector and advocates for people affected by poverty and inequality. Its 461 members and supporters include organisations that represent people affected by poverty such as sole parents, older people and people with disabilities, as well as major national charities, and peak bodies representing community services such as housing, employment and family services.