The Australia 'low taxing country' myth

3 Dec 2014

This report argues that, when comparing 'like for like' taxation burdens, Australia is among the top bracket of highest taxing countries in the world.

Executive summary

  • Australia has become one of the highest taxed countries in the world.
  • With the imposition of the deficit levy Australiaʼs top rate of personal income tax has increased to up to 50.5 per cent, making it one of the highest marginal income tax rates in the developed world.
  • Claims that Australia is a low tax country are undermined by the exclusion of the likes of compulsory superannuation from official OECD statistics.
  • Adding in compulsory super and health insurance mandates raises Australiaʼs tax-to-GDP ratio from 26.5 per cent, as reported by the OECD, to 32.2 per cent in 2011.
  • Comparing Australiaʼs tax burden to the OECD average is also misleading, given the massive variations in economic size of different countries and our diversifying trading relationship towards the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Adjusting the OECD-average tax-to-GDP ratio for economic size and trade reduces it to about 30-31 per cent of GDP, belying the claims that Australia is a low taxer.
  • Australia’s regime of direct taxes are very highly progressive by international standards, meaning that relatively few taxpayers are paying for the bulk of this tax burden whereas others are much less exposed to the cost of funding government.
  • It will especially important that Australia avoids the policy clamour for higher taxation in the future, which would only weaken our economic potential and impair future living standards.
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