I love paying tax

May 5, 2024
I love tax. Concept

This was not always my view. Like most people I examined where I could minimize my tax – where there were offsets to be gained through education, membership of professional bodies, charity donations, equipment, including computer hardwater/software/paper etc. I also had shares and a rental property so used negative gearing and imputation credits. It all seemed to be what was expected.

But…. I had two epiphanies.

  • One was discussion with a social worker friend where she said she loved paying tax. She said she earned a reasonable salary and was pleased her tax was used to provide unemployment benefits, schools and health services. She advocated us paying more tax.
  • The second was attending a workshop years ago to discuss strategic visions for organisations. The trainer had been working with the Tax Office to help them develop their vision and said tax was a positive thing which aimed to improve economic and social wellbeing of Australians. I googled just now and found the current purpose of the ATO is “to contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of Australians by fostering willing participation in our tax and superannuation systems”. The vision is not as idealistic as it used to be which is a pity as ATO employees should not be seen as nasties but as having a very positive role in society.

There are so many aspects of tax we should actively lobby to change. A start would be to go back to the Henry Review where more tax is balanced with less tax, and reduced or more tax offsets. Some considerations could be:

  • GST. It could be increased for all and have no exclusions. The low wage earners or unemployed can get offsets. The wealthy buy very expensive products and should pay much more. This works well in many European countries.
  • Tax exemptions and subsidies to fossil fuel companies could cease forthwith.
  • The Government should be applauded for planning to make negative gearing only available for new houses, but of course it could be eradicated completely so that people do not have houses as investments instead of homes.
  • Inheritance tax could be re-introduced.
  • A wealth tax could be introduced.
  • HECS is too high – no wonder we have not trained enough people to do needed jobs.
  • Medicare is too low – not including dental and limiting services creates more expensive ill health.
  • The superannuation system is great, but we must ensure no more governments allow using it for other purposes than retirement living.

Changing attitudes and mindsets is hard. Years of political pressure has influenced our behaviour from when people paid 90% of their income to assist the WW2 effort, to where people laugh and gloat about paying no, or minimal, tax. But there is hope as young people and those on low incomes complain about lack of adequate government-provided free services, such as childcare, community housing, public education, community health and aged care, etc. This is due to Australia not raising enough taxes – we are the second lowest taxing country in the OECD. So, with the right lobbying to those demanding the Government provide better services, who may well vote for Greens or Independents as a result, this will force Government action.

The challenge is to encourage, as ATO says. “willing participation in our tax and superannuation systems”. The change required is to a positive one in which people see value in contributing to society. As George Bernard Shaw says in “Man and Superman”:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work. the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

As we work and lobby to improve the situation for our fellow humans and our planet, we need to bring pride as well as joy to our work. Our cause is indeed a mighty one. May our torches burn splendidly before we hand them on to future generations.

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