Tax and Equity

Tax and Equity
Year published: 2016


Tax and Equity in Australia: What Australians Want—the 21st ANUpoll in the series—asks Australians what they think about these issues in the Australian context. Should we be worried about governments holding debt? Which areas of spending should have priority, and which can be cut? Should we pay more tax, or less? Is our tax system generally fair?

The ANUpoll has found Australians are divided on the importance of government debt, with just less than half believing it to be the most important economic issue facing Australia. It also found people prefer the government to spend more on social services rather than cut personal taxes, with strong support for more spending on health, education, aged care, domestic violence prevention and aged care.

The ANUpoll found 60 per cent of Australians believe the current tax system is fair, although Australians believe low-income, older people and families with children pay too much tax while high income earners, large companies and multinationals don’t pay enough.

The ANUpoll on Tax and Equity in Australia, comes a week before the Turnbull government delivers its first budget, and ahead of national elections increasingly likely for early July.

“The ANUpoll finds the importance of reducing government debt is a polarising issue in Australia, but the findings on taxation could challenge conventional wisdom on what Australians really want from their governments,” said Associate Professor Ben Phillips, from the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods.

“More Australians favour greater spending on social services than favour reducing taxes, and if reducing debt is the aim, cutting welfare payments is the least popular option.”

ANUpoll found:

  • 51 per cent disagree that reducing debt is the nation’s most important economic problem;
  • 55 per cent prefer more spending on social services rather than tax cuts, while 36 per cent support tax cuts over more social services spending;
  • To lower debt, 37 per cent prefer non-welfare spending cuts, 25 per cent support a higher GST, with compensation for low income earners;
  • 41 per cent support cuts to negative gearing or capital gains tax concessions as a way to fund personal tax cuts;
  • Around 90 per cent believe international companies pay too little tax;
  • And, around 80 per cent believe large Australian companies pay too little tax.

Asked if the government had to choose between higher taxes or lower spending on social services, 54 per cent of those polled favoured higher taxes compared to 32 per cent for less spending on social services.The result represents a major shift in public sentiment since the question was last asked in 2013, when only 30 per cent favoured more spending on social services. The number of people who favour lower tax remains the same, at 36 per cent, as in 2013.

“Australian attitudes on spending versus taxation have shifted markedly since 2013, coinciding with election of the Liberal-National coalition government,” said Dr Jill Sheppard from the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods.

“ANUpoll clearly shows Australians are open to the idea of tax reform, as long as any changes are fair to all levels of society,” she said.

This ANUpoll, conducted by the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, is a national telephone survey of 1,200 people who were interviewed between February and mid March this year. It is designed to inform public and policy debate, as well as to assist scholarly research. ANUpoll is an important contribution that ANU makes to public debate about the key social issues facing Australia and the type of country in which we want to live.

Updated:  7 October 2016/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications