The annual Per Capita Tax Survey provides a unique insight into the views held by Australians of all ages, from across the country, about the role of tax and public services in our national life. Now in its 11th iteration, the 2021 Survey comes after perhaps the most extraordinary year in living memory, during which every aspect of life was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession.
The 2021 Survey, which was conducted in early April, finds that some of the shift in public attitudes has, so far, stuck. Appreciation of public services remains higher than it was pre-COVID, as does support for long-term government borrowing to fund investment in the economy. Views about personal tax contributions, on the other hand, are largely reverting to pre-COVID positions, although there is stronger support across all income and age groups for wealthy Australians to pay more tax.
Some findings of the Survey seem to be eternal: a significant majority of respondents still believes that big business doesn’t pay its fair share of tax, and that corporate tax avoidance affects the fairness of Australia’s taxation system, as they have since the Survey’s inception in 2010. As always, some of the Survey’s most intriguing findings relate to issues in the current policy debate. Support for Stage 3 of the Government’s legislated personal income tax cuts dropped sharply in the wake of COVID, and has not recovered in the months since, with support for the tax cuts at just 29.3% while the proportion who believe they should be reduced or stopped is 43.3%. The issue remains divided along party lines: while 1 in 5 Coalition voters are happy with the distribution of Stage 3 of the tax cuts, this drops to around 1 in 10 among Labor and cross- bench voters.