Category: Features

Labor tax hikes to bite workers

The Australian

18 February 2019

Editorial

Policy by policy, Josh Frydenberg is slowly but surely enlightening voters about how much the opposition’s tax changes would cost them. From retirees’ loss of franking credits and a higher marginal tax rate to super changes and a crackdown on capital gains and negative gearing, hundreds of thousands of Australians are realising they stand to be disadvantaged by thousands of dollars or more a year.

Given current property price trends, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, real estate investors do not need further dampeners.

At the very least, Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen owe it to the public to reveal when their planned hike in capital gains tax and negative gearing restrictions would take effect. They should also state if they would factor in the state of the property market before proceeding with their property tax grab, or even delay it until conditions improve.

As reported today, the Treasury has crunched the numbers, finding more than half a million taxpayers aged from 45 to 59, with an average rental loss of $9500, would be hardest hit by Labor’s housing tax.

The Treasurer is correct when he says workers approaching retirement face a double whammy under the opposition. Those who own homes or who have invested in rental property would find their assets worth less. Those renting would pay more. And those who have invested in shares would earn less through the loss of franking credits.

Aside from creating widespread personal hardship, such policies would discourage workers from being thrifty to ensure they are self-supporting in retirement, rather than relying on taxpayer-funded pensions.

The divisions between the major parties on tax and encouraging workers to keep more of their hard-earned money for retirement are stark. The question for voters is how widely they are prepared to open their wallets to fund Labor’s profligate social programs.

Chris Bowen and the ALP want to trash two fundamental pillars of our tax policy

The Australian

25 January 2019

Robert Gottliebsen, Business Columnist

Let me explain simply the nub of where Chris Bowen and I differ over the so-called retirement and pensioners’ tax. I think once most Australians, including many ALP supporters, understand the fundamental pillars that underpin my view, they will be on my side rather than that of the Treasurer in waiting.

But first I want to express my appreciation to Chris Bowen for his willingness to debate the issue and I urge my readers to read every word he has written.

I might be old fashioned, but I believe passionately in two pillars of Australian taxation policy: The first pillar is that people in the same financial position (i.e. have the same assets and income) should be treated the same. Since federation all political parties have endorsed this anti-discrimination policy. Until now.

Secondly, where there are longstanding retirement rules under which people arrange their future when they cease working, there should be extensive grandfathering when fundamental changes are proposed. I am afraid both sides of politics have strayed from this pillar, but I can’t recall any group of politicians being so ruthless in their treatment of battling retirees and grandparents as Bill Shorten’s ALP.

Let me set out in the clearest possible terms how Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen are dismantling the first and second pillars. I believe they have been extremely poorly advised so I will put forward some ideas help them adjust their policy to conform with the above two pillars which I believe help unite our society.

Until now, both parties had an agreed policy whereby shareholders in a company would not be double taxed on company profits. Accordingly, when you receive a dividend from a company that dividend forms part of your taxable income. But you receive a credit for the tax already paid by the company (it’s called a franking credit) so there is no double taxation. If you are a retiree and have no other taxable income, of course you receive the corporate tax refund in cash.

If Chris Bowen had declared that all non-earning retirees can no longer receive the cashback refund or, where there were exemptions, then those exemptions applied to all people in that classification, I would have declared that his retirement and pensioners’ tax complied with the first pillar.

Instead, Shorten and Bowen discriminated between people with the same assets and income thus trashing the first pillar for the first time in our history.

Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen declared that if you had no taxable income but saved your money through an industry or certain retail funds then you would receive your cash refund entitlement “in full”. I repeat “in full”.

By contrast, if you are in exactly the same financial situation, again with no taxable income, but saved outside of superannuation or saved via some retail funds or most self-managed funds then you would not receive a cent of your cash refund entitlement. I repeat not a cent. There are more than a million Australians being discriminated against this way — probably more women than men.

There was an exemption for pensioners but again there was blatant discrimination — if you did not register by a set date you got hit by the tax. Never in our history has any set of politicians ever engaged in such blatant and unfair discrimination.

The ALP shadow ministers have minders who insulate them from the pleading letters/emails from salt-of-the-earth older Australians who have been hit hard while their retired friends in the same financial position are totally unaffected.

By contrast I have no minders to shield me. I am human and I let the letters/emails from wonderful people create anger and I described the industry funds as ALP mates. That was not fair. They have won the superannuation wars fair and square and not on a mates basis.

Shorten and Bowen defend their blatant discrimination by saying that because the industry and big retail funds happened to have members who were salary earners and paid tax, those salary earners’ tax payments can be credited to the retirees so they can receive their corporate tax cash refunds. That’s an insult to the intelligence of ordinary Australians. To mix up the taxes paid by one member of a fund with the tax status of an entirely separate person breaks all the rules. It’s a complete nonsense.

So, if the retirement and pensioner tax is to be fair it must apply to everyone in the same tax income/asset bracket and cannot exclude those in retail and industry funds. All must have their cash franking credit refunds blocked

Of course, we all know that if everyone was subject to the retirement and pensioner tax it would spark a riot among grandparents and retirees and would enrage their children.

So, if we are making the tax comply with the first pillar outlined above and apply it to all people equally, then we must grandfather it to comply with pillar two.

I would suggest that everyone be given a $15,000 limit on their cash franking credits. Make it a fixed sum so it will be reduced by inflation over the years. If Chris Bowen is right that there is a pool of rich people out there who will pay most of the tax, then this will not greatly affect his revenue. But while I can’t prove it, I think he is wrong. I believe the vast bulk of the $55 billion in projected revenue will be raised from battlers. If I am right then fair grandfathering would decimate the income projections.

The ALP is set to win a May election by one of the biggest margins in our history. So, Chris Bowen will claim that he has a mandate. But the Australian population is justifiably so angry with the Coalition that they want to teach it a lesson. In my view, a May election will be about venting voter anger against the Liberals and not the policies of either party. But under the accepted practice, Chris Bowen is entitled to claim a mandate.

So, after the election the retirement and pensioners tax will become law. We are going to be stuck with a precedent that promotes taxation discrimination. Who knows what politicians will do next time. With some justification, I don’t believe Bill Shorten fully understood this when he originally endorsed the policy.

Unfortunately, the ALP has made promises that spend the money. But there is a way out. The real issue is the level of franking credit benefit. Cut the total franking credits benefit (not just those credits received in cash) from 100 per cent of tax paid to say 95 or 90 per cent and end the illegal use of franking credits by international investors.

While many will oppose this, the measure conforms with my two pillars and does not create an incredibly dangerous and divisive precedent that shatters salt of the earth Australians.

Labor franking credits policy creates superannuation class divide, says Robert Millner

The Australian

Eli Greenblat

24 January 2019

Billionaire investor Robert Millner has raised concerns that Labor’s policy to rip up the franking credit system on dividends could create two different classes of investors.

Mr Millner also expressed concern that Labor’s changes also hand an advantage to union-controlled industry funds, which will mostly maintain the rich flow of franking refunds.

Speaking to The Australian on Thursday after the $3 billion listed investment company Milton Corporation, which he chairs, issued its half-year profit results, Mr Millner said the proposed ALP policy could also encourage investors to shift out of Australian equities and place their money into riskier assets such as property and overseas shares.

“It doesn’t apply to everybody, but it does apply to a certain few,’’ Mr Millner said.

“It might make franked dividends less attractive for some people, and if people think they aren’t going to get those refunds, those people have relied on those refunds might put their capital to work somewhere else.

“If they do decide to exit equities, do they put it into property? Or do they go overseas?”

Current ALP policy is to close down a concession that gives cash refunds for excess dividend imputation credits. Most industry funds and some retail funds could still harvest franking credits because of the dominance in these funds of workers still in accumulation phase, rather than pension phase of their policies. Franking credits wouldn’t offset the whole tax liability for accounts in accumulation phase, effectively making industry funds exempt.

Opponents of the ALP scheme, led by the government, have accused shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen of allowing this loophole, which greatly protects industry funds – many of which are run by trade unions.

Mr Millner said this created an unfair advantage for one group of investors, and gave more power to the unions.

“Why should they have the benefit and no one else?” he asked.

“I think what will happen, if we do get a change of government, is that we could get a divide in the community.

“Obviously the unions are speaking out on what they would like to be doing, but not everybody likes to be in the union.’’

Mr Millner’s family is worth more than $1 billion, accrued over more than 100 years of association with its publicly listed family business, Washington H. Soul Pattinson, valued at more than $6.15bn, and its controlling stake in Brickworks, which is Australia’s biggest brick maker and valued at more than $2.4bn.

In Milton’s half-year review for shareholders, Mr Millner also argued the ALP policy on refundability of franking credits was inequitable and could ramp up the cost of capital in Australia.

“Milton notes and remains vigilant about the policy proposal from the ALP to end the refundability of franking credits to a certain group of investors,” he wrote.

“We believe the policy to be inequitable, likely to reduce the attractiveness of equity investments and increase the cost of capital for all Australians. Milton will continue to advocate on behalf of shareholders and encourage concerned shareholders to highlight the issue by contacting their local political representatives.’’

Over the last two weeks leading investment funds such as BKI Investment, Mirrabooka, Amcil and Australian Foundation Investment Co have criticised the ALP policy and acted to protect their own shareholders by dumping more than $120 million worth of shares in blue-chip miners BHP and Rio Tinto to pay for special dividends. They have rushed out these dividends to beat any ALP policy applicable from July 1, assuming the ALP win the upcoming election.

Mr Bowen has previously argued that Australia’s dividend imputation system was introduced by former ALP Treasurer and Prime Minister Paul Keating to eliminate double taxation on dividends from company profits.

But under Coalition Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello, a concession was created that allowed some individuals and superannuation funds to receive a cash refund from the ATO if their imputation credits exceeded the tax they owed.

“Because of this change, Australia is the only OECD country with a fully refundable dividend imputation credit system – a concession which has grown at a rapid rate and now costs the budget more than $5 billion dollars a year,” Mr Bowen said.

“Failing to reform this unfair revenue leakage puts a greater tax burden on low and middle income working Australians. A Shorten Labor Government will close down the concession created by Howard and Costello, and return to the arrangement first introduced by Hawke and Keating – so that imputation credits can be used to reduce tax, but not for cash refunds.”

Closing down this concession will save the budget $11.4 billion over the forward estimates from 2018-19, and improve the budget bottom line by $59 billion over the medium term, Mr Bowen has argued.

Dear Bill: Don’t let Chris Bowen blow it on franking credits

The Australian

Robert Gottliebsen

22 January 2019

Today I feel the need to write an open letter to opposition leader Bill Shorten:

Dear Bill, your treasurer-in-waiting Chris Bowen has allowed himself to be advised by a group of people who did not understand how franking credits work in 2019, relying instead on old, outdated tax data.

They led him to devise what is arguably the worst taxation measure proposed in Australia since Harold Holt announced plans to drop tax deductibility for interest payments in November 1960.

Most ALP people now know that Chris has made a mistake.

I suspect he also knows, but can’t bring himself to admit the error. So he’s now descending into emotion — a sure sign of a person in trouble.

If the Coalition is stupid enough to call a May House of Representative election, you will be prime minister with a huge majority. Most people agree that the Coalition’s three prime minister stint is a national disgrace and accordingly a vast number of Australians want to punish them. It would not matter what your policies were (or theirs), those angry Australians will put you in the lodge.

I don’t think the Coalition is smart enough to manoeuvre the parliament so that the House of Representatives election in held in November. But on the off chance that they’ll hold out for a November poll, Australians will, of course, vent their fury by decimating the Coalition Senate membership. But then the November election will then be about issues.

Except in situations of extreme voter anger, I don’t think any party in the developed world could be elected after a campaign based on the ALP’s retirement and pensioner tax (RPT). And as I will explain below, Bowen’s negative gearing plan is not in the same category as RPT.

I want good government for Australia and it’s important for the nation that both parties are able to govern. Part of the job of being prime minister is recognising when a minister has made an honest mistake and then helping that minister in the rectification process. Accordingly, Bill, that makes Chris’ mistake a test for you and not just your treasurer-in-waiting.

Paul Keating introduced dividend franking to avoid double taxation on company profits. It was brilliant policy. The idea was that wherever you earned a business profit, as a sole trader or as a large public company, there would be a similar rate of taxation.

When he introduced the policy, it’s true that franking credits had to be offset against earned or other investment income.

But over time we introduced a retirement system where low income/ asset people would still receive the pension. And, up to a limit, pensions from superannuation funds would be tax free. The cash franking credits became an integral part of that system and abolishing them requires major changes to the retirement system.

Not only did Chris not propose the required retired retirement system changes, but he’s dividing retirees with exactly the same assets and income into two baskets — those who receive cash franking credits and those that do not. The retirees who are to receive cash franking credits have their assets invested with industry funds and some big retail funds. The rest miss out.

Taxing people on the basis of who manages their money is without precedent in the developed world. I don’t think there is an Australian, including yourself, who would agree with such a policy. The fact that the big superannuation funds have non-retired members whom the retirees can sponge on to get their cash franking credits will cut no ice with anyone.

I don’t think leaders in the industry fund movement, including the likes of the likes of Greg Combet, Steve Bracks and Ian Silk, will want their funds carrying the long term tarnish of money obtained so unfairly. It always comes back to bite you and they are already winning fair and square.

And on the same theme, pensioners who were pensioners on a certain date will obtain cash franking credits but those that come after miss out and are therefore subject to RPT. It’s just wrong.

If the ALP is unhappy about franking credits and needs to raise money, then there are two clear courses: stop the racket that enables international shareholders to illegally obtain franking credits (I can’t imagine why the Coalition has not done this) or simply reduce the franking credits benefit to everyone (Australians might receive, say 95 per cent of their franking credit entitlement).

While I’d probably oppose such a measure, I’d have to recognise that it was introduced fairly and that everyone was treated equally.

Now the flow-on of the ALP’s RPT plans are emerging. As Eli Greenblat revealed yesterday, our largest investment company, Australian Foundation Investment Co, as a non-favoured manager is reducing its holdings in BHP and Rio Tinto in anticipation of an ALP government and Chris Bowen is emotionally telling Australians to invest overseas. It’s a sure sign of a shadow minister who has become rattled by his own mistake. And he keeps saying he is attacking the rich. But only rich people who are stupid will be affected.

At the moment Bowen is also under pressure for his negative gearing policy. Had the ALP won the last election and Chris introduced that policy we would not be in the current mess. The problem now is that, partly in reaction to the negative gearing policy not being introduced, we have slashed lending. The severity of the bank lending clamps is a disaster. Putting the old Bowen plan on top of it now would be catastrophic. You must first normalise the banks and property finance, then you can look at the Bowen negative gearing plan. It is in a totally different category to RPT.

Footnote: The $235 million Amcil listed investment fund has joined Australian Foundation in being forced to in dump shares in BHP and pay an unscheduled divided in fear of the actions of a Shorten government.

Retail funds dominate in 50 worst-performing super investments

The Australian

Anthony Klan, Journalist

19 January 2019

Every one of the 50 worst-performing balanced superannuation investments over seven years has been operated by retail funds such as ANZ, Westpac and IOOF, with just one product offered by the for-profit sector making it on to the list of the top 135 performers.

In revelations that categorically bring to an end the fierce three-decade dispute between retail and industry funds over which is superior, secretive and highly detailed industry data obtained by The Weekend Australian shows that regardless of the investment timeframe or level of risk involved, retail funds are unquestionably consistently at the bottom and industry funds are consistently at the top.

Despite every worker being forced to divert a portion of every pay packet into compulsory super since it was introduced in 1992 — and the key choice most people face being whether to invest in an industry fund or a retail fund — no list of worst- performing super investments has ever been made public, with analyst companies refusing to release them.

Retail and industry funds account for more than $1.28 trillion of the nation’s retirement savings and the revelations back renewed calls from federal minister Kelly O’Dwyer this week for the creation of a Future Fund-style national retirement fund to keep the nation’s super savings out of the hands of the “many rent seekers and ticket clippers” in the sector.

The highly detailed data from SuperRatings, considered the most comprehensive and accurate in the nation and used by the Productivity Commission in preparing last week’s report into the $2.8tn sector, lists 278 “balanced” super options offered by the nation’s retail and industry funds.

Over the seven years to March 2018, of all funds in “accumulation” phase, where the member is still working, the 50 worst-performing were all operated by retail funds and all but one of the 17 worst performers were managed by Westpac’s BT or ANZ’s OnePath.

OnePath Managed Growth was the worst-performing balanced option over the seven- year period, delivering an annual average return of 5.17 per cent.

Of the top 135 performers, just one was a retail fund, the Vanguard Growth Index Fund, which came in at 28th place.

Seven years is considered the best timeframe for comparisons because it is the longest period for which reliable data is available, however the results are similar over one, three and five years, and whether “growth”, “cash” or other types of options are examined.

The data looks at balanced options, determined as those with between 60 and 76 per cent of investments in “growth” assets such as shares, and the remainder in defensive assets, such as cash.

Because there is no industry standard, some options in the list may call themselves “growth”, however they are all balanced based on SuperRatings’ criteria.

There are many more industry funds in the list because retail funds were far less likely to disclose their performance.

According to experts, retail funds were likely to report only their best performers, so the actual performance of that sector is likely to be worse than indicated.

The Productivity Commission declined to name any funds in its reports on super, despite saying the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority should improve its “inconsistent” super data to help investors compare.

Retail funds have for many years argued APRA data showing their poor performance can’t be used to judge them because it looks at only the overall performance of “funds”, which usually operate numerous different investment options.

This SuperRatings data specifically examines those individual options, negating that argument.

Age Pension liability ‘will fall faster than projected’

The Australian

Michael Roddan, Reporter

28 December 2018

Confidential Treasury modelling of the nation’s reliance on the Age Pension has found
the amount of money spent on welfare for retirees will fall faster than previously
expected as bigger superannuation nest eggs push Australians into self-funded
retirement.

The unreleased projections of the share of GDP Australia spends on the Age Pension
is “consistent” with a fall of 2.7 per cent last year to 2.5 per cent in 2038. This is
significantly lower than previous estimates of the cost of providing the pension.

The government’s 2015 Intergenerational Report had the cost of the Age Pension
holding steady at about 3 per cent of GDP. In 2002, the Age Pension cost 2.9 per cent
of GDP and was forecast to rise to 4.6 per cent by 2042.

Documents obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws reveal
Treasury noted projections by actuarial firm Rice Warner were consistent with its
revised, but not publicly released, modelling using the new Treasury system MARIA
(Model of Australian Retirement Incomes and Assets).

“Rice Warner projections are consistent with Treasury’s medium-term Age Pension
expenditure profile and longer-term projections from MARIA … though Treasury’s
projections have not been released yet,” notes an email from Treasury’s modelling
division in the tax analysis group.

The paper released in May by Rice Warner chief executive Michael Rice found the
share of the population eligible to receive the Age Pension would decline from about
69 per cent last year to 57 per cent in 2038.

This was because the superannuation system was delivering larger nest eggs for
savers, putting them outside the Age Pension assets test.

The revelations that Treasury is also expecting a falling Age Pension burden comes
after the government recently scrapped a planned move to lift the retirement age to 70.

The documents obtained by The Australian showed Treasury officials considered it
would be “good to flag” the comparison between the Rice Warner report and the
department’s MARIA modelling with former minister for revenue and financial
services Kelly O’Dwyer.

While the most recent Intergenerational Report forecast “relatively stable” Age
Pension reliance, at about 3 per cent of GDP, Treasury said the lower estimates gained
from its MARIA modelling were “not unexpected” as they reflected “updated data,
modelling and policy changes” since the 2015 Intergenerational Report.
However, Treasury has not released the assumptions underpinning its MARIA
modelling, which would allow third parties, such as the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, to check the government’s projections.

Because of the fall in the reliance on the Age Pension, Rice Warner suggested using
the savings to fund increased rental assistance for age pensioners.

Michael Roddan, Reporter

Companies hoarding $45bn in franking credits

The Australian

James Kirby, Wealth Editor

15 December 2018

A staggering $45 billion worth of franking credits are being hoarded by some of
Australia’s biggest companies and demands to release them before an ALP
government comes to power are rising fast.

New research on some of our biggest stocks reveals companies such as Rio, Fortescue
and Caltex have a treasure trove of stored up franking credits. In an extreme example,
Harvey Norman’s franking credits are equal to 14 per cent of the retailer’s $3.7bn
market value.

But these credits will be useless to a significant shareholder segment if the ALP wins
the next election, as the opposition plans to scrap the cash rebates retiree investors
receive on franking credits despite franked shares making up the backbone of most
small shareholder portfolios.

“If franking credit was a listed company, it would rank as the seventh biggest company
in Australia,” says Hasan Tevfik, a senior analyst at MST Marquee who has run the
numbers on the ASX. Tevfik’s research shows major companies are hanging onto
franking credits when there appears to be very little reason to do so.

JB Hi-Fi, Woodside, Woolworths and Flight Centre — all favourites with retail
shareholders — also appear high on the list that has been compiled excluding financial
stocks since banks generally distribute all their franking credits on a regular basis.

BHP and Rio have already made some effort to release their excess franking credits but the report shows that, even including their planned measures, they still have franking credits that are relatively high — representing about 7.4 per cent of the market capitalisation at BHP and 10.3 per cent at Rio.

In an ideal world, listed companies would have little or no franking credits stacked up
on the balance sheet but, citing conservatism, many blue-chip groups use them as a
buffer to be used in tough times.

The problem now is such conservatism could carry a high cost that will be shouldered
by older investors if the ALP goes ahead with its controversial plans. Opposition
Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen has repeatedly said he will not budge on the issue.

Typically, companies can get the franking credit value off their books and into small
shareholders’ pockets through special dividends or buy-back programs.

The new research follows a similar exercise a year ago by Macquarie Bank. That
report, based on results in the year to June 2017, showed the worst companies in terms
of franking credits had been Salmat, The Reject Shop, New Hope Corporation,
Cabcharge and BHP.

Macquarie Bank has been collecting franking credit data for more than a decade as
investors have always kept an eye on credit balances to ensure capital management
was optimised.

Analysts argue that companies with franking credits banked up on their books may not
be acting in the best interest of shareholders if they resist actively distributing those
credits.

“We know some of these companies have resisted and boards have waved off
questioning shareholders … but we find the excuses poor,” says Tevfik. “The ALP policy will make franking credits worth less to the aggregate shareholder.”

Under existing arrangements, the vast majority of retirees are tax free. When
Australian companies pay dividends they have franking credits attached — the system
was originally introduced by the Labor government. Shareholders who have tax bills
can offset their franking credits from their annual tax.

However, retiree shareholders — who are tax free — don’t have a tax bill to offset. To solve this issue, the Howard government introduced a rebate plan where retirees could
get a cash cheque in lieu of their shareholder rights in relation to franking.

The ALP opposition has proposed scrapping this arrangement with no compensation
— retirees who are on pensions or part-pensions are exempt.

It is estimated the average retiree investor gets about $6000 a year in franking credits.
In recent weeks the issue has become a key area of political debate as fund managers
led by Wilson Asset Management’s Geoff Wilson protest against the scheme.

Opponents suggest the plan is discriminatory as it isolates a specific section of the
community — older independent investors — on a tax measure.

Wilson, who raised a petition against the change, believes the ALP measure is
essentially unfair and penalises investors who have constructed their portfolios on
what many had taken to be a settled government policy.

Earlier this year he suggested: “What disturbs me is that I don’t think people
understand how crippling these changes will be to people who have abided by all the
laws for the last 20 years.”

The debate has been inflamed by union-backed industry super funds suggesting they
would not be affected by the measure.

This is because franking credits are not being terminated — rather, it is the right of
independent retirees to receive cash for those credits that is being terminated. As a
result, most large-scale funds — industry or retail — will not be affected since they
can still use the franking credit offsets.

With $45bn worth of credits yet to be distributed, time is running out for the biggest
hoarders.

James Kirby, Wealth Editor

ALP’s franking credits policy targets shareholders with low taxable incomes

15 October 2018

Jim Bonham

“Having a non-means tested government payment solely on the criteria that you own shares and giving people a refund when you haven’t actually paid income tax for the year that the refund covers, what’s the economic theory behind that?” asked Opposition Leader Bill Shorten recently, and reported by Phillip Coorey in the Australian Financial Review on 12 October 2018.

Mr Shorten is  talking about refundable franking credits, but actually franking credits are means tested (because they’re taxable income and our progressive tax scales are a form of means testing), and you have paid income tax (because franking credits are also pre-paid tax) and, finally, there is an economic theory (to ensure gross dividends are taxed as ordinary income).

Unfortunately, that’s not the way the ALP sees it.

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, said refundable franking credits are “a concession”, “unfair revenue leakage” and “a generous tax loophole” when describing the ALP’s plan to stop the refunding of unused franking credits  (see SuperGuide article https://www.superguide.com.au/smsfs/shorten-retirement-tax-refunds-franking-credits  and and the ALP’s policy document, https://www.chrisbowen.net/issues/labors-dividend-imputation-policy/ )

Those comments are not right either.  Refundable franking credits are part of an unfortunately convoluted and widely misunderstood process, but their function is straightforward: to ensure that Australian company profits distributed to Australian shareholders are taxed in the hands of the owners (shareholders) rather than the company, in exactly the same way as income from any other source.  The company is only taxed on that part of its profit which is kept in the company for internal use, and not distributed.

In our present system of refundable franking credits therefore, there is no concession, no leakage and no loophole.

In the discussion referenced above, the Shadow Treasurer also said “While those people [with low taxable incomes] will no longer receive a tax refund, they will not be paying additional tax” which is a prime piece of Orwellian double-speak.  It’s not correct, and shareholders on sufficiently low incomes will find that their franking credits are simply confiscated as tax – money they get now will no longer be received and they will have less to live on.

Australians on low incomes will lose franking credits, unless they receive a part or full Age Pension. After strong protests that convinced the ALP that its policy would actually harm those on low incomes, they announced the “Pensioner Guarantee” – an exemption from the policy for Age Pensioners who hold shares directly, and for SMSFs where at least one member received the Age Pension or a government allowance before 28 March 2018 – but that still doesn’t help non-pensioner shareholders with low incomes.

In this article, I dig into this subject in more detail, particularly for those who hold their shares directly in their own names, to show what the ALP proposal really means and how it would operate.

I’ll show that the policy can cause very substantial loss of income for direct shareholders, especially those on low or middle incomes.  Retirees will simply not be able to suck up the sort of losses involved and we can expect some creative asset reduction to get under the Age Pension asset test threshold, or a major restructure of the investment portfolio to avoid franked dividends.

Dividend imputation, and how franking credits work

In the bad old days when dividends paid from company profits (taxable in Australia) were double-taxed, it worked like this:  the company paid tax at the corporate rate (currently 30%) on the relevant profit; the remainder (70% at current rates) was sent as a dividend to the shareholders, who then paid further tax on it as part of their ordinary income.

In 1987, the Hawke-Keating government decided to remove this double taxation of dividends, introducing a dividend imputation system similar to what we have today, except that franking credits were non-refundable.

Although the company still paid tax at the corporate rate (currently 30%), any of that tax which was associated with profits paid out as a dividend was reclassified as a “franking credit” and held by the ATO as a pre-payment of tax on behalf of the taxpayer – very similar to the PAYE system

The franking credit was also treated as part of the shareholder’s taxable income.  In other words, the gross dividend, which is the franking credit plus the dividend, was added to any other taxable income when calculating the shareholder’s income tax.  The franking credits, being pre-paid tax, were then subtracted from the calculated tax owing, so that in the end the gross dividend was taxed just like any other income.

For high-income shareholders, whose tax liability exceeded the value of the franking credits, this system had the effect of transferring the liability for tax on company profits from the company to the shareholder.

However, for low-income shareholders the situation was different.  If there were franking credits left over after paying the tax, the ATO simply kept the excess.  (This outcome is what is meant by “non-refundable”). Taxpayers who would have paid no tax at all if the same amount had been earned from employment, actually paid the corporate tax rate on their dividends.  Their dividend income was “taxed in their own hands”, but not taxed like other income.

In 2000, the Howard-Costello government made unused franking credits refundable to the taxpayer, creating the current system in which gross dividends are always taxed as shareholder’s income, regardless of the shareholder’s tax rate.

Here’s a simple example to show how the three systems treat low and high income taxpayers.  For this example, “low income” means too low to pay tax in our current system and “high income” means over $180,000 so the marginal tax rate is 47% (including the Medicare levy).  It’s also assumed that the gross dividend is not large enough to alter the taxpayer’s marginal tax rate, and today’s tax rates are used.

The table shows how much money, after tax, ends up in the shareholder’s pocket as a result of $100 profit earned by the company and distributed as a dividend. Clearly, low-income recipients of franked dividends will be the hardest hit if the ALP re-introduces non-refundable franking credits.

System After tax income from $100 profit
  Low income High income
Double taxation (prior to 1987) $70 $37
Non-refundable franking credits (Hawke-Keating) $70 $53
Refundable franking credits (Howard-Costello) $100 $53

Dividend imputation with non-refundable franking credits  was a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too system for the government, where that part of a company’s profits distributed as dividends was taxed at either the corporate or the personal tax rate, whichever gave the higher result.  This is the system the ALP wants us to return to – Age Pensioners (mostly) excepted.

So who is most affected by the proposed policy? What is their income? How much income will they lose?  How effective is the Pensioner Guarantee? Let’s look at these questions in some detail.

Significant loss of income under ALP proposal for direct shareholders

People who hold shares directly, outside of superannuation, may be rich or struggling; they may be retired or in their youth; they may rely on dividends from shares for all of their income, or just a part of it; they may have other taxable income from dividends, rental, employment etc.  They might also receive non-taxable income from a superannuation pension, but that has to be looked at separately and does not affect what happens with their taxable income.

Whatever the circumstance, the introduction of the ALP’s policy will result in either a loss of income or, if the shareholder’s income is high enough, no change.  No one gains except the government.

If a shareholder is going to lose income under the ALP policy, the actual amount depends on total taxable income, the amount of gross dividends as a percentage of the total, and whether the taxpayer is entitled to SAPTO (and if so, whether single or a member of a couple).

Incidentally, wherever I use the phrase “entitled to SAPTO”, it is to be understood that the entitlement only applies if the income is below the appropriate threshold.  Above that, the “entitled to SAPTO” and “not entitled to SAPTO” curves in the graphs to follow are, of course, identical.

Fig 1 presents the loss of income which would result from the ALP proposal for a single senior shareholder entitled to SAPTO, where the gross dividends received constitute 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% of the shareholder’s total taxable income.

For example, if gross dividends represent 100% of a taxpayer’s income, the introduction of the ALP proposal will be most financially devastating for single senior Australians earning about $33,000 a year but will also affect those earning up to about $138,000 a year. If gross dividends represent 75% of a taxpayer’s income, the ALP proposal will most severely hurt single senior Australians earning about $33,000 a year  but will also affect those earning up to about $75,000 a year

In all scenarios, single senior Australians with low to moderate incomes will be most affected by the ALP’s proposal to ban franking credits refunds.

Figure 2 shows the same results, but for a senior taxpayer who is a member of a couple.  Note this graph is just one partner’s share of both the income and the loss.  The shapes of the curves are a bit different from those in Fig 1 because of the complicated structure of our tax scales.

Note: In particular, for a couple, if gross dividends make up 50% or less of total income, the worst loss occurs at an income (each) of about $22,000.

Finally, Fig 3 shows the same results for a younger taxpayer who is not entitled to SAPTO.

In each of these three graphs the curves are skewed towards lower incomes and the greatest amount of income loss occurs at a taxable income of between $22,000 and $33,000 depending on the individual case.  That’s hardly a huge income, yet in the worst case the ALP proposal will reduce this income by up to $10,000 per year, depending on the percentage of franked shares contributing to taxable income.  The proportional loss is savage.

For those who don’t qualify for SAPTO, the maximum loss of income occurs at lower taxable incomes and is not quite as large, but it is still very significant in relation to the level of income

This is just another slap in the face to seniors who, in recent years, have suffered the doubling of the Age Pension asset test taper rate, dramatic upheaval in the structure of superannuation in retirement and now, for share investors, the threat of losing some or all of their franking credits.

Many retirees must question why they put so much effort in their younger years into saving and learning how to invest, only to have their assets and income so badly trashed by continually changing rules.

What about the Age Pension?

When introducing this policy, the ALP claimed that it would mostly affect wealthy retirees.  A strong backlash led to the Pensioner Guarantee (exemption) and the claim that they were thus protecting those less well off.

However, that did nothing for those who fail to qualify for the Age Pension but still don’t have much income.  We need to see where in Figs 1 or 2 the Age Pension might cut out.

To keep things as simple as possible, we’ll just look at the top curves in Figs 1 and 2, which assume that gross dividends make up all the taxable income.  In both cases, the worst loss occurs for a taxable income of about $33,000, and if we assume a gross dividend yield of 6% (approximately the average for fully franked shares in the ASX 200) the value of the shares needed to generate that income is $550,000.

The upper asset test threshold for the Age Pension is different for singles and couples, and for those who own their own homes:

Asset test upper threshold
Homeowner Not homeowner
Single $564,000 $771,000
Couple (each) $424,000 $511,000

 

None of these figures are very far from $550,000.  What that means is that someone who just fails to qualify for the Age Pension, and so is not excluded from the ALP policy, will probably find themselves facing close to the maximum loss of income.

How will people respond?

With incomes at these levels, nobody’s going to just suck up the sort of losses involved, so expect either (a) some creative asset reduction to get under the Age Pension asset test threshold, or (b) a major restructure of the investment portfolio to avoid franked dividends.

The first alternative, that is, creative asset reduction, is likely to trap the person into permanent dependence on the Age Pension, restricting a person’s ability to improve her financial position in future or to deal with major health or care issues late in life.  The second alternative, restructuring the investment portfolio, could adversely affect the risk of the portfolio producing poor returns, leading to an inadvertent slide onto the Age Pension.

Either way the objective of the ALP proposal is thwarted, which makes it rather pointless to make people jump through these hoops, while putting more people on the Age Pension

SMSFs also hit by ALP proposal

The ALP’s proposal also applies to shares held within a self-managed super fund.

If an SMSF is in accumulation mode, then the tax rate on investment earnings and discounted capital gains is 15%. In such circumstances, if gross dividends make up more than half the total income, some of the franking credits will be lost.  I suspect most people caught in this situation will restructure their investments to bring gross dividends down below 50% of income.  Such a strategy solves the tax problem, but may adversely alter the SMSF’s risk profile.

SMSFs in pension mode are in a much more difficult situation.  They pay zero tax on fund earnings, but under the ALP proposal they would lose all of their franking credits, which could be up to 30% of their current income.  Portfolio restructure is one option to avoid this tax (although it would mean abandoning shares paying franked dividends), as is simply reducing (spending) assets so as to bring their value low enough to qualify for the Age Pension – in both cases with the possible consequences outlined earlier.

Unfortunately, reducing the value of shares held in the SMSF – as a deliberate strategy or simply to supplement income – to the point where a retiree qualifies for a part Age Pension still won’t protect the franking credits. The Pensioner Guarantee does not apply to SMSF members who qualify after 28 March 2018, so retirees in this situation will probably consider closing their SMSF and reinvesting outside super.

SMSFs in pension mode seem to be the main target of the ALP’s proposal, and the Shadow Treasurer’s statement (https://www.chrisbowen.net/issues/labors-dividend-imputation-policy/ ) specifically refers to the fact that some SMSFs get very large refunds of franking credits.  Well yes, some did, but that was largely eliminated by capping superannuation pension accounts at $1.6 million.  Meanwhile, lots of people have relatively small SMSF pension accounts.

If the real problem that the ALP is trying to address is the fact that SMSFs in pension mode pay no tax, then that should be addressed directly with full consideration of context including large funds as well as SMSFs.  It is a fundamental and complex issue and simply changing the way dividends are taxed is not the way to deal with it.

Destructive and unfair tax policy

Halting the refund of excess franking credits is a very destructive policy for those who hold shares directly or in an SMSF, especially in pension phase

Such a proposal puts a severe strain on retirees whose taxable income is fairly low unless they can find a way to restructure their investments or qualify for the Age Pension, but it has little or no effect on wealthier people – unless their investment is through an SMSF in pension mode.

Likely responses to the policy would see some people driven to the Age Pension, at long-term cost to themselves and the government.  Others will close their SMSF purely to get under the umbrella of the Pensioner Guarantee.  Some may decide to remove all Australian shares paying franked dividends from their portfolios – how is this good for themselves or the country?

Income tax is often arbitrary and complex, but the basic principle of dividend imputation with refundable franking credits is simple and sound:  to ensure profits distributed as dividends are taxed as normal income in the hands of shareholders.  Why mess that up?

The ALP policy is the antithesis of a well-designed tax policy, a direct slap in the face to the notion of a progressive tax system, and an extraordinary proposition to have come from the ALP.

Exempting Age Pensioners who hold shares directly from this policy was painted as supporting those on low incomes, but really it was just a way of papering over part of a problem and hoping no-one would notice the rest.

Technical note: All tax calculations in this article use 2018-19 tax rates, and include LITO, LMITO, SAPTO (if relevant) and the Medicare levy.  The Age Pension asset test thresholds are applicable from September 2018. For more information on income tax rates see SuperGuide article https://www.superguide.com.au/boost-your-superannuation/income-tax-rates. For more information on Age Pension assets test, see SuperGuide article https://www.superguide.com.au/accessing-superannuation/age-pension-asset-test-thresholds .

About the author: Jim Bonham

Dr Jim Bonham is a retired scientist and R&D manager, who is deeply concerned about the appalling instability of the regulatory environment around superannuation, retirement funding and investment generally. If the ALP policy is implemented, he will be affected by the loss of franking credits in relation to shares held directly, and within an SMSF. 

Copyright: Jim Bonham owns the copyright to this article. Copyright © Jim Bonham 2018

First published on 15 October 2018 on SuperGuide: https://www.superguide.com.au/retirement-planning/alps-franking-credits-policy-targets-shareholders-low-taxable-incomes

On 16 October 2018 Jim Bonham sent the following email to Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen:

From: Jim Bonham [mailto:jim@bonham.id.au]
Sent: Tuesday, 16 October 2018 9:19 AM
To:Bill.Shorten.MP@aph.gov.au‘ <Bill.Shorten.MP@aph.gov.au>
Cc:Chris.Bowen.MP@aph.gov.au‘ <Chris.Bowen.MP@aph.gov.au>
Subject: Franking credits

Dear Mr Shorten,

I was dismayed to read the following quote, attributed to you, regarding refundable franking credits:

“Having a non-means tested government payment solely on the criteria that you own shares and giving people a refund when you haven’t actually paid income tax for the year that the refund covers, what’s the economic theory behind that?”  (https://www.afr.com/news/bill-shorten-promises-biggest-preelection-policy-agenda-since-gough-whitlam-20181011-h16ju0 )

The facts are:

  1. Refunds of franking credits to shareholders with low taxable income are means tested, because franking credits are taxable income and the progressive nature of income tax system effectively applies a means test.
  2. You have paid income tax, because the franking credit is treated by the ATO as a pre-payment of tax.  The refund to those on low taxable incomes occurs because the pre-payment is an over-payment.
  3. There is an economic theory.  The dividend imputation process was designed to ensure that company profits distributed as dividends are taxed in the hands of the shareholder (the company is only taxed on profits retained for internal use).  Refunding franking credits in excess of the shareholder’s tax obligation is essential to ensure that the gross dividend is taxed in the same way as other income.  Failing to refund excess franking credits, as the ALP is proposing, forces those on low taxable incomes to pay a higher rate of tax on gross dividends than they would if the same income were earned in any other way.

 

Please abandon the policy of making franking credits non-refundable.  It hits those with low taxable incomes the hardest, and makes living in retirement on your own resources far more difficult for self-funded retirees.

Jim Bonham

The 2016-2017 adverse superannuation changes; a Grattan Institute/Turnbull Government recipe for loss of trust and increased uncertainty?

Address by Jack Hammond QC, founder of Save Our Super.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018 at La Trobe University Law School, City Campus, 360 Collins Street, Melbourne, lunch-time seminar, “Australian Superannuation: Fixing the Problems”.

INTRODUCTION and DECLARATION OF INTEREST

In 2016-17, the Turnbull Government made a number of superannuation policy and legislative changes which adversely affected many Australians. Those changes were made without appropriate ‘grandfathering’ provisions even though they amounted to ‘effective retrospectivity’ (a term coined in February 2016 by the then Treasurer, Scott Morrison). ‘Grandfathering’ provisions continue to apply an old rule to certain existing situations, while a new rule will apply to all future cases.

I am a retired barrister and am adversely affected by those 2016-17 superannuation changes. That, in turn, has led me to form the superannuation community action group, Save Our Super.

The Turnbull Government, assisted and encouraged by the Grattan Institute in Melbourne has, without notice and at a single stroke, changed the superannuation rules and the rules for making those rules. They have turned superannuation from a long-term, multi-decades, retirement income system into, at best, an annual federal budget-to-budget saving proposition. That is a contradiction in terms . It is unsustainable.

Further, it is a recipe for a loss of trust and increased uncertainty for all those already in the superannuation system and those yet to start.

Save Our Super has three proposals which we believe will redress the 2016-17 superannuation policy and legislative changes and prevent a recurrence.

But first, how did we get here and in particular, without appropriate ‘grandfathering ‘ provisions? Those type of provisions have accompanied all significant adverse superannuation changes over the past 40 years.1

BACKGROUND CHRONOLOGY

29 November 2012 Lucy Turnbull appointed a director of the Grattan Institute, Melbourne.2
May to June  2015 Scott Morrison, whilst Minister for Social Services in Abbott Government, makes 12 ‘tax-free superannuation’ promises.3
2014 to 2015 Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull donate funds to Grattan Institute.4
15 September 2015 Malcolm Turnbull replaced Abbott as Prime Minister. Scott Morrison becomes Treasurer.5
24 November 2015 Grattan Institute publishes Report ”Super Tax Targeting” by Grattan Institute CEO John Daley and others. Dismisses need for ‘grandfathering’ provisions6 and observes ‘…that taxing earnings for those in the benefits stage may raise concerns about the government retrospectively changing the rules’. 7

No mention of the possible consequential of loss of trust and uncertainty that retrospective changes may bring.

Note that the Grattan Institute material shows, on its front page, an image of three of the bronze pigs on display in the Rundle Street Mall, Adelaide.8

We, and other self-funded superannuants, believe that the Grattan Institute’s prominent use of that image of those bronze pigs was not merely a juvenile attempt at humour.

It was a none-to-subtle insulting implication that Australians whom had faithfully conformed with successive governments’ superannuation rules and had substantial superannuation savings were, nonetheless, greedy pigs with their ‘snouts in the trough’.

See also 9 November 2016 entry below.

2015-2016 Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull donate further funds to Grattan Institute.9
18 February 2016 Scott Morrison, as Treasurer, gave an address to the Self Managed Superannuation Funds 2016 National Conference in Adelaide.

Draws attention to ‘effective retrospectivity’ and its ‘great risk’ in relation to super changes.

“Our opponents stated policy is to tax superannuation earnings in the retirement phase. I just want to make a reference less about our opponents on this I suppose but more to highlight the Government’s own  view, about our great sensitivity to changing arrangements in the retirement phase.

One of our key drivers when contemplating potential superannuation reforms is stability and certainty, especially in the retirement phase. That is good for people who are looking 30 years down the track and saying is superannuation a good idea for me? If they are going to change the rules at the other end when you are going to be living off it then it is understandable that they might get spooked out of that as an appropriate channel for their investment.

That is why I fear that the approach of taxing in that retirement phase penalises Australians who have put money into superannuation under the current rules – under the deal that they thought was there. It may not be technical retrospectivity but it certainly feels that way.

It is effective retrospectivity, the tax technicians and superannuation tax technicians may say differently. But when you just look at it that is the great risk.”10

3 May 2016 Scott Morrison, as Treasurer, announces in his Budget 2016-17 Speech to Parliament a number of adverse ‘changes to better target superannuation tax concessions’ .

No ‘grandfathering’ provisions announced.11

See also, Budget Measures, Budget Paper No 2, 2016-17, 3 May 2016, Part 1, Revenue Measures, pp 24-30.12

5 September 2016 John Daley, CEO Grattan Institute, said:
“Winding back superannuation tax breaks will be an acid test of our political system. If we cannot get reform in this situation, then there is little hope for either budget repair or economic reform” (AFR 5/9/16)13
9 November 2016 To give effect to the Budget 2016-17 superannuation changes, Scott Morrison presented the Turnbull Government’s package of 3 superannuation Bills to Parliament.

To publicly explain and justify those superannuation changes to Parliament, Scott Morrison and Kelly O’Dwyer circulated and relied in Parliament upon a 364 page “Explanatory Memorandum”.

The Explanatory Memorandum states on its front page “Circulated by the authority of the Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP and Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP.

In turn, the Explanatory Memorandum expressly refers to, and provides links to, the Grattan Institute’s 24 November 2015 Media Release and Report (see 24 November 2015 entry, above).

As noted above, that Grattan Institute material shows, on its cover, an image of three of the bronze pigs on display in the Rundle Street Mall, Adelaide.14

Bronze pigs in Rundle Street Mall, Adelaide 

23 November 2016 The Turnbull Government, with the support of Labor, rushed through Parliament two of its three superannuation Bills.
29 November 2016 Those two Bills were assented to on 29 November 2016 and are now law:

Superannuation ( Excess Transfer Balance Tax) Imposition Act 2016 (C’th) (No 80 of 2016);15

Treasury Laws  Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Superannuation) Act 2016 ) (C’th) (No 81 of 2016)16

The third superannuation Bill, the Superannuation (Objective) Bill, remains stalled in the Senate.17

1 December 2016 Lucy Turnbull retired as a director of the Grattan Institute.18
24  August 2018 Malcolm Turnbull resigns as Prime Minister.19
Scott Morrison becomes Prime Minister.20

SAVE OUR SUPER’S THREE PROPOSALS FOR THE FUTURE
Save Our Super has three proposals which we believe could redress the 2016-17 superannuation policy and legislative changes and prevent a recurrence.

First,  Scott Morrison, in his new capacity as Prime Minister, should request the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg and/or through him, the Assistant Treasurer, Stuart Robert, to revisit the Turnbull Government’s 2016-17 superannuation changes.

A discussion paper and advice from Treasury should be requested. It should include the effect of the Turnbull Government’s 2016-17 superannuation changes on superannuation fund taxes in 2017-18 and over the forward estimates.

To restore trust and reduce uncertainty in the superannuation system, the Morrison Government should introduce into Parliament legislation which will retrospectively provide appropriate ‘grandfathering’ provisions in relation to the Turnbull Government’s 2016-17 adverse superannuation changes.

Those ‘grandfathering’ provisions to be available to those significantly adversely affected and whom wish to claim that relief. 

Secondly, Save Our Super proposes to create a Superannuation and Retirement Income  Policy Institute, independent of government , funded, at least initially, by private donations/subscriptions.

Its role will be to advocate on behalf of those millions of superannuants and retirees whose collective voice needs to be heard.

Thirdly, Save Our Super will advocate for an amendment to the Australian Constitution, to have a similar effect in relation to superannuation and other retirement income, as does section 51 (xxxi) has in relation to the compulsory acquisition of property.

That section empowers the federal Parliament to make laws with respect to the acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws (emphasis added).

Thus Parliament’s power to make laws in relation to superannuation and other retirement income should not be affected. However, any significant adverse change to existing situations will need to be on just terms, for example, by providing appropriate ‘grandfathering’ provisions as part of that federal law.

1. [http://saveoursuper.org.au/super-changes-grandfathering-rules-must-considered]
2. [https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Grattan_Institute_Annual_Financial_Report_2013.pdf (pp 2-3)]
3. [http://saveoursuper.org.au/scott-morrison-12-superannuation-tax-free-promises]
4. [https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Grattan-Institute-Annual-Report-on-Operations-30-June-2015.pdf (p 19)]
5. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Turnbull_Ministry]
6. [https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/832-Super-tax-targeting.pdf (p 7)]
7. [https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/832-Super-tax-targeting.pdf (pp 68-9, para 6.5)]
8. [https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/832-Super-tax-targeting.pdf (front page)]
9. [https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Grattan-Institute-Annual-Report-on-Operations-30-June-2016.pdf (p 24)]
10. [Scott Morrison, Address to the SMSF 2016 National Conference, Adelaide]
11. [https://www.budget.gov.au/2016-17/content/speech/html/speech.htm]
12. [https://budget.gov.au/2016-17/content/bp2/download/BP2_consolidated.pdf]
13. [https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Grattan-Institute-Annual-Report-2017-Web.pdf (p 6)]
14. [The Explanatory Memorandum refers to the Grattan Institute’s 24 November 2015 report “Super tax targeting” by John Daley and Brendan Coates: (see page 275, paragraph 14.12, footnote 2). Click on the link on footnote 2, 2 Grattan Institute, media release, ‘For fairness and a stronger Budget, it is time to target super tax breaks’, 24 November 2015,  http://grattan.edu.au/for-fairness-and-a-stronger-budget-it-is-time-to-target-super-tax-breaks/”.
Click on the link at foot of that page Read the report“. That link will take you to the Grattan Institute report “Super tax targeting “ dated 24 November 2015 by John Daley and others. The report’s front page shows the image of those bronze pigs in the Rundle Street Mall, Adelaide. Note: The Grattan Institute’s website has been updated since the publication of that document. However, the article itself and the image of the 3 pigs remain.]

15. [Superannuation ( Excess Transfer Balance Tax) Imposition Act 2016 (C’th) (No 80 of 2016)]
16. [Treasury Laws Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Superannuation) Act 2016 ) (C’th) (No 81 of 2016)]
17. [Superannuation (Objective) Bill]
18. [https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Grattan-Institute-Annual-Financial-Report-2017.pdf (p 3)]
19. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Turnbull]
20. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Morrison]

Labor’s excess dividend imputation credits Media Release – 27 March 2018

BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

CHRIS BOWEN MP

SHADOW TREASURER

JENNY MACKLIN MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES

LABOR’S PLAN TO CRACK DOWN ON TAX LOOPHOLES, PROTECT PENSIONERS, AND PAY FOR SCHOOLS AND HOSPITALS

Labor’s reforms to excess dividend imputation credits will crack down on an unsustainable tax loophole that gives tax refunds to people who don’t pay income tax, while protecting pensioners and paying for better schools and hospitals.

Today, Labor is introducing a new Pensioner Guarantee – protecting pensioners from changes to excess dividend imputation credits.

The Pensioner Guarantee will protect pensioners who may otherwise be affected by this important reform.

Labor is cracking down on this tax loophole because it will soon cost the budget $8 billion a year.

Much of this goes to high-wealth individuals, with 80 per cent of the benefit accruing to the wealthiest 20 per cent of retirees. The top one per cent of self-managed superannuation funds received an average cash refund of more than $80,000 in 2014-15.

Labor does not think it is fair to spend $8 billion a year on a tax loophole that mainly benefits millionaires who don’t pay income tax – not when school standards are falling and hospital waiting lists are growing longer.

$8 billion a year is more than we spend on public hospitals or child care. It’s three times what we spend on the Australian Federal Police.

Labor will close this tax loophole to help pay for better schools, better hospitals and tax relief for working Australians – but we’ll protect pensioners with our Pensioner Guarantee.

We believe in a fair go for pensioners. We know they are struggling with the cost of living, especially with out of control power prices and Turnbull’s cuts to Medicare.

That’s why Labor is making sure pensioners will still be able to access cash refunds from excess dividend imputation credits.

The Pensioner Guarantee means pensioners and allowance recipients will be protected from the abolition of cash refunds for excess dividend imputation credits when the policy commences in July 2019.

Self-managed superannuation funds with at least one pensioner or allowance recipient before 28 March 2018 will also be exempt from the changes.

This means that every pensioner will still be able to benefit from cash refunds.

Labor has always protected pensioners – and we always will.

In contrast, the Liberals have cut the pension, increased the cost of living, and are trying to force Australians to work until they are 70.

Turnbull has:

  • cut the pension for 277,000 retirees;
  • kicked another 92,300 retirees off the pension altogether;
  • cut pension concessions that help pensioners with costs including rates and registration; and
  • is trying to cut the $365-a-year energy supplement for 400,000 pensioners.

 

Turnbull’s cuts will see more than $7 billion taken out of the pockets of Australia’s pensioners.

Turnbull has been the worst prime minister for Australia’s pensioners in living memory.

Labor’s policy is fair and responsible because it cracks down on an unaffordable tax loophole while protecting pensioners and paying for better schools and hospitals.

Mr Turnbull and his Liberals are protecting tax loopholes for millionaires, giving a $65 billion tax handout to multinationals, increases taxes for seven million working Australians, and cutting funding to local schools and hospitals. They are totally out of touch.

Labor’s policy will improve the budget position by $10.7 billion over the election forward estimates and $55.7 billion over the medium term.  This is a reduction of $700 million over the election forward estimates compared to the original announcement, and $3.3 billion over the medium term.

Part of this saving will be used to fund Labor’s Australian Investment Guarantee – delivering tax relief for businesses investing in Australia and in Australian jobs.

Labor’s policy has been fully costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office. The Parliamentary Budget Office’s costings are based on the current budget baseline, which includes the effect of the $1.6 million balance transfer cap.

More information on Labor’s policy can be found here.

TUESDAY, 27 MARCH 2018

Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra

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