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Government’s problems with the backpacker tax are all of its own making

Greens Treasury spokesperson, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, provides the following response to the government’s increasingly desperate attempts to save itself from self-imposed humiliation on its backpacker tax.

Senator Whish-Wilson said, “The spree of media releases from the government and agencies yesterday shows that they are making it up as they go along with the backpacker tax; desperately trying to shift the blame to anyone but themselves over the farce that they created.

“The government’s latest position is that all backpackers will suddenly be required to pay 32.5% if its legislation is not passed, yet simultaneously they are arguing that backpackers are currently required to pay this rate right now. 

“If it is so clear that the default rate is 32.5%, and that the government’s proposed 19% will be a tax cut for backpackers, then why is the budget projecting an increase in revenue related to this measure? How can a tax cut deliver more revenue?

“The government needs to dust off the 2015-16 Budget Papers to understand why people think the current effective tax rate is zero.

“The government has also failed to provide any detailed information on how many backpackers are paying zero tax and how many backpackers are paying 32.5%. The government must release the data it has on how many backpackers are in each category or otherwise its argument is hollow. 

“The government is in full panic-mode because people are seeing through its spin and it is losing supporters every day. Just this week, two major Tasmanian farmers’ groups dropped their support for the government’s legislation.

“The Government’s backpacker legislation is bad for farmers, bad for the tourism industry, and is another example of a government that has no idea what it’s doing. The Greens will be voting this legislation down,” he concluded.

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Budget Measures 2015-16 — Part 1: Revenue Measures
Personal income tax — changes to tax residency rules for temporary working holiday makers

The Government will change the tax residency rules from 1 July 2016 to treat most people who are temporarily in Australia for a working holiday as non-residents for tax purposes, regardless of how long they are here. This means they will be taxed at 32.5 per cent from their first dollar of income.

Currently, a working holiday maker can be treated as a resident for tax purposes if they satisfy the tax residency rules, typically that they are in Australia for more than six months. This means they are able to access resident tax treatment, including the tax-free threshold, the low income tax offset (LITO) and the lower tax rate of 19 per cent for income above the tax free threshold up to $37,000.

This measure is estimated to have a gain to revenue of $540.0 million over the forward estimates period. The Government will provide $5.1 million to the Australian Taxation Office to implement this measure.

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