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Fact sheet

Fact Check: Will Labor's dividend imputation policy overwhelmingly affect the low paid?

Dividend imputation Liberal Party of Australia Low-wage industries

The Morrison Government has criticised Labor's plan to raise more than $5 billion a year by scrapping refundable franking credits on dividends from shares. Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert said it would mostly hit low and middle-income earners, with 84 per cent on taxable incomes of less than $37,000? But Mr Robert's claim is misleading. To make his case, he relies on the taxable income of people claiming excess franking credits as a cash refund. This is problematic. First, taxable income does not include the largest source of income for many retirees: superannuation. Superannuation income (for fund balances of up to $1.6 million) is generally not subject to tax in the retirement phase, and is therefore excluded from taxable income. Second, in a related sense, taxable income often has little to do with wealth. For example, the Grattan Institute estimates that, when superannuation withdrawals are pared out of income data for retirees, almost half of the "wealthiest" 10 per cent of people over 65 report incomes of less than the $18,200 tax-free threshold. Third, Labor's policy applies to both individuals and superannuation funds. By focusing on individuals, Mr Robert ignores the impact that would flow through to members of superannuation funds, particularly self-managed superannuation funds, which account for almost half the refunds claimed. This is not to say the policy will have no impact on some individuals with modest incomes and wealth. But clearly, using the taxable income of individuals tells us little about the overall financial position of those affected.
Verdict: Misleading

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