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The economic impact and efficiency of state and federal taxes in Australia

Jason Nassios, John Madden (), James Giesecke, Janine Dixon, Nhi Tran (), Peter Dixon, Maureen Rimmer, Philip Adams and John Freebairn

Centre of Policy Studies/IMPACT Centre Working Papers from Victoria University, Centre of Policy Studies/IMPACT Centre

Abstract: The Henry Review of Australia's Future Tax System (2009), made several recommendations to promote resilience, fairness, and prosperity via tax reform. Some of the key reforms suggested include a reduction in Australia's federally-imposed corporate income tax rate from 30 to 25 per cent; and the removal of property transfer duties levied by state governments. The review by Henry et al. (2009) utilised a long-run, comparative static computable general equilibrium (CGE) model of the Australian economy to study the tax system. Implicit within this framework is a single layer of government. In reality, Australia's state government levied tax rates differ across the eight states and territories; some, such as state land tax, health insurance and life insurance levies, are applied in a subset of states and territories only. A general lack of interstate coordination is evident in setting, developing and reforming Australian tax policy. In this paper, we present a meticulous and detailed analysis of Australia's state and federal tax system, using a bottom-up multi-regional CGE model of Australia's states and territories, called VURMTAX. The general framework underlying VURMTAX is similar to the Monash multi-regional forecasting (MMRF) model and its successor VURM; see Adams et al. (2015). A state/local government agent therefore operates within each region, with an overarching federal government agent operating across all state and territories. VURMTAX differs from MMRF/VURM in several ways. For example, we include new theory to model the interaction between Australia's corporate and personal tax system via full dividend imputation. This involves the introduction of two types of investment agents: foreign and local investors. In VURMTAX, the tax rate levied on corporate profits accruing to these two classes of investor differ, because only the domestic investor can claim franking credits. We also give careful consideration to industry-specific foreign capital ownership shares. This means the mining sector, for example, has a larger foreign capital ownership share than the economy-wide average in VURMTAX. We also modify the standard Klein-Rubin utility function that governs the consumption choices facing region-specific representative households in MMRF/VURM, to take account of important distortions in consumer choice caused by Australia's tax system. More specifically, we model the impact of housing tenure choice distortions introduced by owner-occupied housing exemptions in state land taxes and personal income tax, using a nested CES framework. The elasticity of substitution between rented and owner-occupied housing is then calibrated based on findings from an appropriately specified discrete choice model of housing tenure choice. We also alter the standard household decision theory to properly account for the impact of property transfer duties on the demand for the bundle of goods typically consumed by households or businesses when moving house or factory/office. We call this bundle of goods moving services. These services include real estate services contracted to sell a house/buy a property, legal services contracted to prepare necessary transfer forms, and public administration services that are demanded to formally update title office documents. We also account for the impact of motor vehicle taxes on transport modal choice by households. As such, when the motor vehicle registration duty is increased in VURMTAX, we allow for direct modal substitution between, e.g, road passenger transport (taxis), and private transport. Among other theoretical developments, we account for the impact of jurisdiction-specific payroll tax thresholds in Australia on the output levels of monopolistically competitive firms, which yields insights into whether a reduction in payroll tax rates or a rise in payroll tax thresholds are more effective means of stimulating a regional economy. We also embed within VURMTAX a detailed equation system to account for Australia's goods and services tax (GST). We apply this new theory to quantify: (i) the relative economic efficiency of unilateral state tax policy reforms in a single Australian state, New South Wales (NSW); (ii) the excess burden of Australia's three main federally-imposed taxes; and (iii) the broader macroeconomic, state and industry impacts of federal tax policy, and unilateral state tax policy, reforms. Our assessment of the relative efficiency of NSW state and Australian federal taxes yields a set of marginal and average excess burdens, which are summarised and discussed. In total, we calculate excess burdens for nineteen major Australian taxes, of which sixteen are levied at the state/local government level. In addition to our study of the allocative efficiency impacts of the various state and federal taxes, detailed long-run (21 years postreform) results are provided and described, to quantify the economic and industry effects of Australian tax policy reforms. With regard to state taxes, we find residential property transfer duties to be the most damaging of the state government levied taxes. More specifically, we derive a marginal excess burden for residential property transfer duties that exceeds 100 cents per dollar of revenue raised. Contrary to many past studies of Australia's tax system, we also derive a negative marginal excess burden for company tax in Australia. We compare and contrast this result to past studies, and elucidate some key differences in parameter assumptions and modelling methodology that drive this result.

Keywords: Taxation; policy; CGE; modelling; Dynamics; Excess; burden (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C68 E20 E62 H2 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019-04
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-mac, nep-pbe, nep-pub and nep-ure
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