The tax treatment of earnings generated from owning shares is complicated. Because it is complicated most people think it is boring. Because it’s boring we don’t discuss it much. However Australia’s dividend imputation system is important, unique to the world and comes with approximately a $30 billion dollar a year price tag. So whatever you think about Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen’s announcement it is a good thing they have got us talking about one of the least understood aspects of tax policy in Australia.
The complexity of the Australian tax system hides many sins, one of the most inequitable of which is the fact that some of Australia’s wealthiest citizens pay negative tax. The ATO actually hands other people’s money to some of the wealthiest people in the country. Indeed, while Centrelink chases some of our poorest citizens for seven-year-old debt, one lucky non-taxpayer actually received $2.5 million in “tax credits” in a single year.