Originally published in The Guardian on December 15, 2022

When you reduce the revenue available to fund government services, you inevitably increase inequality

Much has been made in the debate around the Stage 3 Tax Cut that the cuts themselves massively favour the wealthy and make our income tax system less progressive. But as Policy Director, Greg Jericho, notes in his Guardian Australia column the latest survey of Household Income Distribution reveals that is only the beginning of the problem.

Taxation works to redistribute the national income, but taxes alone play only a small part. The real work in lowering inequality and raising people out of poverty comes from government benefits and crucially the provision of government services like public health and education.

The poorest 20% of households have just 4.1% of all private household income in Australia. After taxes, this rises to 4.7%. Once you include government benefits it rises even more to 8.1%. But when you also include the dollar value of public education, health and other government services it rises to 12.1%.

Without properly funded broad government services, Australia’s society would be much less equal as low t middle income households would be forced to battle the private sector for access to vital services.

Given the massive cost of the Stage 3 tax cuts, which in their initial year cost $17.7bn – roughly the same as the cost of the PBS, and $6.2bn more than the federal government will spend that year on public schools – the policy threatens to not just make the tax system less fair, it will also significantly affect the ability of the government to provide the necessary services that create a better and fairer society.

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