Australia’s federal government clearly sees its program of annual reductions in the company tax rate as the core element in its plan for “jobs and growth”.
There is now a large – though by no means uncontested – body of evidence to support the contention that reductions in company tax rates can support faster rates of GDP growth and higher wages. It does this by stimulating higher levels of investment and hence higher levels of labour productivity.
But there is very little evidence supporting the favouring of small businesses over large in this regard. The significant preference which both this budget and its predecessor have extended to small businesses appears to owe much more to a desire to bow before small business than to any unambiguous economic rationale.
Small businesses have accounted for only 18% of the increase in employment over the most recent five years for which data are available, while firms with more than 200 employees – which the ABS defines as “large” – have accounted for 52% of the increase in total employment over the past five years, despite accounting for less than 32% of total employment. And large businesses are more likely to engage in “innovative activities” than small ones, especially ones with four or fewer employees.
In other words, if the government wanted to cut company taxes in a way that was most likely to result in increased job creation or higher levels of innovation (assuming that cutting company taxes would have that effect), it should have cut company taxes for large companies ahead of small ones. But that would have been exceedingly difficult, politically, in the current climate.
The other key element of the government’s ten year enterprise tax plan is the increase in the tax threshold for the second-top marginal rate from $80,000 to $87,000. The government says this will prevent “average full time wage earners … from moving into the second highest tax bracket”. But when you consider the difference between gross and taxable incomes, and that most people use deductions to reduce their taxable income, $87,000 is far from average.
The budget seems to be saying to people with taxable incomes of less than $80,000 – if you want to pay less tax, get yourself a negatively-geared property investment.
The budget is also arguably saying the same thing to people with taxable incomes of more than $250,000, people who have already contributed $500,000 to superannuation over the course of their lifetimes, or people who already have at least $1.6mn in their superannuation accounts. The message is if you put any more into superannuation, we are going to tax you more, but if you put it into a negatively-geared property investment, we won’t touch you, because (in the words of the Treasurer’s Budget Speech), “that would increase the tax burden on Australians just trying to invest and provide a future for their families”.
I am quite comfortable with the budget’s proposed changes to superannuation arrangements. But I can’t see why people – even wealthy people – who are “just trying to invest” through superannuation should be singled out for less generous tax treatment, while people who are doing exactly the same thing through negatively geared property (or other) investments should remain unscathed.
The Treasurer reportedly toyed with the idea of limiting “excesses and abuses” of negative gearing, with caps on claims. This would have more or less exactly paralleled what the budget seeks to do with regard to superannuation.
The decision not to go down that path was reportedly “a political – and not an economic – move”.
But it has, and will have, economic consequences.
Combined with the Reserve Bank’s latest cut in official interest rates, the budget’s decisions and non-decisions with regard to income tax cuts, superannuation and negative gearing are likely to encourage more Australians to borrow more money in order to invest in the property market. At a time when Australia has one of the developed world’s highest ratios of household debt to GDP or personal income, and amongst the developed world’s most expensive residential real estate.
This is a condensed version of a longer essay on the 2016 federal budget.
Saul Eslake does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
Saul Eslake, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Tasmania
Originally Published On: http://www.econotimes.com/
Experts warn of ‘debt bomb’ as housing downturn worsens
That’s according to the sobering 60 Minutes segment Bricks and Slaughter which aired last night, revealing the country’s property downturn was just the tip of the iceberg.
According to reporter Tom Steinfort, the current slump is actually “more like falling off a cliff”, with a number of real estate and finance experts claiming houses could plummet in value by up to 40 per cent in the next 12 months.
If that happens, it would also cause an economic “catastrophe”.
Mr Steinfort spoke with data scientist Martin North from Digital Finance Analytics, who said Australia was uniquely vulnerable when it came to an economic crash tied to a property downturn.
“At the worst end of the spectrum, if everything turns against us we could see property prices 40-45 per cent down from their peaks, which is a huge deal,” he said.
“That’s higher than any other country in the Western world by a long way.
“There’s probably no country in the world more susceptible to the ramifications of a housing crash than Australia. We are uniquely exposed at the moment.”
Mr North said Australia was now in the same position as the US was back in 2006 and 2007 — a position which triggered an economic collapse.
“As a society, and as a government, and as a regulatory system, we’re all banking on the home price engine that just goes on giving and giving and giving. It’s not going to,” he said.
“We’ve got a debt bomb, we’ve got a debt crisis and at some point it’s going to explode in our face.”
He said foreclosures had also risen by 600 per cent in the region.
“The mortgage stress is definitely being felt especially in this area,” he said.
60 Minutes also spoke with several Aussie homeowners who gave harrowing details of the stress they faced trying to pay off their mortgages, including having their power turned off and being “hounded’ by their banks.
What does a million dollars buy in Aussie capital cities?
Market analyst Louis Christopher of SQM Research said the market had been “clearly overvalued”, labelling the downturn as the “correction we had to have” — at least in Sydney and Melbourne.
“On our numbers, Sydney was effectively over 40 per cent overvalued. And Melbourne was overvalued by about the same amount,” he said.
But property investor Bushy Martin said the blame lay squarely at the feet of buyers who “mortgaged themselves up to their eyeballs” in a bid to snap up dream homes before being able to afford them.
However, the segment has also sparked backlash online, with some claiming the situation had been exaggerated.
One Reddit user branded the report as an example of “alarmist journalism and scare tactics”, while another said it was “dramatic and cringe-worthy”.
Others also criticised the segment for making it seem like all homeowners would be affected, when the downturn was actually mainly focused in the NSW and Victorian capitals.
And some said it was unfair to blame the banks for the situation, and that homeowners needed to take responsibility for their own decisions.
That was in response to comments made by one homeowner on the program, who said the bank had “suddenly switched the mortgage to interest and principal”, raising his repayments by 57 per cent.
“The interest only part annoyed me the most. The bank didn’t ‘suddenly change’ your repayment from (interest only) to (Principal and interest) your IO term expired. You a) knew this would happen and b) assumed the bank would renew it when it expired. I hope this speculator gets burnt first,” one Reddit user said.
Related article: Experts warn of ‘debt bomb’ as housing downturn worsens
Australia’s best place to invest is here in Queensland
EXPERTS are hailing Queensland’s Sunshine Coast as the hottest place in the nation to invest in property right now.
A lack of housing, a tight rental market and a rapidly growing population mean supply is failing to keep up with demand in the region – creating perfect conditions for investors.
Leading real estate industry figure John McGrath said the Sunshine Coast presented one of the best opportunities for capital growth because of its liveability, affordability and future economic prospects.
“From an investment point of view, where in Australia right now can you invest your dollar and get better returns than the Sunshine Coast or southeast Queensland?” Mr McGrath said.
” I don’t think there is a location that’s going to offer better investment growth in the future.”
His views are echoed by prestige property agent Tom Offermann of Tom Offermann Real Estate, who claims the Sunshine Coast “is on the cusp of the highest growth period in its history”.
“This is being driven by a raft of infrastructure projects that are delivering exceptional lifestyles, which in the past required some compromises for people coming from big cities,” Mr Offermann said.
The region is in the midst of an infrastructure boom, with billions of dollars being invested in upgrading and creating new facilities.
Work is underway on a new runway at the local airport, which is set to become international by 2020, and a new hospital and health precinct has recently been established.
“These are game changers,” Mr Offermann said.
“Astute property investors who recognise what is happening, and take action to secure the best located property they can afford, will reap the rewards of their foresight.”
Local agents say the region is crying out for more investment properties to cater to the needs of the increasing population.
According to demographer Bernard Salt, the Sunshine Coast’s population of around 298,000 residents is set to rise to 550,000 in 23 years, which will require more than 100,000 new homes to be built.
The latest Real Estate Institute of Queensland figures show the rental vacancy rate on the Sunshine Coast is just 1 per cent, with Caloundra having the tightest vacancy rate in the state at just 0.5 per cent.
It’s good news for investors, who are currently achieving healthy rental returns of around 5 per cent.
In its recent report, Herron Todd White noted an increase in investor activity in the Sunshine Coast market, with the sub $350,000 unit and townhouse sector particularly popular.
“It’s not uncommon to see townhouses selling for $220,000 attracting a rental of $280 per week – over 6.5 per cent gross return,” the report said.
For investors looking to capitalise on the growth in the region, McGrath Real Estate founder John McGrath said now was the time to get into the market.
“I think there is a great opportunity, in particular right now, because we’ve seen Sydney and Melbourne have shown unprecedented growth over the last five or six years,” he said.
“Now those markets have come to a plateau and a lot of people are going to be saying; ‘Do we take our profits and reinvest them, or, in fact, do we move up north and get better value for money?’
“So, I think right now there’s a terrific window of opportunity where people can capitalise on the immense growth we’ve seen in the southern states.”
Reed & Co director Adrian Reed the increased international access the new airport would provide would likely change the profile of buyers in the Noosa region.
“We’re currently seeing an increase in Australian expats buying back into the market, but if accessibility becomes easier, we’re expecting a more aggressive upward trend in high-end premium property,” Mr Reed said.
He said that lending restrictions and the impact of the banking royal commission had had little impact on the region’s prestige market.
“The vast majority of deals I’m doing at the top end of the market are cash,” he said.
“They’re self funded retirees who’ve already sold their principal place of residence.”
Owner/builder Paul Saunderson, who is selling his home in Noosa Heads through Peter TeWhata of Tom Offermann Real Estate, said the local market was “out of control at the moment”.
“There are houses getting knocked down and new dwellings being built everywhere,” Mr Saunderson said.
He said the contemporary, four-bedroom, three-bathroom property at 20 Sanctuary Ave, Noosa Heads, which he lived in with his wife and two children, was attracting strong interest from interstate and overseas investors.
“It’s a good investment opportunity because it’s been valued as holiday letting, which is anywhere from $6000 to $10,000 a week during peak season,” Mr Saunderson said.
Jamie Smith of Century 21 On Duporth in Maroochydore said he’d never seen so much activity in the Sunshine Coast property market, with strong interest from both local and interstate investors.
Mr Smith said many investors were looking to buy in the less expensive suburbs, where new housing developments were popping up, such as Caloundra, Sippy Downs, Birtinya and Mountain Creek.
“It’s definitely unprecedented in terms of what we’re seeing on the Coast,” he said.
But Mr Smith said investors who were not already in the market needed to act fast.
“If you were here three years ago, you could have bought between $400,000 and $500,000,” he said.
“Now you’re looking at anywhere from $600,000 plus, so it’s definitely changed a little bit.”
SUNSHINE COAST SUBURBS FOR BEST CAPITAL GROWTH
Suburb Property type Median price 12 month change in price
Minyama House $1.31m 45.8%
Kenilworth House $399,000 40%
Yandina Creek House $820,000 32.3%
Beerwah Unit $375,000 25%
Mount Coolum House $676,200 23.2%
Mapleton House $543,250 21.3%
Mudjimba House $739,500 20.7%
Peregian Springs Unit $475,200 18.8%
Battery Hill House $579,500 18.4%
Montville House $707,500 17.9%
Queensland is the next property hotspot, experts say
As New South Wales and Victoria continue to experience weakness. Queensland is expected to take the lead, a National Australia Bank (NAB) poll of property professionals revealed.
According to the survey, industry experts project house prices in Queensland to increase by 0.7% next year and 1.3% in two years.
Some areas seen to perform strongly over the next year include Brisbane, Cairns, the Gold Coast, and the Sunshine Coast. Out of the suburbs, Coomera and New Farm are expected to realize robust gains.
Meanwhile, Queensland’s rental market is also poised to enjoy an upward boost, growing by 1.3% next year and 1.9% in two years. This is despite the stricter rules on housing investment.
The respondents of the survey also expect Queensland to retain foreign buyer interest. In fact, the share of foreign sales hit a four-year high of 22.8% over the previous quarter.
The results of the survey go against NAB’s own projection of the market. For instance, the bank expects house prices to remain flat in Brisbane over the next three years. Unit prices, on the other hand, is seen to fall by 4.5% over the next year.
NAB chief economist Alan Oster said Brisbane’s housing market seemed to be going sideways and its unit market still creates concern.
“It hasn’t peaked yet, so that’s good. We’re seeing quite strong economic activity in Queensland, so that always helps,” Oster said, as quoted by The Courier-Mail.
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