Aussies happy with tax levels

According to the results of a recent survey conducted by Per Capita, the attitudes of Australians towards the amount of tax they pay have changed for the better in the last three years.

In 2012, 35.7 per cent of Australians believed they either paid the right amount of tax or didn’t pay enough; whilst in 2015, 52.8 per cent of the 1413 adult Australians surveyed felt they paid the right amount or not enough. Only 37 per cent of survey participants currently believe they pay too much tax, compared to the 50 per cent who felt that way in 2012.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • 61 per cent believe the tax system favours the wealthy
  • 15.3 per cent thought it favoured those on welfare
  • 75.9 per cent felt that big business didn’t pay enough tax
  • 5.7 per cent believe that small business pays too little, with 43.9 per cent feeling they pay the right amount of tax
  • 51.9 per cent would be willing to pay more tax for better health and aged care services
  • 35.7 per cent would be willing to pay more tax for better schools, universities and TAFEs
  • 34.5 per cent said they’d be happy to pay more tax for better public transport
  • 50.7 per cent of 35 to 44-year-olds believe they are the most overtaxed
  • 54.4 per cent of those earning more than $200,000 a year also felt overtaxed.


According to Per Capita executive director David Hetherington, the most striking finding was that more than 60 per cent of respondents believed the tax system favoured the wealthy.

“In my view, I think we do need to address some of the unfair features of the tax structure to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share including looking at super tax concessions and negative gearing,” said Mr Hetherington.


Opinion: Share the load

So, Australians are generally happy with the amount of tax they pay however, the tax breaks for the wealthy and big business still rankle with many.

Negative gearing is one mechanism which remains under the microscope, although it is interesting to note that the split of those surveyed who wish it to be axed altogether (19 per cent) almost matches those who don’t (15.8 per cent). And while 39 per cent thought it should be restricted, 25 per cent didn’t have a view point, meaning that a quarter of the population either don’t care about negative gearing or simply don’t understand what it means. Of course, it’s important to realise that negative gearing doesn’t only relate to property and any changes to the tax measure could affect those who use it for other investments, such as shares.

It’s perhaps not surprising that, from those surveyed, there was little support for working longer to fund retirement, with 36 per cent instead agreeing that increased contributions was a better way of boosting retirement savings. While there is a growing call to end superannuation tax concessions for the wealthy, 23 per cent of those surveyed thought that additional tax concessions may help alleviate retirement funding shortfalls. Maybe taking from the rich and giving to those less wealthy would make our superannuation system more equitable?

With over 75 per cent agreeing that big business isn’t paying enough tax, it seems that the government can no longer ignore the need to chase such companies for payment. This was highlighted last week with news that American Express has effectively paid no tax on its Australian operations for seven years. How can this be? Your guess is as good as mine.

While discontent with these issues may be expected, what is possibly most pleasing is that, as a nation, we still see the benefit of investing our tax dollars in education and health care. To be able to access better education, 36 per cent of those surveyed would be happy with higher taxes and 52 per cent would gladly pay more in tax for better health care.

With the government currently collating responses to its call for submissions on its tax white paper reform, the message seems to be clear – Australians are happy to bear their share of the tax burden but would like the system to be more equitable. Big business needs to stump up its fair share of tax revenue and the government cannot continue to shy away from the need to make our superannuation system fairer and more sustainable for all, not just those using it as a tax avoidance measure.

Do you think you pay enough or too much tax? What tax measure(s) would you like to see introduced or indeed, abolished? Or do you feel that our tax system is actually working quite well?

Written by Debbie McTaggart

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