Friday, January 18, 2019

All of Labor's Tax Increases

The Labor party is at the moment likely to win the next federal election in Australia in May. Labor has become increasingly left wing in recent years and has a long list of policies to raise taxes. This is, I think, a comprehensive list:
  1. Abolish Liberal plan to raise the top tax threshold to $200k: This was supposed to happen in 2024. The top tax bracket will still cut in at $180k (about USD130k) where it has been for many years. Bracket creep is pushing more and more taxpayers into the top bracket. This will affect us if I am still working then. If I'm not, probably my taxable income will be lower.
  2. Raise the top tax rate: Add 2% to the top rate to raise it to 47%. With Medicare that is 49%. This will immediately raise our taxes.
  3. Abolish plan to eliminate 37% tax bracket: This also was supposed to happen in 2024, so may not affect us except to the extent of how many franking credits will get used up offsetting our taxes, if I retire by then.
  4. Repeal already-legislated tax cuts for companies with turnovers of between $10 million and $50 million: Small businesses pay 27.5% corporation tax and larger companies 30%.  The government wanted to extend the low rate to larger companies. This is unlikely to directly affect us.
  5. Reduce the long-term capital gains tax discount to 25%: The discount is now 50%. This will have an immediate impact on us as we have run out of accumulated tax losses. OTOH existing investments will be grandfathered. It makes it more attractive to incorporate and pay CGT of 27.5% instead of 37.5%.
  6. Abolish refundability of franking credits: Since 2000, if you have excess tax credits from Australian companies beyond those that offset the taxes you need to pay you can get a cash refund. I did benefit from this once or twice soon after we moved to Australia and my income was low. This will have a big impact on superannuation funds in pension phase that have zero tax to pay and possibly even in accumulation phase if they have a lot of franked dividends. It will affect lower income self-funded retirees with money outside superannuation too.  Some listed investment companies (closed end funds) are already paying out special dividends to get franking credits out of the fund and to investors before the end of the financial year. On the other hand, I don't think these funds will radically restructure due to this proposal. I don't think it will have a big impact on us as I've planned to put the least tax advantaged investments like managed futures into our planned SMSF. And I expect we would be in the 32.5% tax bracket when retired. If I retire at 60 say and start a superannuation pension we could use franking credits inside our SMSF to offset Moominmama's superannuation earnings tax liability as she is 10 years younger. And then maybe we could add Moomin to the superannuation fund :)
  7. Abolish negative gearing: This is the ability to deduct investment costs beyond the earnings of an investment from other income. This mainly applies to property investors who mostly lose money in Australia in the short run, hoping for a long-run capital gain. We don't negative gear so it shouldn't affect us. Wealthier property investors who also own shares or other investments will be able to offset their losses in property against dividend and other income. So, like many of the Labor measures they mainly hit lower income investors...
  8. Tax discretionary trusts as companies: These are trusts that have multiple beneficiaries and can alter what earnings they stream to which beneficiary on a year by year basis. Actually, they are proposing to tax trust distributions at a minimum of 30%. So, it's not like a company which pays 27.5% tax in the case of a small business and then distributes franking credits. I don't see any justification for allowing this kind of tax dodging. However, I think they should just require all trusts to be unit trusts with defined shares and everyone sharing in all income. These operate just like unlisted managed funds (mutual funds). I think most discretionary trusts will just do this if it's allowed.
  9. Reduce annual non-concessional superannuation contributions to $75k: This would mean it would take us more years to make all the non-concessional contributions we want to make and means I probably should already get one in this financial year.
  10. Reduce the threshold for 30% superannuation contributions tax to $200k: Currently the threshold is $250k. The threshold includes employer superannuation contributions, so this will definitely affect me.
  11. Remove the right, already legislated by the government, of superannuants to make catch-up contributions when their super balance is less than $500,000: I don't think this is probably a big deal. It will mean stretching contributions over more years.
  12. Reduce ability to take tax deductions for additional concessional superannuation contributions: People will need to have 90% of their income or more from sources other than employment to do this. I don't understand why concessional contributions for employees are limited to salary-sacrificed contributions and you can't make more concessional contributions unless you really aren't an employee. The Liberals tried to fix this anomaly.
  13. Limit tax free pensions to $75k per year: Currently you can transfer up to $1.6 million into an account to fund a tax free superannuation pension. At a 4% initial withdrawal rate (required rate for under 65s) that is $64k per year. At 5% (65-74 y.o.) it is $80k per year. So, Labor's proposal is not that restrictive. However, if the $1.6 million earns a lot more than that a year, it will be taxed a lot more than at present.
  14. Limit deductions for tax advice to $3,000 per year: I am assuming that this won't apply to companies or superannuation funds, just to individuals. In which case, it isn't a big deal.
I think most people are probably aware of one or two of these but don't have a good idea of the extent of the proposed tax increases. A big question is whether Labor will have sufficient control of the Senate to pass all these measures.

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