The underlying cash balance is projected by the Government to move from a deficit of 1.0 per cent of GDP in 2017‐18 to a surplus of 0.8 per cent of GDP by 2021‐22. Beyond the forward estimates, the PBO projects the surplus to reach 1.3 per cent of GDP by 2028‐29. Our projection over the next decade is broadly consistent with the medium‐term position presented in the 2018‐19 Budget.
The main contribution to the projected improvement in the budget position comes from a rise in personal income tax receipts. With increasing wages, a larger proportion of income is taxed in higher income tax brackets resulting in a rise in the average tax rate. Personal income tax receipts are projected to increase by 1.3 per cent of GDP over the next decade, with the average tax rate projected to increase from 22.9 to 25.2 per cent. The projected increase in personal income tax receipts and the average tax rate occurs even with the cuts to personal income taxes resulting from the Government’s Personal Income Tax Plan. Our distributional analysis highlights that the largest increases in average tax rates occur in the low‐ to middle‐income groups.
Further contributing to the improvement in the budget position is a projected fall in spending of 0.9 per cent of GDP over the next decade. While spending on the NDIS increases significantly over this period, it is more than offset by projected falls in spending as a share of GDP on a number of large payments including Family Tax Benefit, pharmaceutical benefits and the Disability Support Pension. The decline in spending on government administration over the forward estimates period, as forecast in the 2018‐19 Budget, is also a significant source of restraint. These projected declines in spending reflect the ongoing impact of policy changes and spending restraint that has seen the growth in these payments slow dramatically over the past five years.
These projections reflect the fiscal position at the time of the 2018‐19 Budget. The recent government decision not to proceeed with unlegislated reductions in company tax rates will improve the budget balance over the period 2018‐19 to 2026‐27 if not offset by other measures.