Submission In Response To The Tax Discussion Paper

COTA Australia is the national policy organisation of the eight State and Territory Councils on the Ageing (COTA) in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, ACT and the Northern Territory.

COTA Australia’s focus on national policy issues is from the perspective of older people as citizens and consumers and it seeks to promote, improve and protect the circumstances and wellbeing of older people in Australia. Our submissions incorporate the views of our members and broader constituencies developed through various consultation mechanisms.

COTA welcomes the opportunity to make a brief response to the Tax Discussion Paper and looks forward to engaging in the broader consultation process on taxation reform.

In this submission COTA proposes a number of principles to underpin the tax system in general and in regard to taxation of savings in particular; and identifies some aspects of the tax system that have the greatest impact on Australians in older age.

While COTA sees value in contributing to the Tax White Paper process, we wish to stipulate that we do not see the review of the tax system by itself as an adequate platform for the examination and necessary realignment of the retirement incomes system. This is reinforced for us by the general absence of broader non-economic considerations in the Discussion Paper and the limited recognition of the connection between tax policy and other areas of public policy.

COTA has lead the way over the past year in calling for a dedicated independent Retirement Incomes Review that looks in an integrated way at taxation, transfer payments, superannuation, mature employment, later life housing, and financing aged care. We have over the year been joined in that call by a growing number of stakeholders including business peaks, superannuation peaks, community organisations, academics and policy think tanks. We firmly maintain that such a review is required to understand the complexity of the retirement incomes system and to find ways to strengthen its adequacy, fairness and sustainability into the future.

An important driver of our argument for an integrated Retirement Incomes Review is to ensure that a long-term view is built more firmly into retirement incomes policies. We hold the same position in regard to the Tax White Paper process. The review of taxation arrangements should not be undertaken with a short term agenda of ‘Budget repair’. It should take a long term view, with a key goal of encouraging all citizens to save for their future, in the context of an older and longer-lived population.