Opportunity Must Not Be Lost to Prepare for the Future

Some welcome and important first steps towards improving the tax system have been taken at the national tax forum over the past two days, Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“But we are a long way short of a 10-year plan to overhaul the tax system and improve the efficiency of government spending required to deal with Australia’s unfolding fiscal challenge,” Ms Westacott said.

She said an important outcome of the tax forum was the confirmation by the Treasurer of the link between business taxation and broader economic growth and productivity.

“The business tax reform working group that was announced will provide an opportunity to consider what is the right business tax system for Australia over the medium to long term.

“This group could usefully also play a role in the challenge of simplification.

“However, any changes to the business tax system must be part of a comprehensive, 10-year overhaul of the total tax system.

“We welcome the recognition at the forum that inefficient and unproductive state taxes should be removed.

“The commitment to a state tax reform plan is a welcome development.

“However, it is difficult to see how states alone, given their future budget pressures, can fully fund removal of inefficient taxes without other sources of revenue and an examination of roles and accountabilities between levels of government.

“Australia’s ability to pay for the future will be put at risk if the opportunity presented by this week’s national tax forum doesn’t lead to a comprehensive process for long-term reform.

“Along with many groups representing different sectors of the Australian community, we urge the government to hear the clear message from the first national discussion about this issue in a quarter of a century, that we need a formal process and independent governance to advance comprehensive tax reform.

“Delegates may have different positions on the direction for tax reform, but there is broad agreement that we need a process to advance reform if we are to prepare Australia for the future.”

“The announcement of an independent tax studies institute will assist in this process.

“The forum was a worthwhile opportunity to bring a wide range of interested parties from business, trade unions, welfare and environment groups, and other members of the community.

“It’s now important for the parliament to debate and agree issues, priorities and processes for long-term tax reform.

“It’s critical the parliament does not waste this momentum and maintains an open dialogue to build common ground for comprehensive tax reform,” she said.