The first lesson one learns in Economics 101 is that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. The Victorian Treasurer, Tim Pallas, has applied that lesson in dramatic fashion with substantial tax increases announced in the State Budget on 23 May 2023. Faced with a burgeoning interest bill rising to $8 billion a year, Victoria will raise taxes for 10 years to pay off the massive debt accumulated to address Covid.
In this article we summarise the critical changes announced:
From 1 July 2023, large businesses with national payrolls above $10 million a year will temporarily pay additional payroll tax. A rate of 0.5 per cent will apply for businesses with national payrolls above $10 million, and businesses with national payrolls above $100 million will pay an additional 0.5 per cent.
For businesses above these thresholds, the payroll tax rates from 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2033 will be:
Note that the apportionment of thresholds for the Mental Health Levy is different from payroll tax hence it will not always be correct to say that the combined rate is 6.85% on Victorian Wages where the National Payroll exceeds $100m, for example.
As a concession to small business, from 1 July 2024, the payroll tax‑free threshold will rise from $700,000 to $900 000 and then to $1 million from 1 July 2025.
From 1 January 2024, the tax-free threshold for general land tax rates will temporarily decrease from $300,000 to $50,000*. Those who pay land tax will attract a temporary additional fixed charge starting at $500 for landholdings between $50,000 and $100,000. There will be a $975 fixed charge for landholdings above $100,000 and the tax rates will temporarily increase by 0.1 per cent for both general and trust taxpayers with holdings above $300,000 and $250,000 respectively.
In table form, the effect will be:
*Trust’s already have a lower threshold of $25,000.
For example, the land tax payment for the owner of an applicable property with an unimproved land value of $1 million will rise from $2,975 currently to $4,650; on a $2 million property it would rise from $12,475 to $15,150; on a $5 million property the payment would increase from $78,975 to $84,650 and for a $10 million property up from $206,475 to $217,150.
Please note that the amounts in the table and examples above have been derived from the limited information in Budget Papers and Press Releases and are subject to confirmation. Further, the rates and thresholds are scheduled to return to the current ones from 1 January 2034.
In a business productivity reform, the rate of insurance duty on fire and industrial special risks, public and product liability, professional indemnity, employers' liability, and marine and aviation insurance will be reduced by 1 percentage point each year from 1 July 2024. The reductions will continue until the duties are abolished.
Transfer duty on commercial properties
Transfer duty will be removed on the acquisition of commercial and industrial property from 1 July 2024. It will ultimately be replaced by an annual property tax at the rate of 1% of the property’s unimproved land value.
However, the first purchaser of a commercial or industrial property after 1 July 2024 will be able to choose to either pay the property’s final stamp duty liability as an upfront lump sum, or transition to an annual payment immediately by opting to pay fixed instalments over 10 years equal to stamp duty and interest with a government-facilitated transition loan. Once a property enters the new system after this time, transfer duty will never again be payable on an acquisition of commercial and industrial property and the annual property tax will apply. It seems that properties acquired from 1 July 2024 will be subject to both the duty/ instalments and the annual property tax which will commence ten years after settlement.
A national perspective
In recent years, Victoria has led the Australian tax reform endeavour with such innovations as the foreign person residential property surcharges, vacant residential land tax, windfall gains tax on land rezonings and mental health levies. Most states and territories have followed suit in part. With the transfer duty reform, Victoria follows ACT and South Australia in their gradual (and it must be said, bipartisan) moves away from upfront duties to annual property taxes.
However, the Victorian Government strategy of increasing tax to reduce debt contrasts sharply with its Labor Party cousins who were recently returned to office in NSW. The Minns Government in NSW has vowed to repeal the very popular First Home Buyers Property Tax Option introduced in January this year by the former LNP Government. Instead, the NSW Government wishes to return to transfer duties and, in fact, ultimately add to deficit and debt by raising the duty-free thresholds.
The Victorian Government’s moves are controversial and will be very unpopular amongst those paying considerably more tax. No doubt there will also be damaging side effects. It must be said though that the Victorian Government is prepared to take responsibility for its overspending in recent years. That is in sharp contrast to the Commonwealth and to a certain extent other states and territories who have been kicking the debt can down the road in the hope that economic growth will pay it off. With budgets to follow in Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, ACT and NSW in the next few months and seeing Victoria’s move, there must be a realistic prospect of higher taxes on payroll and property in some other parts of the nation.
If you require assistance or would like to know more about the announced tax changes, please contact your usual Mazars advisor or alternatively our Tax specialists via the form below or on:
Author: Stephen Baxter
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