Budget 2016/17 – is it time to end CGT discounts?

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The political appetite for changes to capital gains tax (CGT) continues to grow with the Greens unveiling a plan that would raise $119.5 billion over 10 years.

Currently, investors receive a 50 per cent discount on CGT when selling assets, such as investment properties. This costs the country’s budget $6 billion a year in missed revenue. Labor has announced that it would cut this discount to 25 per cent for assets bought after 1 July 2017, generating $32 billion over 10 years, but the Greens’ proposal would benefit the Federal Budget by almost four times that amount.

The Greens suggest cutting out the 50 per cent discount altogether, reducing it by 10 per cent each year over five years. This would run in parallel with Labor’s plan.

And it’s not just property that will be affected, with the Greens proposing that any asset subject to capital gains, be it art, housing or investments, would be included in its plans. Senator Scott Ludlow, co-deputy leader of the Greens and housing spokesman for Western Australia, said, “This is because tax on other forms of income, such as weekly earnings and interest on savings, receives no such discount, so we can’t see any justification for any part of capital gains to be tax-free,” he said.

The plan has been costed by the parliamentary budget office and would raise a little over $7 billion by 2019 and $119.5 in total over the next 10 years.

While both parties also state that their plans would lead to the slowing of growth in housing prices, making homes more affordable, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull believes any changes to CGT would hamper investment and slow economic growth. He also states that adding the end to negative gearing to investment properties into the mix would “amount to a tax on investment” would end investment in the economy.

However, chairman of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), Paul McClintock, said any impact on investment would be marginal and manageable. On increasing capital gains tax he said it, “doesn’t mean it is a bad activity, but you can say there is too many billions of dollars going into that activity and we cannot afford that”. “How much support are we prepared to give to a particular activity?”

“With things like negative gearing, a system that was designed to compensate people for high inflation rates, the inflation rates are lower, there is a strong argument to suggest you can lower that and still produce an environment where people are willing to invest,” he said.

“Our judgment call is that, yes, of course it will have some marginal impact, so will everything, but it’s a manageable impact.”

Despite progressive policies to raise revenue, the Government insists that the greater issue is cutting costs to meet shortfalls on funding for health and education.

Read more at Theguardian.com 

Opinion: Don’t write anything off

Whether revenue raising or cost cutting, every possible means to help balance the budget should be considered by the Government in the lead up to the Federal Budget 2016/17. And with the two other parties on board, surely CGT and negative gearing changes are a no-brainer?

Of course, the finer details would need to be ironed out; especially the actual effect changes would have an investment in an already shaky economy. But when so many people are saying they are essentially good ideas, then surely they’re worth more consideration?

Taking money ‘away’ from those who can afford to invest in property may be seen as political suicide for a Government whose economic principals appear to be looking after those with cash to splash. But if houses became more affordable, the investment by those currently unable to get their foot on the property ladder, may just be enough to give the budget the boost it needs.

Balancing the budget of a country that has pinned all its hopes on a resources boom, only for the boom to end without capitalising on any future benefits, is no mean feat. I get that. But failure to fully examine and consider proposals that could not only help to balance the books, but also give a much needed boost to those people who are desperate to invest in this country by buying their first home, is just foolish.

It may well be an election year and yes, increased taxes do not make for palatable politics when on the campaign trail. But if the Government is indeed committed to the future of this country then it’s time for it to have the courage to make the hard decisions and to be judged on those actions.

Do you think changes to CGT and negative gearing should be included in the Federal Budget 2016/17? Is it a risk to investment in the economy to cut such ‘incentives’?   

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Written by Debbie McTaggart

76 Comments

Total Comments: 76
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    I don’t have any issue with abolishing the CGT discount, in principle, but again it’s not something to do in isolation to other changes. It would be grossly unfair to those who suffered under the assets test changes to now hit them again with a massive additional reduction of their income. Many of those people will have investments in managed funds (directly or indirectly) that sell shares and they will have no control over the extent of impact of a change to CGT concessions. They have already suffered having their incomes slashed in half (in many cases) by falling investment returns, then lost up to $15,000 in pension and benefits per annum, and now face yet another cut to their livelihood? With many earning far less than their pensioner friends, it’s just not reasonable to keep hitting the same people over and over again. We are not talking about the wealthy now. We are talking about battlers who struggled to save and have significantly less than $1 million in income-returning assets. And some of them have very modest homes and no other assets to speak of, and might be looking at trying to make their savings last through 30 years or so of nil earnings and high inflation.

    If the government keeps bashing the incomes of those who have worked hard to save a modest nest-egg for retirement, the net wealth of the nation will fall and government costs will rise as more and more people need government support to live. Hitting battlers with modest savings will also discourage younger folk from saving and investing for retirement, lifting the number of people claiming aged pensions and thus increasing the burden on government.

    There are solutions, but they should be implemented with care so that they place the burden on those who can genuinely afford to pay more and who, by paying more, don’t see a massive incentive to reduce their savings and assets.

    To date, the changes have been totally counter-productive and economically damaging. By hurting the frugal sector of the upper working class, rather than the affluent, they make it financially more beneficial to NOT SAVE AND INVEST but to spend up big and rely on government handouts.

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      Rainey reducing the capital gains rebate would not affect any ones income at all. It would only affect the amount of tax they pay on any capital gain they have made on their investment when it is sold.

      When an investment is structured to not earn income, & only make a capital gain, it is the investor who is reducing their income, not the government. They are specifically postponing any earning to the future to gain a tax advantage today. Reduce the discount on capital gains, & it would encourage these people to invest in current income generating investments, giving them more income now, with less for their airs. This is surely a better plan for them & the economy.

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      Well thought out and written Rainey. Pretty much spot on.
      Hasbeen is not quite correct in his statement. Many of the now retired bought shares along the way as part of the overall retirement plan.
      Now that they are selling down the shares to live they will be hit with full CGT if there are changes.
      Shares bought over the last 20 years will be hit although there is most likely a provision to allow for inflation over that time.
      If my memory serves me it was for this reason that the 50% discount was brought in i.e. to save on the complicated calculations which when applied over the longer term averaged out at around 50% discount, given that the value of money decrease by about that amount every 10 years.
      If the full CGT amount is applied it will deplete their savings more quickly and put self funded and part funded on to the pension earlier and they will come back in at the faster taper rate which will cost the government more.
      So I think Rainey’s conclusion that it is probably an OK policy but part of a package, not just in isolation is correct.
      The asset test policy settings to be applied from Jan. 1st 2017 discourage saving beyond $400,000.00

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      thanks Rainey and peedee I think your memory is fairly reliable peedee as I am of the understading the 50 % discount is still a current ATO option in calculating the CGT on any Capital Gain event . The purpose is as you say to adjust and compensate for CPI inflation over the life of the investment the CGT should be completely abolished as the capital raised to buy the investment has already been taxed personally and some people think that any borrowings to fund investments do not have to be repaid
      Those who are forever wanting to increasingly tax investors and property owners sometimes think money is not earned by people who have saved their earnings and gone without for many years . The NSW state also slugs property owners with land taxes which are much higher than those in Victoria. Most people are paying a fair share of tax but I exclude the cash building tradesman and some small business who do not even charge GST

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      There is no capital gains tax on any investment purchased prior to 20 September 1985.
      The discount could, maybe, be cancelled or reduced further (it has already been reduced to 50% if investment held over 12 months) specifically on only negatively geared real estate. Surely, it is the negative gearing on homes that,in many peoples’ view, is “the problem” and not investments such as equity portfolios, businesses or commercial property.
      The whole question of all taxes should be the subject of a major review and overhaul, currently it is an absolute shemozzle and decisions should be bi-partisan politically.
      But, that WILL take much time, however, negative gearing of residential property, especially established homes, should be a totally isolated discussion and one that can be resolved by this year’s Budget. It IS a very urgent problem.

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      Grateful watch 4 Corners on the ABC tonight for an eye opener about how people avoid paying the proper amount of tax, not just here in Australia but all over the world.

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      Thanks peedee for backing me up on the CGT and retirement incomes, and for adding extra clarity.

      Yes, Hasbeen was mistaken. Retirees have to sell shares to fund living costs, especially after the cruel changes to the assets test cut in and slash the incomes of many to way below the pension level.

      Further, many retirees who have investment in managed funds and institutional super will see their income affected because the funds themselves will sell investments and pay more CGT. Please don’t try to tell me they won’t pass on the impact! Of course they will. And that could result in quite substantial income reductions for investors.

      This constant demand to slug the upper working class and the middle class, PRETENDING they somehow were ”lucky” and achieved savings without earning them, is doing serious social and economic damage. Misty mentioned the TRILLIONS hidden in tax havens by the rich. That is the area we should be targeting. If we want a healthy economy, we have to stop bashing people who worked, went without to save, and only achieved modest comfort. Destroying all the rewards and incentives – as the stupid change to the assets test did – will only do more damage to our economy.

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    I am struggling to comprehend that the normally iconoclastic Greens have come up with a plan to abolish the CGT discount that seems viable and worthy of consideration!

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    After most of a lifetime’s experience with a strong commitment to environmentalism and devotion to operating using an evidence-based approach there is nothing new in hearing people express surprise that “the normally iconoclastic Greens have come up with a plan to abolish the CGT discount that seems viable and worthy of consideration”.

    Such judgments are best placed on considering the plans put forward rather than relying upon what vested interests may say negatively about the messenger, often with little analysis of the content. To the extent that life has ever been thus, any change for the better is welcome. The Greens actually stress their commitment to an evidence-based approach so if people want to destroy their credibility it should be attempted on the evidence rather than the name call.

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      Well said, Bro.

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      The Greens didn’t use an ”evidence-based” approach when they STUPIDLY AND BLINDLY supported the dumb change to the assets test that leaves retirees who saved a little extra far worse off than those who spent more freely and only have around $400,000 in the bank.

      Interesting article I read recently SHOULD have been studied by all politicians prior to the change being approved. It clearly evidenced that even if you have $800,000 in assets (plus just $25,000 in personal/household and liquid cash) delivering 7% return (almost impossible in today’s environment), your income áfter Jan. 2017 is less than a pensioner with $300,000 in the bank unless you deplete your assets substantially, which will mean that you will be more reliant on the pension in the future. This is because you have to allow 3% of your income for inflation, so you only have 4% ($32,000) to live on, whereas a pensioner couple with $300,000 in the bank receives nearly $34,000 pa + pension benefits (valued at around $2500 p.a.) + any return they achieve over 3% on their $300,000 invested. All up, the self-funded retiree is likely to be $10,500 p.a worse off for having sacrificed to save an extra $500,000.

      Obviously if the self-funded retiree can’t achieve 7% return, they will be far worse off. At just 3% interest, having saved an extra $500000 will cost them up to $40,000 per annum. At that rate, it won’t take long for their savings to evaporate, especially if they have to sell assets at a loss in a down market to get cash to live on.

      There is a massive incentive here for people to reduce their savings for retirement, and of course that will drive pension costs through the roof.

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    Why Punish those who have saved their $$ during their working life.
    Will the Government provide homes for those who can’t afford them when us private home landlords pull the plug due to lack of return.

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    I don’t mind abolishing or reducing the CGT for investment purposes but with some amendments, the family home should be exempt and maybe allow 1 investment property CGT discount but abolish the discount for any others.

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      Again, Misty, that’s a simplistic response that ignores the real impact of changes, even though it sounds good on the surface (like the assets test change did, but in fact analysis proved it very damaging).

      Increasing CGT will mean investors in managed funds and institutional super and those who have to sell assets to fund living costs (because they can’t get a pension) will have their income further slashed. Many of those affected will already, after January 2017, be far worse off than aged pensioners. How much more income-slashing can they stand?

      ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Stop bashing the battlers and start addressing the trillions in tax havens.

      I don’t object to a CGT change IF it’s part of an overall review of the tax and pension system. In isolation, it’s yet another potential disaster.

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    Capital Gains tax should be abolished entirely ie zero tax’ People have already paid personal income tax on their savings to enable funding for any investment and that is more than enough They also pay state land taxes on property investments and stamp duty on probate when they die ie Death taxes it is only those who are envious of people who accumulate their savings who want to tax them out of existence its called socialism also leave negative gearing for deduction of legitimate expenses and interest etc as it is The socialist seem to think all these expenses are made up and do not realise it is paid from investors hard earned

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      I”m sure your right too Dan.
      We are taxed in live then in death too….hell, is there NO end.
      When do we actually get to enjoy life!
      Without the banks also putting out their hand as well for their cut, and i think the gov’s also putting out their hand on parts of your saving too…… Geez greedy little suckers.
      And now they wanna survery us….
      I don’t think i’d eve be bothered to respond!!!

      YourLifeChoices Federal Budget 2016/17 Survey:
      What do you want?

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      Spot on Dan . Too many here sound like takers and want government to provide all .Bottom line CGT is theft by government . They need more because they spend so badly . No thought to spending only what they can collect so they think up new ways to increase the take . In my book they legalise theft .
      And for those here always having a go at the rich (of which I am not one ) , the rich already contribute way more than most . They pay higher taxes , employ more people ,spend more and thus pay more GST and become the target of ever increasing ideas or new taxation .
      For those who want to live under socialism , find your favourite working socialist country and emigrate . Oh , sorry , there are none !

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      Torch the real problem here is that if the Government (of any hue) tries to curtail spending up go the howls of protest from those who perceive they may ‘lose-out’. On the other hand if the Government attempts to raise more revenue, up go the howls of protest yet again from those who may ‘lose-out’. And often its the same people doing the howling on both sides of the equation.

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      Dead right KSS. You’ve nailed it. If people would stop reacting out of self-interest and start thinking about the good of the country and all who live in it, I think we might all actually be better off. But the political parties carry much of the blame for this behaviour, the way they encourage hate and dissatisfaction among “the Australian people”. (I preferred it when we were just Australians).

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      Agree Happy Cyclist – but we need to determine properly what is self-interest and what is in the nation’s interest. For example, removing all incentive to save and all reward for saving for retirement isn’t in the nation’s interest. The changed assets test is destructive both socially and economically, and those impacted had every right to scream.

      Tinkering with the CGT could well have similar detrimental effects. I don’t necessarily agree with abolishing the CGT, unless there are other measures to compensate. For example, we know that people negatively gear property to benefit from CG and CGT concessions. Abolishing CGT would increase the propensity to do that unless negative gearing were also abolished.

      Nothing is as simple as it looks, and the real problem we have is that the government constantly tinkers, instead of instigating a comprehensive review and overhaul, and every change has an undesirable side effect.

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    Abolishing the CGT discount is NOT “raising taxes” as some self interested people claim, it is removing a distorting RORT!!
    Why do 63% of people interviewed consider that their chikldren will NEVER be able to afford a home??
    Why have house prices that sold for $120, 000 in 1996, $200,000 in 2012, now sell for a minimum of $600,000??? Supply and demand?? Garbage!!!
    Two elementary basic CAUSES, the highly generous taxation benefits incorporated in negative gearing, compounded and exacerbated by the removal of the law that previously prevented money to be borrowed in superannuation funds to purchase real estate.
    Housing changed from being for housing, into a highly lucrative investment commodity as a result and we then saw the “supply demand” ratio alter dramatically with genuine home buyers having to compete with cashed up (borrowed) investors using tax payer subsidies to gamble with real estate, thus, virtually eliminating first home buyers from the bidding “war”.
    Now, the opposition’s suggestion of changing the rules to only be able to negatively gear new houses has at least a three pronged immediate benefit. It will create more new homes and by increasing the supply will balance the supply demand ratio and will keep down costs AND create more jobs in the building AND building supply and furnishing industries!! What jobs are created when someone buys an established home by comparison????

    This is not an anti negative gearing policy, or will raise rents. Genuine investors will in fact be able to negatively gear TWO first homes for the same price that they now pay for one. Simple example:- Now one has to borrow around $600, 000 to pay for a $700,000 (AVERAGE priced) home, paying around $33,000 per annum interest on top of $33,000 stamp duty. They would need to rent the property for, say, $500 per week to “suffer” a loss of $7,000 just on the rent (the negative gear).
    But, for that same $600,000 borrowed, the could by two new homes, using the required personal collateral rules in both cases, costing around $36,000 p.a. on top of $35,000 in stamp duty, but, renting each of them for, say, $300 per week each, and “suffer” a smaller loss for taxation purposes.
    Win/win/, investor has two properties instead of one, the there are two properties available for rent and that rent is $200 per week LESS. The taxpayer also has less to subsidize!!
    And that’s just one example. How the government argues against doing ANYTHING against the current negative gearing rules beggars belief!!!!!!!

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      My kids are buying houses . They worked and saved and earn way more than wages in the 90’s. My first home in the 70’s was a real stretch too . wandered how the heck I would keep up the payments . So I worked 3 jobs and the kids mum stayed at home .
      You make lots of ascertains but they are not facts , just your unsubstantiated opinions .
      By the way there are no negative gearing rules just for property . It is long held that the costs involved in earning an income are tax deductible . All income ,which includes the costs involved in gaining rental income . Not just a wrought for the rich .

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      Sorry Torch but not all costs involved in earning an income are tax deductible these days, unfortunately.

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      Torch. I paid for our home on very basic wages, my two children both own their homes outright and are on average incomes, but, they purchased them before 2000. I bet my grand children will never be able to do that under the current rules. A no brainer, BUT, can be remedied!!!
      There will be FAR more winners than losers if something was done to reduce the cost of housing!!! How many family breakdowns are occurring due to financial problems mainly brought about by mortgage stress or rent affordability?
      Time to start looking at the bigger picture and to start being less self interested. Everyone needs to help to get us out of this, what I call, major community disaster.

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      Grateful, CGT doesn’t only apply to real estate. You would be surprised at the effects abolishing or reducing concessions might have. For example, almost everyone would see the growth of their superannuation fund reduce, because most super funds are invested in managed funds that trade shares, or trade shares directly. Many low-income retirees would find their incomes reduced yet again, and those who have to sell shares to fund lifestyle would suffer substantial losses, which would put more pressure on the pension system.

      That is not to say the concessions shouldn’t be changed or even abolished, but not in isolation to examination of the impact and changes elsewhere to compensate for detrimental changes.

      It’s a bit over the top to suggest that CGT concessions are always unfair or benefit the wrong people, or that there will be far more winners than loses by changing them. If you look at the bigger picture carefully, you will see that things aren’t as simple as you paint them.

      Here’s just one example of how things are NOT simple: Two decades ago, I started a campaign for reform of a particular area of taxation. It was based on knowing a couple who sold land at a profit and faced a huge CGT bill. Now, that couple had bought the land to build on, but were later transferred in their jobs and had to sell to by elsewhere. Because it was a private purchase, not business, at the time they were unable to claim deductions for rates, lawn mowing, water charges, etc. Although they sold at a profit, the land in the area where they were buying a replacement block was the same price as the land they sold, but because of the CGT, they couldn’t afford to replace their land, so their plans to build a home were set back 3 years. In that situation, CGT is clearly cruel and unfair.

      This is why I say you cannot ”tinker” here and there with the tax and pension system. It needs a total rethink and restructure from the ground up. The pension system is now a total disaster, with a million inherent flaws that encourage dishonesty and planning that is against the national interest, and discourage saving. And the changed assets test made it a thousand times worse. The tax system is a similar mess, due to decades of irresponsible ”tinkering” – changes here and changes there that have impacts nobody considered.

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    The way it used to be, when I was in the investing mode, the easy rule of thumb to estimate your CGT was to halve the profit and add the rest to your taxable income. This “updated” income figure was what you would be taxed on, the difference in your unrevised tax figure and your new tax figure being your CGT. Should this still be close to the way CGT is paid, by simply reducing the amount exempt from tax will certainly help fill the trough, and those helping to do this would be those in a position of monetary capability – the property investors, share market dabblers, money market mongers, and NOT extra-income pensioners.

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    If you are trading stocks and shares daily, capital gains are profit. If you bought a house in 1996 and then sold it in 2016, you have not made a profit. Inflation has increased the value on paper, but it remains the same house. For example, I bought my house in 1996 for $83000 and today it has a value of $500000. Following the Greens’ logic, I would pay tax on $420000 as a profit, which is nonsense.
    When John Howard introduced the 50% discount, it was to simplify the capital gains system where adjustments were made for inflation, before calculating any profit. If the 50% discount were to be scrapped, then the old inflation calculations must be reintroduced, and the government might get less tax than they do today.

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      Sandgroper, under current rules the house you buy that is your principal residence i.e. the home you actually live in, is NOT an investment and not subject to CGT at any rate. However, that little holiday shack by the coast, or the studio apartment near the university originally intended for the student offspring and no longer used by them etc ARE investments. As I see it, the only way your home could be seen as an investment is if you bought it with superannuation and it remains in your superfund as an asset – much like that share portfolio or the artwork on the walls.

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      So, KSS, if a couple buy land to build on and then can’t because they are forced to move due to employment, it’s okay to apply CGT to the ”profit” made from inflation, even though the real value of their asset didn’t increase at all and in fact they suffered huge loss due to having to pay stamp duty and legals to buy elsewhere?

      It would be nice if the system was a simple as some seem to want to think, but it isn’t. That holiday shack might have been bought with the intention that after the kids stopped using it, it would fund retirement. Forced to sell because of pension changes, now the retiree faces a massive loss due to CGT changes. How much punishment should the responsible, hard-working, careful planner have to stand? A lot of them are really struggling now – with income cut in half due to falling investment returns and loss of pension benefits. If we just keep on taking from the battlers who work, save and invest for their future, we’ll have a nation of bludgers and big spenders who need full pensions in retirement and government funded aged care. The next step, then, will be to abolish or slash benefits so poverty increases.

      Sadly, this is what the self-righteous green-eyed out there are pushing for – a world where there is no reward for working, saving, planning and investing, so no incentive to do what’s good for the nation.

      CGT concessions are a major driving force behind the profits of most super funds. The impact of abolition would be much greater than most here can imagine. And there are many situations, such as the one described above, where to levy CGT would be patently unfair and cruel.

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    We are in a situation where the nations budget is out of balance. Forget about the blame game as to whose fault it is as both parties have to carry their share of the blame.
    The question is how is it to be fixed and we cannot get a reasoned approach from the LNP are they are locked into the Institute of Public Affairs mantra of lower taxes.
    The countries that are managing best in these difficult times are the Norway, Sweden etc who are actually high tax countries. Compared to Australia they are very high tax countries BUT the taxes are, largely, well spent on their citizens.
    Excellent health care, education, welfare and other services. Yes they have their problems but not to the extent we have as we follow the American path toward unrestrained capitalism with its dog eat dog approach and only the wealthy win.
    As long as this mania of lower taxes persists it will be impossible to get a reasoned debate on the economy and we will all suffer.

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      Yes Tom. Wonder how this forum would have been if it started after tonight’s Four Corners?????

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      Well Grateful we can check in tomorrow and see if anyone’s opinion has changed or though I doubt it will make any difference to a lot of investors.

    • 0
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      Well said, Tom Tank.
      Our Liberal/National Govt is hell-bent on tax cuts, but the budget deficit is what they promised to fix. So if there are any savings to be made then that’s where the money should go.
      However, they tell the public they are all for cutting income taxes, (and any party left of Malcolm, the “socialists”, won’t!), knowing that the rich and poor, working or otherwise, will be suckered in to voting for them to get a tax cut.
      Unfortunately, the tax debate has deteriorated into a screen for the upcoming election, and electors are notoriously naive to such manipulation.
      If the Govt is serious about savings, why doesn’t it save us $500million+ right now, and ditch the plebiscite on same sex marriage? The Libs can’t sack Malcolm as PM, because then they’d be as bad or even worse than the Labor “knives in the leaders’ backs”.
      Show some guts and soul, Malcolm!

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