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States must dump stamp duties for land tax: ACOSS

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A key welfare group has called for an overhaul of state taxes with a fundamental shift from stamp duties to land tax in a bid to improve housing affordability.

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The Australian Council of Social Service today released a policy brief highlighting the economic benefits of the switch, calling on the Turnbull Government to facilitate a national reform package.

“If the goal of tax reform is economic growth, then the best reform option is a switch from stamp duties to efficient land taxes,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said in a statement.

“This necessary reform should be implemented before consideration of further tax cuts to individuals or companies, at a time when governments have a serious revenue problem.”

In SA, the Weatherill Government put such a shakeup on the table during a broad review of state taxes last year, but ultimately baulked at the political fallout of such a prospect.

While the review’s terms of reference suggested exploring “replacing conveyance duty with another tax on property”, which it said was “generally considered most equitable as it would balance any impacts on asset prices associated with tax reform”, Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis quickly ruled out imposing a broad-based land tax.

But Goldie argues: “We understand that this will be a politically difficult reform, but it is a fundamental one that will require leadership.”

“We also recognise that low-income earners and those who are asset-rich and income-poor, such as farmers and retirees, would be impacted and might need to be compensated,” she said, arguing that “the case for personal income tax cuts in the current environment is weak”.

“The federal government cannot abrogate its responsibility here: if the Prime Minister is serious about a growth friendly budget he needs to allocate some funds to support the states and territories to steer the path towards a broad based land tax in the interests of economic growth.”

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