Tuesday 8 August 2017
Unlike the members of the Liberal partyroom, many Australians may not be familiar with the details of discretionary trusts. Let me give you a simple example of the problems that Labor's reform seeks to address. Right now, there are professionals in Sydney who are taking professional service income into a discretionary trust. They are then paying that out to their parents. The parents then turn around and pay the grandchildren’s private school fees. Private school fees paid out of pre-tax income is the sort of lurk Labor is trying to crack down on. But those on the other side of the House never saw a tax lurk they did not want to defend. They never saw a loophole they did not want to fight for. They never saw a tax haven they did not think was reasonable.
Robert Menzies' party of 'home ownership for all' has become 'celebrating buying an investment property for your one-year-old'. The party of the forgotten people of middle Australia has become the party that will raise taxes on middle Australia rather than crack down on discretionary trusts. The party that once stood for small business has become the party of $65 billion in big business tax cuts. The party of the bottom-of-the-harbour schemes, actually, is still the party of the bottom-of-the-harbour schemes.Read more
A Postcode Should Not Shape A Person's Destiny
HuffPost, 9 August 2017
The late historian John Hirst once told me that if you took a time machine back to the 1800s, the streets of Sydney would remind you more of Charles Dickens’ London than modern-day Australia. Landless labourers slept rough on the streets, while affluent landowners wore top hats and were saluted by police officers.
Australia wasn’t just more unequal, it was more static. The child of a labourer expected to be a labourer. The son of a lawyer looked to follow in his father’s footsteps. Going back centuries, surnames like Baker, Smith and Cook are a reminder of how little mobility there used to be among our European ancestors. Your surname was your job, and your parents’ job, and their parents’ job.
As Australia became more equal in the post-war decades, we probably became more mobile. Finishing school and attending university no longer depended on having rich parents. We became a society based more on merit than the luck of birth. In the 1950s and 1960s, economic growth boosted middle incomes more than top incomes – and spread opportunity through society.
But over the past generation, we have seen the opposite trend. Since the mid-1970s, real wages have grown by 72 percent for the top tenth of workers, but by just 23 percent for the bottom tenth. If child care workers and cleaners had received the same wage gains as financiers and solicitors, they would be around $16,000 a year better off.
Rising inequality has direct costs. An economy that benefits only the fortunate few isn’t just unfair – it’s likely to be unhappy and unstable too. But inequality also risks harming social mobility; making it harder for a bright child from modest circumstances to make it to the middle class.
This pattern, dubbed ‘The Great Gatsby Curve’ by economist Alan Krueger, shows up across countries. The most equal nations – such as Denmark and Norway – are also extremely mobile. The most unequal countries – such as Chile and Peru – are scarily immobile. Children are far more likely to move from rags to riches in nations that have a smaller gap between rich and poor. The same pattern shows up across cities in the United States: equality and mobility go together.Read more
The same-sex marriage postal vote is just a tactic designed to deal with the Liberal Party's internal issues - Transcript, Sky AM Agenda
SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 7 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECTS: Marriage Equality; Newspoll
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now on the program the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Thanks for your time. This idea of a postal vote with a set date for a Parliamentary vote potentially by the end of the year, you can make a case against a plebiscite but if it were to happen, surely Labor and the advocacy groups can win it and be done with it?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: As Malcolm Turnbull said 20 years ago about a postal vote, it will ‘push to the margins of our political society those people who are already on the margins’. This is just a tactic designed to deal with the Liberal Party's internal issues. Australians support same-sex marriage and the majority of parliamentarians support same-sex marriage. We're the last advanced English speaking country not to allow same-sex marriage. We didn't have a plebiscite the last 20 times we changed the Marriage Act, including in 2004 when John Howard changed it so as to prevent same-sex marriage. This is nothing but a delaying tactic. We need to get on and provide equality to same-sex attracted Australians so they can tie the knot before grandparents pass away. Tori Johnson…Read more
Young Social Entrepreneurs
The Chronicle, 1 August 2017
One of the most inspiring things that I do as a local MP is host breakfast for young social entrepreneurs.
Sunny Forsyth, Neha Pathak and Tristan Skinner work with Abundant Water, which distributes water filters in developing nations such as East Timor. Through Raize the Roof, Lincoln and Danielle Dal Cortivo are supporting seriously ill children in the ACT and orphaned children in Botswana.
Hannah Wandel leads Country to Canberra, providing mentoring support to young women in rural Australia. Francesca Maclean started Fifty50 to promote gender equity in science and engineering. Maddeline Mooney is exploring the need for a new body that looks at mental wellbeing in the deaf community.Read more
ABC TRIPLE J HACK
WEDNESDAY, 2 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECT/S: Inequality; HILDA survey results; Housing affordability; Labor’s plan for a fairer tax system for all Australians.
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: I want to bring in the Shadow Assistant Treasurer who is also an economist, Andrew Leigh, thank you so much for joining us on Hack.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Pleasure, Stephen. Great to be with you.
STOCKWELL: It's lovely to have you here now to start with, from the stats we've just heard it is very likely that if you were a young person today you would be living with your parents, would you like the sound of that?
LEIGH: Well I think young Australians want options, just as the generation before them had. The real risk that we've got today is that we might have a generation that for the first time since the 1930s, are worse off than their parents were.Read more
ABC NEWS 24
WEDNESDAY, 2 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECT/S: Inequality; HILDA survey results; Labor’s plan for a fairer tax system for all Australians
ROS CHILDS: Let's get more reactions to today's HILDA report which shows a growing wealth divide across the generations which has been compounded by rising house prices. I'm joined by Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Overall, what do you think of the picture painted by the HILDA report?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It's a pretty grim one if you are a member of Generation Y. You’ve seen the under-40 home ownership rate drop from more than a third in the early 2000s to now only a quarter. More and more young Australians are living with their parents. It means that that Australian dream, the notion that if you take a middle-class job, you can afford to buy a home in a decent suburb, is slipping out of the grip of many Australians. Comes on the back of these other statistics showing we have got the highest household debt load in the world and suggesting that increasingly Australia is moving from being a nation of home owners to a nation of renters.Read more
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
ED HUSIC, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE DIGITAL ECONOMY
ERROR 404: RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT NOT FOUND
Another day, another article on IT outages at the Australian Tax Office.
The ATO is trying as hard as it can, but it’s been left struggling thanks to staffing cuts by the Coalition. Just last week we read reports that the Turnbull Government is planning to continue with its cuts over the next three years, climbing to almost $30 million in cutbacks.
Australians deserve better than this Pushme Pullyu of a policy. Labor has repeatedly called for an investigation into these interruptions, but Malcolm Turnbull has team have done nothing to reassure the public. He needs to step up and ensure the Tax Office has the support it needs to do its job.
Labor has constantly asked the agency designed to help digital transformation is doing to help the ATO. They've always said nothing. Now that they have been shamed into acting, the test is whether they will improve things.
WEDNESDAY, 2 AUGUST 2017
Labor is not only making our system more equitable but also pursuing pro-growth policies - Transcript, Sky To The Point
SKY NEWS TO THE POINT
MONDAY, 31 JULY 2017
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for a fairer tax system for all Australians;
KRISTINA KENEALLY: I think we've given Andrew Leigh enough time to consult his factsheets.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Yes we saw you sort of busily studying. I would have thought that you would have already know the policy well enough that you don't need to be rereading to remind yourself 5 minutes before the interview.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Peter, it's a mark of how much detail we've released in this ten page factsheet, significantly more substantial than anything you'll see from a Government budget night announcement that even I can't keep it all in my head at the same time. So just going through some of those finer points that I'm sure you will be wanting to delve into.
KENEALLY: We're going to get into those in just a minute but I have a burning question since the NSW state conference this weekend, Andrew Leigh. We have a photo here of the NSW Senators and MPs on stage awaiting the arrival of Bill Shorten and I thought hang on a moment, right there next to Jenny McAllister, there's someone who doesn't look like they're from NSW. Andrew Leigh what were you doing interrupting on the stage there?
LEIGH: Kristina when we're talking about inequality and tax fairness, it's frankly pretty hard to keep me away. These are topics which I think are fundamental to building a better Australia and was very pleased to have the opportunity to assist Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen in the development of the policy.Read more
MONDAY, 31 JULY 2017
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for a fairer tax system for all Australians.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, he is part of Bill Shorten's team. Good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Raf, how are you?
EPSTEIN: How many trusts will pay more tax because of this?
LEIGH: Something in the order of around 300,000 trusts, affecting only around 2 per cent of taxpayers. This is dealing with the issue of income-splitting, which is a trick by which high income professionals have been able to use multiple tax-free thresholds. Where a regular wage earner gets to have their one tax-free threshold, there has been increasingly this practice of income-splitting which has meant that people have been able to use adult children and sometimes the tax-free thresholds of their parents to pay less tax than regular PAYG taxpayers.
EPSTEIN: I guess the obvious question is how do you know you're hitting income splitters and not genuine small businesses?
LEIGH: Because that's exactly the way the policy is designed, Raf. There has been some speculation around taxing trusts as companies. We looked at that, but we thought that that would have exactly the sort of unintended results that you're talking about there. What we've done is build on work that John Howard put in place in 1980 as Treasurer. He changed the rules at that stage and so that for people trying to distribute money to children, those children would then pay the top marginal tax rate. We haven't said that people will pay the top marginal tax rates for distributions to mature age beneficiaries, we've said instead it would be a 30 per cent tax rate. But it does go to exactly that same issue of income-splitting.
EPSTEIN: How do you know you're not going to hit people? There might be someone distributing to people in the trust and they’re not at that 30 per cent, they're a genuine part of a small business you might hit them?
LEIGH: Well Raf, if you're an employee of a small business then the regular arrangements continue, you're unaffected by this. But if passive income is being distributed through a discretionary trust, then you pay a 30 per cent tax rate on that. If you look at who is getting the benefit of trusts, they're heavily skewed to the top end, the richest fifth of Australians have almost all of the wealth that is held in discretionary trusts. This is about making sure that our system is fair, that you don't have what Bill Shorten has correctly called a two class tax system in which one set of taxpayers simply have a single tax-free threshold while another set of taxpayers get to make use of the tax-free thresholds of their family members.Read more
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
A FAIRER TAX SYSTEM FOR ALL AUSTRALIANS
Today Labor is announcing new plans to improve our tax system so that it is fair for all Australians.
A Shorten Labor Government will introduce a standard minimum 30 per cent tax rate for discretionary trust distributions to mature beneficiaries (people over the age of 18).
Labor’s policy will tackle the use of income splitting to minimse tax – making the tax system fairer and improving the budget bottom line.
Australia currently has a two-class tax system. While most people pay the tax that they owe through normal PAYG arrangements, the system includes generous subsidies and loopholes which allow some wealthier people to minimise their tax.
Wealthy individuals are much more likely to benefit from a trust than low and middle income earners. The average amount of money held in private trusts by the wealthiest 20 per cent of households is $123,000, while for the next wealthiest quintile it is just $4,000.
Individuals and businesses use trusts for a range of legitimate reasons, such as asset protection and business succession. But in some cases, trusts are used solely for tax minimisation.
Discretionary trusts allow for trust income to be distributed on an entirely discretionary basis. This means distributions can be artificially split between different people in lower tax brackets so that the tax paid on the overall amount is much less than it would otherwise be.
While artificial income splitting is completely legal, that doesn’t mean it is fair.