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On August 4 the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) raised a number of questions about tax reform.

After the Government released its tax plan, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council took some time to study the plan and Bishop Manning, the Council's Chairman, then commented on the plan. The ACSJC has now had the opportunity to study the Opposition tax plan and to comment on it using the framework set out on 4 August. The following comment on the Opposition plan is briefer and less detailed than the comment on the Government's tax plan, reflecting the modest scope and lack of detail of the Opposition plan. Bishop Manning said that the Opposifion's tax plan fails to provide a comprehensive reform of the tax system, and it does not fully address the tax reform questions raised by the ACSJC. Bishop Manning's statement follows.

How will you ensure that the tax system is fair, especially for the poorest?

'The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council's first concern in the area of tax reform is equity. We expect to see a tax system that is fair, especially for the poorest. The tax breaks in the Opposition's package are well-targeted at low to middle income earners.

'The move to address the effects of bracket creep by increasing the threshold income at which the top marginal tax rate commences is welcome, but will assist middle rather than low income earners. More needs to be done to make the current tax system fairer.

Will you increase the proportion of revenue raised through indirect taxes?

'The Opposition's tax package does not appear to change the tax mix significantly by increasing the proportion of revenue raised through indirect taxes, although there will be some new taxes on goods previously not covered by the Wholesale Sales Tax.

'While it is generally appropriate to tax 4 wheel drive vehicles as passenger vehicles, care must be taken not to disadvantage people in rural Australia who do not use their 4 wheel drive vehicles primarily as an alternative to conventional passenger vehicles around city streets.

'A wholesales sales tax can allow different treatment of different kinds of goods. Caviar and business jets are different in nature than staple foods. It is unfortunate, however, that the Opposition tax package attempts only a tokenistic rather than systematic reform of the Wholesale Sales Tax.

Will you introduce or raise taxes on necessities?

'The changes to the tax system by the Opposition do not include new or higher taxes on necessities.

'Addressing tax avoidance and closing loopholes should not be put in the too hard basket. The ACSJC is concerned that more work is needed in this area.

How will you ensure that families are not disadvantaged compared with those who have no dependants?

'The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council would like to see a tax system that does not disadvantage families compared to those with no dependants. We welcome the Opposition tax plan's introduction of tax credits for working families and the decrease in the current family allowance taper. While not wishing to encourage a tax cut bidding war, the ACSJC notes that the Governmenrs tax plan provided a greater decrease in the family allowance taper.

''It is appropriate that a tax system should treat those with children differently to those without children, recognising both their contribution to society and its costs.

Will the tax system be adequate and sustainable?

'Governments need to raise sufficient revenue to provide the community with certain goods, services and infrastructure as well as meeting repayments on previous borrowings. It is by no means clear that the Opposition's proposed tax system would provide sufficient revenue to fund essential social services in a sustainable way.

'Tax reform is a key issue at this time precisely because the current tax system is not providing sufficient revenue. The Opposition package does not address this issue effectively. It does not broaden the tax base or increase revenue.'