As the government released draft legislation yesterday containing only minor changes to strengthen the “integrity” of its mining tax, the Greens leader, Bob Brown, announced he would use next month’s tax forum in Canberra to push for a tax cut for small businesses, from 30 per cent to 25 per cent, denying big business any relief.
The government’s policy is to use the mining tax revenue to cut the corporate tax rate for all businesses from 30 per cent to 29 per cent, along with a boost to superannuation and infrastructure.
But today’s survey by the progressive think tank Per Capita shows 72 per cent of Australians believe big business already pays too little tax, up 8 percentage points on the previous year.
“People in the community see that business is announcing profits in the tens of billions of dollars and there is a perception they’re not carrying their fair share,” said the executive director of Per Capita, David Hetherington, while observing that Australia’s corporate tax rate was in fact “about middling” compared with other similar economies.
About 49 per cent of Australians were opposed to the idea of a mining “super profits” tax when it was announced last year, according to a Herald/Nielsen poll taken last June.
But according to Per Capita’s survey of 1300 people, opposition to the tax shrank to just 27 per cent at the end of 2010, with 52 per cent supporting the tax, and 21 per cent unsure.
Support was only likely to have risen since then, Mr Hetherington said, given the increasing visibility of the negative impacts of the mining boom and a high Australian dollar on other sectors of the economy.
“The two-speed economy has become more prominent as mining investment has ramped up and sectors like retail, tourism and manufacturing have been hit by a combination of a higher dollar and lower consumer sentiment,” he said. “Those factors have taken a lot of the edge off the debate about the mining tax.”
Support for a mining tax was relatively high in Western Australia (54 per cent) and Queensland (52 per cent), despite being home to the majority of mining companies affected. Of those opposed to the tax, one-third said it was only because they did not trust the government to use the proceeds responsibly.
Of those supporting the tax, one-third believed the revenue should be used to fund everyday public services and another third said it should be spent building infrastructure.
Just 15 per cent wanted personal income tax cuts and 8 per cent said revenue should be invested in a long-term national savings fund.
Overall, Per Capita’s latest annual survey found Australians are less generous in their attitudes towards tax, with 46 per cent believing they pay too much (up from 44 per cent the previous year) and 43 per cent believing they pay the right amount (down from 45 per cent).
“Consumers have felt under pressure and there is a perception that the tax system hasn’t been as supportive as it was seen to be 12 months ago,” Mr Hetherington said.
The survey also showed that most Australians, 59 per cent, believe the 9 per cent rate of compulsory superannuation will not be enough to fund an adequate retirement.
A majority of people consider Australia a “high-taxing, big government” country, despite Australia having the sixth-lowest tax take as share of gross domestic product of 33 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries in 2008.
Find the full report here: http://www.percapita.org.au/01_cms/details.asp?ID=432