Is Philip Lowe proper to say our taxes may need to rise?

Lowe’s predecessor, Glenn Stevens, stated principally the identical factor earlier than passing the baton to Lowe in 2016. Australians had been “kidding ourselves” if we didn’t assume a “extra hard-nosed dialog” was wanted about “placing public funds on a sustainable medium-term observe”, Stevens warned in a farewell speech.

“Many troublesome decisions will must be made,” he concluded.


They’re troublesome decisions which now fall to Treasurer Jim Chalmers, who will ship his first funds subsequent month, adopted by one other in Might subsequent 12 months.

The straightforward possibility for politicians is to extend spending, reduce taxes, and depart funds deficits to future generations to repay.

In a world of rising borrowing charges, Lowe is urging Chalmers & Co. to purpose increased: “We are able to’t pay for these items on the nationwide bank card … I’d hope throughout this time period of parliament that you can begin addressing in all probability every of those three issues to pay for the providers that our neighborhood desires.”


Lowe’s feedback additionally echo these made by Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy in a speech in June which warned that: “Important medium-term spending pressures have emerged over the previous two years.”

On Kennedy’s reckoning, federal spending on incapacity care is ready to soar by 0.8 per cent of gross home product between 2018-19 and 2025-26, making it by far the quickest rising part of federal spending.

Spending on aged care can also be anticipated to develop by 0.3 per cent of GDP and defence spending by a few quarter of a per cent, with upward strain additionally on well being and infrastructure budgets.

General, federal spending as a share of whole financial output is anticipated to common 26.4 per cent within the coming decade, up sharply from a pre-pandemic common of simply 24.8 per cent.

Kennedy additionally canvassed the choices of tax hikes and spending cuts, warning: “The bigger measurement of presidency will must be balanced in opposition to the related prices, together with disincentives related to some taxes to work or make investments.”

Backside line from everybody? If we would like all the great issues, we’ve to pay for them.

Whereas economists are usually OK with authorities spending that enhances the productive capability of the financial system (i.e. helps to develop the pie), most additionally agree it’s a easy matter of equity that every era ought to foot the invoice for their very own recurrent spending, relatively than merely passing the buck to their youngsters.

So sure, taxes might nicely should rise if this isn’t going to occur.

The actual kicker is that households would do nicely to brace for the next tax burden no matter politicians resolve. In the event that they don’t resolve to boost income from less-distorting tax bases like land and consumption, taxes on private incomes will bear a heavier share of the tax burden.


Politicians beneath strain to repair the funds are unlikely to ship revenue tax cuts (a minimum of, not new ones). Over time, wage rises naturally push extra employees into increased tax brackets the place they pay increased tax charges.

Certainly, even factoring within the stage three tax cuts baked into laws, Kennedy warns the common private revenue tax burden is on track to strike a report excessive above 26 per cent of revenue by the tip of this decade.

Get it? Greater taxes are coming both method. The one questions are: on whom, and by how a lot?

In elevating the prospect of upper taxes, Lowe is hardly breaking new floor. He’s, nevertheless, highlighting an vital debate we have to have as a nation about which explicit taxes we’d like to make use of to fund our rising calls for for spending.

Jessica Irvine is a senior economics author with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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