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The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle

OECD, October 2017

The 2017 OECD report The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle explores how gender inequalities persist in social and economic life around the world. Young women in OECD countries have more years of schooling than young men, on average, but women are less still likely to engage in paid work. Gaps widen with age, as motherhood typically has negative effects on women’s pay and career advancement. Women are also less likely to be entrepreneurs, and are under-represented in private and public leadership. In the face of these challenges, this report assesses whether (and how) countries are closing gender gaps in education, employment, entrepreneurship, and public life. The report presents a range of statistics on gender gaps, reviews public policies targeting gender inequality, and offers key policy recommendations.

Stuck in traffic? Road congestion in Sydney and Melbourne

Grattan Institute, October 2017

Road congestion charges should be introduced in Sydney and Melbourne. An examination of 3.5 million Google Maps trip-time estimates across more than 350 routes over six months of this year suggests both cities could face traffic gridlock in future unless decisive action is taken to manage congestion.

In the middle and outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, most drivers have a pretty smooth run most of the time. But commutes to the CBD can take more than twice as long as the same trips would take in the middle of the night.

In Sydney, CBD commuters from Balgowlah in the north and Hurstville in the south can expect delays of about 15 minutes on an average morning, far longer than commuters from other parts of the city.

In Melbourne, the worst delays are for people commuting from north-eastern suburbs, including Heidelberg, Kew and Doncaster. Drivers who have to use the Eastern Freeway and Hoddle Street in the morning peak are often delayed for more than 20 minutes, and the length of the delay can vary greatly from day to day.

Congestion charges should apply in the most congested central areas of each city. Key bottlenecks in Sydney include The Spit Bridge and the commute to the CBD from Drummoyne via Balmain.

Melbourne should introduce a “CBD cordon” congestion charge, similar to London’s. The cordon could cover Hoddle Street to the east, Royal Parade to the west, City Road and Olympic Boulevard to the south, and Alexandra Parade to the north, with motorists charged when they drive across the cordon into the city during peak periods.

People who pay the charge would get a quicker and more reliable trip, because there would be fewer cars on the road at peak times. People who can travel outside of the peaks would not have to pay, because there would be no congestion charge when the roads are not congested.

To make clear that the new charges are to help manage traffic flows rather than boost revenue, the money raised should be used to fund a discount on vehicle registration fees and improvements to the train, tram, ferry and bus networks.

Melbourne’s CBD parking levy should be doubled, to match Sydney’s and to further discourage city commuters from driving to work.

Public transport fares in both cities should be cut during off-peak periods, to encourage people to shift their travel to times when the trains, trams and buses are not overcrowded.

New city freeways are not the answer to road congestion.

New roads are important for areas of new growth or substantial redevelopment, but close to the city centres it is often more effective and always cheaper to invest in smaller-scale engineering and technology improvements such as traffic-light coordination, smarter intersection design, variable speed limits and better road surfaces and gradients.

Some of the great cities of the world have successful congestion pricing schemes, including London, Stockholm and Singapore.

For Sydney and Melbourne, congestion pricing would deliver city-wide benefits: not only reducing the amount of time we spend stuck in traffic, but also funding better public transport and a cut to car registration fees.

The bearable lightness of lost revenue: Negligible tax losses from poker machine reform

The Australia Institute, September 2017

With the Tasmanian Joint Select Committee on Future Gaming Markets considering the future of poker machines in Tasmania, community pressure is growing for poker machines to be banned from hotels and clubs, limiting them to casinos and the Spirit of Tasmania vessels. Concern that this proposal would reduce government revenue is misplaced.

Recent modelling by Professor John Mangan on behalf of Anglicare shows that banning poker machines from hotels and clubs would be a “non-complex means of reducing social costs of gambling while still providing gambling options in the State”. All three scenarios modelled by Mangan found an increase in Gross State Product (by between $21 million and $61 million per year), wages, profits and dividends (by between $11 million and $45 million) and employment (by between 183 and 670 full-time equivalent jobs). As Mangan concludes:

The Tasmanian Government is not dependent on taxation from poker machines.

This paper supplements Mangan’s research by calculating the loss of poker machine tax revenue that would ensue from a ban on hotel and club poker machines. This loss would be very small and could be accounted for by adopting higher tax rates for casino poker machines.

Published with ReachTel survey: poker machines

Strengthening the Medicare Levy to secure the future of the NDIS and other essential universal services

ACOSS, September 2017

This paper argues that the NDIS and health care services need a fair and robust revenue source to ensure they are there when people need them. It proposes four tests to assess competing revenue proposals, and applies them to six options including those from the Government and Labor.

A Progressive Medicare Levy – the Medicare top-up

David Richardson, The Australia Institute (June 2017). A new report models the impact of an increased Medicare Levy in comparison to a progressive Medicare Levy, more like income tax, on the spread of Australian income earners.

The Government proposes to increase the Medicare levy to 2.5 per cent of income from July 2019. That would mean a gradual switch in the tax mix from the progressive income tax to the Medicare levy; a ‘flat tax’ that raises the same proportion from higher and lower income earners.

Improving Co-operation Between Tax and Anti-Money Laundering Authorities

OECD (September 2015). Financial crimes, including tax crimes, threaten the strategic, political and economic interests of both developed and developing countries and undermine confidence in the global financial system. In a world of limited resources and increasing complexity government authorities must work closely together in a “whole of government” approach to best address these challenges.


Australia’s Tobin Tax arguments and evidence

Cameron Amos, The Australia Institute (March 2015). A tax on financial transactions, known as a “Tobin” tax, could protect superannuation investors, improve the operation of Australia’s capital markets and provide a source of tax revenue of over $1 billion per year, according to a policy brief from The Australia Institute.

EU Commission Labels UK Patent Box Harmful Tax Competition 
Institute for Fiscal Studies (October 2013).  EU Commission has opined that the UK’s Patent Box breaches the code of conduct for business taxation, which aims to prevent countries from operating policies that result in harmful tax competition. The Patent Box provides a 10% rate of corporation tax for the income deemed to be derived from patents. The policy, originally announced by the previous Labour Government, came into effect in April this year. Once fully in place it is estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility to cost 1.1 billion pounds a year. One aim of the policy is to encourage innovative activities in the UK. The government highlighted that the policy focuses on patents, as opposed to other forms of intellectual property, because they have “a particularly strong link to ongoing high-tech R&D”.

Intellectual Property Box Regimes: Effective Tax Rates and Tax Policy Considerations

Lisa Evers, Helen Miller and Christoph Spengel (September 2013).  Intangible assets constitute a major input and value-driver for multinational firms. Often, the related intellectual property does not have a clear geographical location and firms use this flexibility to relocate IP and the associated income to low-tax countries in order to reduce their overall tax bill. Consequentially, tax legislators struggle with how to tax income from IP. In this regard, the most significant policy innovation in recent years has been the introduction of Intellectual Property (IP) Box regimes that offer a substantially reduced corporate tax rate for income derived from patents and other forms of IP. In Europe, 11 countries currently offer an IP Box with tax rates varying from 0% in Malta to 15.5% in France. The contribution of this paper is threefold. First, it provides a comprehensive and systematic overview of the IP Box regimes in place in Europe. It addresses several aspects of the design of IP Boxes in detail which to date have received little attention, in particular the treatment of expenses related to qualifying income. Second, it incorporates IP Box regimes into effective tax rate measures for investment in a self-developed patent. In doing so, it is able to incorporate features of the tax base, including the treatment of R&D expenses. Third, it discusses IP Box policies’ design features and the incentives they create.


Gender Equity and the Henry Tax Review: Considering the “capabilities” approach
Miranda Stewart, University of Melbourne (30 Mar 2011).  A presentation by Miranda Stewart given at the Women and Tax Seminar at Melbourne Law School, and re-presented at the ACOSS National Conference in March 2011. It provides an overview of how the Henry Review can be interpreted in light of Amartya Sen’s “capabilities” approach, particularly as it relates to women.

Regulatory and Competition Reform Agenda: A high level assessment of the gains
COAG (August 2012)

The Productivity Commission was requested to conduct a 'preliminary high-level review' of sixteen areas of reform identified by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) at its April 2012 meeting.

Rorts and Loopholes: Tax Evasion, Avoidance & Tax Breaks
ACTU (September 2011)

This paper looks at the tax loopholes that allows for tax evasion to occur.

Catholic Social Services Australia Statement of Reform Priorities
Bishop Pat Power (September 2011)

Catholic Social Services Australia’s statement of taxation reform priorities in preparation to the Tax Forum 4-5 October 2011.

Tax Havens: Private Gains and Social Losses
Jason Sharman, Inside Story (20 May 2011)

An article in Swiburne University's "Inside Story" on tax havens, and how the biggest havens aren't on faraway islands.

What the public wants discussed at the Tax Forum
National Welfare Rights Network (16 Dec 2010)

Results of a poll commissioned by Welfare Rights and conducted by the Australia Institute in November 2010, investigating what topics the Australian public would like to see discussed at the upcoming Tax Forum in October 2011.