16 February 2018

Greens back Liberal motion for rates petition to go to committee for inquiry

| Ian Bushnell
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Generic apartment shot. iStock.

“There is a groundswell of opposition to the Chief Minister’s tax regime” – Alistair Coe.

The Canberra Liberals have succeeded in having a petition with thousands of signatures, calling on the ACT Government to reverse its method for calculating rates paid by unit owners, referred to the Public Accounts Committee for inquiry.

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe tabled the petition, initiated by Owners Corporation Network president Gary Petherbridge, in the Legislative Assembly, and a motion to refer it to the PAC was supported by the ACT Greens, which have social justice and equity concerns about the Government’s tax reform agenda.

“There is a groundswell of opposition to the Chief Minister’s tax regime,” Mr Coe said.

“In the past 12 months, hundreds of Canberrans have reached out to me and my Liberal colleagues desperate for help, some even pleading for mercy.

“This petition speaks volumes to the cost of living under a Labor-Greens government: it is proving too high for countless Canberrans.”

Mr Coe said that in the five years since Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s tax reform began, rates revenue had more than doubled from $209 million to $452 million, but stamp duty revenue had increased by a third from $239 million to $316 million.

“Some apartment owners have been hit with a double whammy, paying the highest rate in stamp duty while also being slugged by rate hikes,” he said.

The petition has gathered more than 5,500 signatures and claims the ACT Government has unfairly restructured how rates and land tax for strata residences is calculated, generating an additional increase in each residence’s rates of up to $940 a year above the overall rate increase, while the Average Unimproved Value (AUV) portion of land taxes has increased by as much as 170 per cent.

The petition says the Government hasn’t assessed the negative impact on potential homeowners and those existing homeowners contemplating downsizing, especially from houses to strata residences.

It says the Government also did not take into account how the change would lead to across the board rent increases in the ACT.

The petition calls for the Government to return to the method for determining rates and land tax which applied for strata residences until 2016-17, whereby every individual residential property receives the full entitlement to the sliding scale of rate and land tax calculations in determining their individual charges.

The ACT Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur said it was appropriate to consider the relationship between rates charged for single residential properties and apartments.

She said the Greens believed that the taxation system must be both economically efficient, and equitable for all Canberra residents.

“The move away from stamp duty to rates will increase the efficiency of our system, but we need to consider social justice as well,” she said.

“Given a number of existing inequities, the Greens are hopeful that the PAC inquiry will consider the concessions scheme and a range of other policy reforms to make our tax system fairer and more equitable for all Canberrans.

“For example, some rates deferment schemes, especially the Aged Deferment Scheme, are barely utilised, and remain inequitable and inaccessible. There are questions here as to whether the Government is doing enough to promote these programs to low-income households.”

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Our unit block of 17, majority owner occupier, would fit about 8-10 houses based on the average block size of our suburb. You do the math but the additional rates the ACT Goverment receives from our complex is significant yet we still walk through the same weed infested parks, drive on the same congested roads and pay for a light fail that we’ll barely use.

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