Mayor seeks tax concessions for Bundaberg Region

tax concessions
Mayor Jack Dempsey with Jenny Burgess at the Booyal Hall centenary celebrations.

Bundaberg Regional Council has proposed that Federal Government remote-area tax concessions be extended and trialled in the Bundaberg Region.

Mayor Jack Dempsey raised the proposal in a submission to the Productivity Commission Review of Remote Area Tax Concessions and Payments.

In November last year the Federal Government asked the Commission to review remote tax assistance measures to ensure they remain fair and contemporary.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Government was responding to concerns that the current remote tax assistance has failed to keep pace with a changing Australia.

The Zone Tax Offset, Fringe Benefit Tax remote area concessions and Remote Area Allowance provide financial support to people living in remote areas.

“The locations eligible for these forms of assistance are determined by geographic zones, defined in tax legislation, which have remained largely unchanged since they were established in 1945,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“Concerns have been raised that the remote area tax assistance has not fundamentally changed over a number of decades to reflect changes in demography, infrastructure and cost of living.”

The Productivity Commission is due to provide a draft report in August.

Mayor Dempsey said Council appreciated the opportunity to comment.

“The Bundaberg Regional Council area is not currently classified by the Australian Tax Office as a remote area,” he said.

“As such our region does not qualify for any of the concessions or allowances being considered in the review.

“Given the definition of remote Australia is largely based on arrangements established as far back to 1945, we believe the Productivity Commission's Review is well overdue.

“Our submission seeks that the review recommends similar concessions and allowances available in remote Australia be trialled in the Bundaberg Regional Council area.”

Bundaberg Region should be selected for a trial because:

“With the highest recorded unemployment rate in Australia, the relative social and economic challenges facing our region are higher than any region covering remote parts of Australia. New tax concessions and allowances would help address this this issue,” he said.

“The Australian Government's Cashless Debit Card trial in our region requires further policies, such as new tax allowances and concessions, to effectively support disadvantaged Australians living in our region.

“The wider Bundaberg region is also home to one of Australia’s most abundant agricultural food bowls, with over one quarter of the state's agricultural workforce employed in our region.”

Mayor Dempsey said the Bundaberg Region’s agricultural sector has potential to better position Australia’s role in feeding Asia over the coming decades.

“Similarly, the trialling of new agricultural tax concessions and allowances in our region could leverage this potential, creating thousands of new jobs that will help address local unemployment,” he said.

The Local Government Association of Queensland submission says tax concessions should provide an economic benefit to compensate for socio-economic disadvantage.

“LGAQ annual conferences of Queensland’s 77 councils have, over a number of years, carried resolutions calling for a review of the Zone Tax Offset and related remote area living incentives to improve the effectiveness of such measures in supporting remote communities,” the submission says.

It suggests the Zone Tax Offset be increased to $10,000.