In life, as the fatalistic proverb goes, only two things are certain: Death and taxes. 'I love paying taxes', writes Aaron Tucker, so let's get over it!
IN THE land of the fair go, why do we have such a problem with paying what is a relatively fair tax? Although the Aussie battler might love Kerry Packer’s comments around taxation we have to own up to the fact that without adequate funding we stand to lose many services that make this country so desirable.
Let’s just get this out in the open.
I love paying taxes.
No, I’m not in need of a psychiatric evaluation. Yes, I’m feeling fine today. No, my accountant doesn’t really agree with me.
In a country where in the 2010/11 financial year 9.6 per cent of all individuals that lodged a tax return owned a negatively geared property, avoiding tax is like a national sport.
In a few months’ time, the national and state papers will be filled with handy guides on what you can and can’t claim against your taxable income. Tax effective schemes will find their way out of the woodwork and present themselves as a sure fire way of avoiding tax and your cousin Jack will tell you all about this great accountant he has that “finds all of the good stuff”.
Scenes like these just go to prove there is a lack of faith in the taxation system and that we don’t feel like we are getting value for money. The image looks something like a 90's Robin Hood movie where Alan Rickman as the sheriff is moving from village to village and taking as much as he possibly can in order to boost the coffers of the corrupt bishop.
If that is the way you look at it, then I can’t blame you for being angry. Hell, if that were true I’d try and avoid the sheriff too!
But before we get too trapped in a Hollywood movie, let’s have another look at some examples of our government’s Great Tax Swindle.
Just imagine the camouflaged men and women crawling through thick swamps during torrential rain. They are conducting gruelling training and will be continuing to do so for days to come. These brave battle ready soldiers form the front line of our Defence Force. In no small part their hard work and determination have played a part in Australia not facing a wartime attack in 43 years.
Well, that doesn’t seem like such a large waste when you look at it like that.
Alright, maybe that was a one-time deal. Surely the government couldn’t pull that off again. I mean how many times can you lean on war heroes for support, right?
Well now, let us take the guise of a laid off factory worker. She is actively looking for a new job and in the meantime is being placed on NewStart. Now she has at least a small amount of money coming in during this lean time her kids will be able to eat. How about when your parents finally retire? To nobody’s surprise, your parents have retired with less than $1.3 million in investment assets and are now eligible for the age pension.
It’s difficult to make a case for gross misspending here. This feels like the first time the government has come on top twice in a row in a long while. How about we dig a bit further, there has to be skeletons in the closet here somewhere.
So let me get this right. When I live anywhere in Australia at all, the government will provide an education system for my kids? Surely not! That’s right; you just got a job and moved to Laverton in Western Australia. Better check your kids into the Laverton School, just one street from the shire council building and two streets from the hospital.
Our education system will pick up children anywhere in Australia, even those taught "over the air" by the School of Isolated and Distance Education, and give them the education they need to succeed. From here, they can go onto any of our fantastic universities, four of which are in the World’s top 200.
Surely this has to be then end. There can’t be anymore great government run programs to go.
You are about to be disappointed.
Gary paid tax his whole life but he hates it. The government never seems to get anything right according to Gary. He finds every loophole he can to avoid tax. Then Gary’s niece develops a brain tumour. The prognosis is good. His niece is only 24 and a neurosurgeon will be performing a procedure to remove the mass tomorrow. The procedure is being done in the public system with no out of pocket expenses.
Gary doesn’t see the irony.
Our world class healthcare professionals are there to serve and provide the best care they can. After a few generations of this taxpayer-funded largess, Australians are now ranked 2nd overall in the world life expectancy charts. It seems that government run departments are capable of delivering world class outcomes and this list isn’t even exhaustive.
What this country really needs is a government willing to be brave and have a fireside chat around taxation, much like Franklin D. Roosevelt had regarding the 1933 banking crisis. We need the truth. As a country, we no longer pay enough in taxes to cover our expenses. Nobody wants to turn our backs on valuable areas life education, health or social services.
Australians need to understand that great things are done with their hard-earned taxes and show us why paying more leads us to having more. Now, nobody would advocate a 100 per cent tax bracket and extreme thinking like that is what sets us back. The gap between government revenue and expenditure is not so wide that it can’t be closed with comparatively minor adjustments.
We have to stop being led by self interest groups like the Business Council of Australia trying to push company tax cuts and the same goes for reductions to income tax rates. My fear is we will go through another election and yet another three years of promises to balance the budget and all that pressure will be placed on the expenditure cutting side.
We employ our politicians to be braver than that.
Yes, I am pissed off about multinational companies using creative accounting to avoid paying tax within our country. I can’t wait until the ATO nails those who have been avoiding taxes by way of Panama shelf companies too.
None of this will change how I interact with the tax system. Avoiding legitimate tax, knowing full well that it is helping Wendy the unemployed factory worker. or Ned on the age pension, or Katie with the brain tumour says a lot more about me than it does about our tax system.
I love paying tax and you should too.
Aaron Tucker works as a data analyst and business consultant within the private sector of Western Australia.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License