Paying back Australia’s COVID-19 debt

Authors: Trevor Rose and Robert Breunig (Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU)

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a sudden and steep increase in Australia’s public debt, as in most other countries. This report investigates and assesses ways in which Australia can bring its debt down to fiscally sustainable levels through the tax and transfer system. Scenarios are modelled over time frames of 33, 20 and 10 years, and over historically representative variations in interest rates and economic growth. Individual revenue raising policies are considered in the areas of: personal income tax, corporate income tax, Goods and Services Tax (GST), Capital Gains Tax (CGT), the age pension means test, inheritance tax and federal land tax. Each policy is assessed on its ability to pay down the debt in a manner that is economically efficient, equitable and simple. Overall, we find that the best option is a federal land tax on unimproved land value, set at a rate of 0.1% over a 33-year period. Three other policy options are recommended as alternatives: including the principal residence in the pension assets test, introducing an inheritance tax, and reducing the CGT exemption for the principal residence.

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On the news

Tax landowners to repay COVID-19 debt, ANU study says, Financial Review, by John Kehoe (29 July 2022)

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