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/
How good an investment is south-east Queensland
Why do we believe we’ll see increasing investor interest in this market? Strong population growth, a diversified and growing economy, and substantial investment in infrastructure should combine to boost demand.
We expect that these factors will swell the number of white-collar jobs – increasing demand for office space, which in turn will push down vacancy rates and raise rental incomes. This should be good news for office property investors – especially those like Centuria Metropolitan REIT (CMA) that are already well-positioned in the market.
A significant and growing population
South East Queensland (SEQ) stretches from the Gold Coast up to the Sunshine Coast and across to Toowoomba in the west. As Australia’s third-largest population zone, the region has been growing significantly, particularly Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Interstate migration figures show a pattern of steady net migration, with Queensland the only Australian state with consistent net inflows of people from other states. In the five years prior to the 2016 Census, over 220,000 people moved to the Sunshine State – mainly to SEQ where nearly 90% of population growth occurred. This is important for property investors because of its implications for demand, but the trend is interconnected with other favourable factors.
A diversified economy poised for growth
Queensland’s economy is diversified across a range of industries including agriculture, resources, construction, tourism, manufacturing, and services. Over the past two decades, its economic growth has consistently exceeded the national average – and in our view this is likely to continue.
The resources sector is gaining momentum, and a significant pipeline of major infrastructure and development projects is helping propel economic and jobs growth, in turn increasing interstate migration and driving demand for both residential and commercial property.
Investment in infrastructure
A strong infrastructure program delivers more than business and consumer amenity – it generates jobs, drives investment, and facilitates population growth. The pipeline of infrastructure and development projects announced in the past few years is likely to have a material impact on the region – substantially improving its accessibility and amenity – most notably, Brisbane’s Queen’s Wharf precinct and the Cross River Rail.
Queen’s Wharf, touted as a “world-class entertainment precinct”, is an integrated resort development costing $3.6 billion and covering over 26 hectares with retail, dining, hotel and entertainment spaces. As Queensland’s biggest ever tourism project it will be a game-changer for Brisbane, attracting overseas as well as local visitors. Estimated to contribute $1.69 billion annually to the economy, it will employ more than 2,000 people during construction and an estimated 10,000 once operational.
The Queensland Government’s number one infrastructure project, the $5.4 billion Cross River Rail, comprises a new 10.2km rail line between Dutton Park and Bowen Hills, which includes a 5.9km tunnel under the Brisbane River and CBD. It’s the first major rail infrastructure investment in the inner city since 1986 and is set to generate urban renewal, economic development and the revitalisation of inner-city precincts.
Outlook for commercial office property investment
These factors indicate a region poised for growth – and for growing commercial property demand. CMA’s portfolio has a significant exposure to the area in general (six SEQ assets with a combined book value of over $480 million), with many of the individual assets located in those parts of Brisbane set to benefit most from these developments.
Our view is that Brisbane office markets, where five of CMA’s assets sit, are continuing to improve, with vacancies hitting a five-year low – indicating increasing tenant demand – and continued yield compression, demonstrating strong investment demand. Office sales hit the highest level in a decade during 2018 (at $2.35 billion), increasing 60% from 2017.
With the strong outlook for SEQ, we expect the region will continue to attract tenants and investors alike.
Queensland’s 100,000-property public housing shortfall revealed
Queensland has a severe shortage of social and affordable housing, an issue that is projected to get worse by 2036 according to new research.
More than 102,000 additional social houses are currently needed across the state, and 54,700 affordable houses are also needed with nearly 13 per cent of Queenslanders spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.
By 2036, Queensland is projected to need 254,300 more social and affordable houses – the second-highest unmet need behind NSW, the report found.
The new figures come from a UNSW City Futures Research Centre report on social housing shortfall across Australia.
Regional social housing shortfalls are higher than in Brisbane, the data shows, but Brisbane residents are slightly more likely to be spending more of their income on rent.
Housing Minister Mick de Brenni said housing affordability was a “big issue” for Queensland.
“Through the Palaszczuk government’s $1.8 billion Queensland Housing Strategy, Labor is driving key reforms and targeted investment across the housing continuum,” he said.
“The Strategy commits us to build more than 1000 affordable homes for Queenslanders, as well as a further 4522 new social homes to help ensure everyone has a safe, secure and stable place to live.”
Lead researcher Laurence Troy said 22.5 per cent of Australia’s entire housing growth must go to social housing to meet demand into the future.
“Our analysis shows that the sheer number of households in rental stress across the country means that if we’re going to meet the need, at least 12 per cent of all our housing by 2036 will need to be social and affordable housing – which is a very reasonable ambition in global terms,” Mr Troy said.
“To cover the backlog of unmet need and future need in Australia two in 10 new homes will need to be for social housing over the next 20 years, and a further one in ten for below-market affordable rental housing.”
Mr Troy said the research’s financial modelling found the “best and cheapest way” for governments to meet the need for social housing was to fund it through upfront grants and low-interest government financing.
“Delivering below market rental housing through the not-for-profit sector, as opposed to the private equity model, will save $3 billion a year by removing developer mark-ups and shareholder returns,” he said.
The financial modelling was commissioned by the NSW community housing sector.
Mr de Brenni said the state government was “listening” through its recent public consultation on rental reform and was committed to investing in affordable housing in partnership with community housing, to provide more subsidied homes for low income earners.
“We heard Queenslanders are struggling to afford rental properties in the suburbs close to where they work,” he said.
“Through our Build-to-Rent pilot project, we are seeking to work with the private sector to increase the number of long-term, affordable rental properties for low to moderate income earners, including key workers in health, early childhood and hospitality.
“Internationally, the Build-to-Rent model is delivering fantastic outcomes and facilities for tenants and we’re looking to see what the market is open to delivering here.
“The pilot, if it proceeds, will see $70 million invested towards delivery of hundreds of affordable rental properties for key workers in inner-city areas where affordability has been identified.”
Mr de Brenni said the registrations of interest for that pilot had seen strong market interest, and the department was considering the responses before calling for expressions of interest.
Treasury: Negative Gearing Reforms Will Have ‘Little to No Effect’ on House Prices
Federal Treasury has delivered a serious rebuke to the Coalition for exaggerating the impact of Labor’s negative gearing and capital gains changes.
In emails released under freedom of information, acting treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer requested the department fact check the Coalition’s claims that Labor’s policies would cause house prices to fall.
In response, Treasury issued a correction: “The [s]tatement is not consistent with our advice.”
“We did not say that the proposed policies ‘will’ reduce house prices,” the email reads.
“We said that they ‘could’ put downward pressure on house prices in the short-term depending on what else was going on in the market at the time.
“But in the long-term they were unlikely to have much impact.”
Labor has jumped on the release, with shadow treasurer Chris Bowen saying that the government had been “caught red-handed” misrepresenting Treasury’s advice.
For his part, treasurer Josh Frydenberg denied that the government was misrepresenting Treasury, pointing to the Financial Review’s take on the release that changes “could” put downward pressure on house prices in the short term.
Frydenberg quoted building industry group the Masters Builders Association figures.
“If Labor’s policy is in place you’ll see 32,000 fewer jobs and 42,000 fewer homes being built.”
House prices hit spending
It has been a difficult week in economic policy, with GDP figures released on Wednesday revealing that the economy has slowed significantly, entering a “per capita recession” for the first time in 13 years.
Retail trade figures for the March quarter were also sluggish, with falling house prices impacting wealth and spending.
RBA governor Philip Lowe highlighted the link between the two at the AFR annual business summit on Wednesday.
“The evidence is that a tightening in credit supply has contributed to the slowdown in credit growth,” Lowe said.
“The main story, though, is one of reduced demand for credit, rather than reduced supply.
“When housing prices are falling, investors are less likely to enter the market and to borrow. So too are owner-occupiers for a while.”