The Great Victorian Tax Grab
Posted 19 May 21
Property tax hikes lift the lid of Pandora’s Box
The cold front that swept Victoria on Saturday brought with it an icy sting for Victorian landholders. With no industry consultation and contrary to its commitment last year to reduce property taxes, Victorian Treasurer, Tim Pallas, has released details of a number of property-related tax increases. The announcement comes ahead of this week’s State Budget, which will attempt to repair last year’s enormous $23.3 billion budget deficit.
The tax hikes include an increase in stamp duty and land tax, and introduce a new tax to seize a share of ‘windfall’ property development gains. Dressed up as an initiative to help make Victoria’s tax structure “fair and progressive”, these measures will hurt Victorians in every tax bracket.
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The consensus from last week’s Federal Budget was, everyone’s a winner. One week on and many of those Victorian winners have found themselves in a losing position. Homeowners, tenants and property investors will, in some shape or form, feel the effects of these tax increases.
The stamp duty increase will have a ripple effect, touching all participants in the state’s residential property market. It will encourage prospective buyers around the $2 million mark to look at cheaper options to avoid the extra duty, pushing more buyers into an already crowded segment of the market. Despite the State Government’s efforts to paint it as such, this will not only affect the top-end of the housing market but will trickle down to lower price points, particularly around the $1 million median house price range and compounding housing affordability issues.
Property investors, who are still grappling with high vacancies and rental arrears from COVID-19, will not absorb the higher land tax and will instead pass these costs through to tenants. Most significantly affected will be businesses operating out of offices and industrial properties.
The Government’s tax on windfall gains due to land rezoning will discourage developers from taking on projects. The tax on windfall gains will mean that many developments that would currently be considered profitable would not satisfy feasibility in the future and will not be pursued. This will lead to reduced supply in cheaper housing developments, creating upwards price pressure.
There are commercial property leases where land tax constitutes an outgoing recoverable by the landlord against the lessee. This will result in a direct cost increase of the lease. Transmission mechanisms will see this tax burden either reimbursed or filtered down to the lease cost.
The Australian economy is recovering better than expected from the COVID-19 pandemic, largely due to unprecedented government spending. This tax grab by the Victorian Government is, however, at odds with economic rehabilitation. While branded as a set of ‘Robin Hood’ measures, these policies might steal from the rich, but do not give to the poor and will reduce economic activity in the property sector. Are these tax changes a sign of what is to come as both Federal and State governments try to climb their way out of record debt? It seems Pandora’s Tax Box might be opening.
As we noted recently in our Federal Budget economic summary, fiscal policy is risking becoming blind to baked-in structural spending. Reversing spending is like driving over a political minefield (reference Abbott/Hockey). In Victoria, spending constraint is seemingly a foreign notion. The state is expected to receive an additional $6 billion in GST receipts over the forward four-year estimates, but such is the spending blow-out that even revenues of this magnitude can’t balance-out reckless spending. Victoria’s credit rating was cut in December 2020 from Aaa to Aa1 (Standard & Poor’s). On a balance of probabilities, expect more taxes and further credit rating cuts to come.
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State Government of Victoria