It is one of the least-used sentences in the English language: I want to pay more tax.

That’s how I feel after analysing Mitt Romney’s financials.

The Republican Presidential Nominee – worth an estimated $250 million – has finally released his tax returns for the past two years. From an income of $13.7 million in 2011, he paid $1.94 million: a tax rate of 14.1 per cent.


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This is lower than the rate paid by the average firefighter.

Anyone who thinks this is fair has rocks in their head.

In an eviscerating piece for the Daily Beast earlier this year, entitled Tax Me, For F@#$’s Sake! the multi-millionaire writer Stephen King says most rich folk would, “rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing Disco Inferno than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar”.

(In the interests of gender equality I would like to add the image of rich women setting their fannies on fire, to the strains of Bruce Springsteen.)

This is not about the politics of envy; it is about paying your fair share. Billionaire Warren Buffett famously complained about paying less tax than his secretary, due to loopholes created by George W. Bush.

This prompted President Obama’s doomed bid to pass legislation making tax codes fairer.

Perhaps we should consider similar laws here.

“The income tax system is absurdly inequitable when it comes to taxing the mega-rich, because most of their income comes from investment,” ACTU assistant secretary Tim Lyons recently told News Ltd..

My stomach churns as I recall the statement by the late Kerry Packer at a Senate Inquiry: “Of course I’m minimising my tax. And if anybody in this country doesn’t minimise their tax, they want their heads read, because as a government, I can tell you, you’re not spending it that well that we should be donating extra!”

I don’t like to write ill of the dead.

But I’m sure bilious billionaires could spare a few shekels for books for a school library, or medicine for a rural hospital.

Instead, the wicked witch of the west tells us to get out of the pub and work harder – for as little as $2 a day.

I tend to agree with Richard Glover’s contention that Ms. Rinehart is a Marxist masquerading as a billionaire to add fuel to the proletariat fire.

They seem to think the tax taken goes into a big Black Hole.

Instead, it is spent on disability services, roads, public transport, defence, police, fire stations – stuff we actually need.

The people who evade tax are the same ones who bleat about unflued heating in public schools and waiting lists for elective surgery. There’s a special place in hell for those who avoid tax because, “the gummint wastes it, anyway”.

This federal government could be accused of misspending money through poorly crafted policies and inefficiencies, but the majority of funds get to where they’re needed.

Personally, I think more should be spent on the disabled and less on defence; you might think the opposite … so … my tax payment for 2011/12 can go towards the NDIS, and yours to the military.


In the words of philosopher Alain de Botton, “Paying tax should be framed as a glorious civic duty worthy of gratitude – not a punishment for making money”.

If we adopted this attitude, we wouldn’t have a $19 trillion global black market codenamed System D.

According to the OECD, half the world’s working population is employed in the shadow economy; it will be two-thirds by 2020.

It’s not just arms dealers.

These are the jewellery sellers at flea markets; the cash-in-hand babysitters; and the coffee shops displaying the sign, “No credit cards”.

I’m as guilty as anyone of doing the odd cash transaction. Sometimes, there’s no choice. I’ve had stand-up fights with tradesmen, so they put my payment on the books –  I don’t want to rob the kids at the lovely little primary school around the corner.

Mitt Romney makes a big deal of his $4 million charity donations.

But as Stephen King, left, writes, “What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility… for the care of (the nation’s) sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts”.

So what can the Australian government do?

Economists repeat their mantra of “Raise the G.S.T” and taxing goods and services casts a wide net, collecting coin from those who reduce their taxable income.

But raising the G.S.T. – or broadening it to include fresh food – would hurt those who could least afford it.

We should consider a wealth tax.

This is being proposed by Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, at the Liberal Democrat’s annual conference.

“It’s just wrong that people on low and middle incomes who work hard and play by the rules are taxed so much while Russian oligarchs pay the same council tax as some people do on a family home,” he says.

As we stare down the barrel of a slowdown in China, the rich should do reverse Oliver Twist and say, “Please, can I give some more.”



I’m Glad I’m an Atheist

Marr on Abbott: Below the Belt?

Sex and the Ballot Box


*Tracey Spicer is a respected journalist who has worked for many years in radio, print and television.
Channel Nine and 10 news presenter and reporter; 2UE and Vega broadcaster; News Ltd. columnist; Sky News anchor …it’s been a dream career for the Brisbane schoolgirl with a passion for news and current affairs.
Tracey is a passionate advocate for issues as diverse as voluntary euthanasia, childhood vaccinations, breastfeeding, better regulation of foreign investment in Australia’s farmland, and curtailed opening hours for pubs and clubs. She is an Ambassador for World Vision, ActionAid, WWF, the Royal Hospital for Women’s Newborn Care Centre and the Penguin Foundation, Patron of Cancer Council NSW and The National Premmie Foundation, and the face of the Garvan Institute’s research into pancreatic cancer, which killed her beloved mother Marcia 11 years ago. But Tracey’s favourite job, with her husband, is bringing up two beautiful children – six-year-old Taj and five-year-old Grace. Visit Tracey’s website at or follow her on Twitter @spicertracey.


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  • Reply September 25, 2012

    The Huntress

    It makes me sick that one of Romney’s policies is to cut public services so as to reduce taxes for high earning and wealthy individuals. What kind of sick policy is this?

    As being technically considered a high income earning household we get taxed to absolute buggery – the only complaint I have is not that we pay so much tax, but that it could be better spent (I once again refer to my states liberal premier planning to spend billions on a freaking stadium, while our health system is still trying to recover from 10% cuts to our budget in 2009/2010). I would prefer to see better investment in health, social security, education and other public services (police, fire services, high quality child care, etc.), but it’s not always to be. However we will continue to pay our taxes, as we should and as everyone else should. Why should essential service people (who are usually underpaid) be taxed at a higher rate than those who earn such stupendous amounts of money? It just doesn’t make sense.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    Good on you for pointing out that raising the GST is a rotten idea.
    It seems like there are more Americans looking for a solution to inequitable tax rules:

    • Reply September 25, 2012


      Thanks for the Sam Harris link Emma, its a very interesting website.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    Agree 100% Tracey! As I wind down my career I will fall into the “no tax” bracket next year but to be honest I want to pay my way. I am well off but live close to a low socio-economic area and I see first hand how those on low incomes have to do without (and don’t get me started on the awful income support reductions for single parents) . And then there’s kid’s denying they want to go on school trips to save embarrassing their parents!
    BTW: from all the negative media attention he’s been getting, Mitt Romney seems to be quite dangerously out of touch.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    This is a no-brainer! It’s ludicrous that the very wealthy, high earning among us are enabled to avoid paying their fair share of taxation. It is the obligation of all of a nation’s citizens to pay tax according to their ability ie their level of income. This is the only way that important structures and services can be maintained for the universal benefit. Do they think that because of their wealth and status they should be exempt? A suggestion I would propose is that GST be raised, not on essentials but on luxury goods and services, things that the rich consume without thought, but the man on the street doesn’t buy. We have got to raise government income one way or another in order to fund education (where we are too far behind other Asian countries), health care and aged care.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    Yep. Paying tax is a privilege. It allws us to have the privilege of living in a civil society that has universal education, a justice system that works, a health system that is able to deal with our emergencies and administrations that make sure that our environments are hygenic, relatively healthy and as diverse as our populations will allow. It also allows us to maintain national and international defence forces that keep us safe from those who may wish to ahrm us.

    If Ms Reinhart and co. do not wish to contribute to these facilities of a civil society then they should go to the moon and set up their utopia there.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    Hang on, Tracey, Kerry Packer was saying that the government wasn’t doing what he wanted his money to do, so he wasn’t giving them more than he absolutely had to. i completely agree with this sentiment!

    I particularly love reading and books, I make sure I donate to charities and causes which support getting people reading. Kerry Packer had a particular interest in defibrillator machines, so he made donations to ensure that each ambulance in NSW had one of these units onboard. I don’t agree with lots of government policies, and don’t want my money going towards them. But donating to charities allows me to decide where my money will go – and the more money I can save in tax, the more I can give to those causes.

    I absolutely believe in paying your own way, and I admire countries like some of the Scandanavian countries who have incredibly high tax rates, but proprtionately high literacy and numeracy rates, and proportionately low medical costs. But it’s about what you think of your government’s policies and, of course, doing things legally.

    • Reply September 25, 2012


      I’m struggling with your concept JessB…

      ” I don’t agree with lots of government policies, and don’t want my money going towards them ”

      Just because you dont agree with policies means you dont want to pay for them??? Governments often have to make hard and/or unpopular decisions for the greater good. Things like NDIS, bringing dental care into Medicare, Gonski, NBN are not universally liked by everyone but it is appropriate that we all contribute to them.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    I read the article by Stephen King and thought at the time what an honest thing to say. Then last night I saw Mark Carnegie on Q and A present a similar idea. It seems we live in such an unfair society when the rich can get richer and the poor struggle to survive.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    My Mum and Dad are the personification of the “middle incomes who work hard and play by the rules” you refer to Tracey. They’ve never borrowed a dollar and never owed a dollar, they’ve worked bloody hard all their lives (my dad since he was 14, now 62) to save and provide for their family – not just their children, but their parents and my aunts and uncles when times were tough – and they were taxed all along the way. They have run their own joinery business for 40 years (one of those tradesman you refer to with cynicism in your article…) from the backyard of our family home. My brothers and I were lucky – my Mum was there every day when I got home from school, and Dad was only a holler away in the workshop. And they’ve certainly paid more than their “fair share” of tax, but are willing to do it support those in the community who need it. When it gets frustrating is when people out there take advantage of the system that was set up to support those in need – welfare cheats, the long term unemployed who are not making an effort to find work, and the extreme waste of public funds that goes along with having an often mismanaged 200,000 employee-strong public service. But what really annoys me is when the government encourages hard working people like my parents to “put more money into super” to avoid tax and bolster their retirement savings (and no doubt become self-funded retirees who are not a drain on public funds), yet they won’t guarantee the safety of this hard-earned money. After following this advice my parents lost a lot of their retirement savings when the GFC hit. Looks like Dad will be working far beyond the retirement age to build up these savings once more so that he doesn’t have to rely on the government to pay his way in old age, all the while paying his “fair share” along the way. All I want to know is when will he get his fair share?

    • Reply September 25, 2012


      Lauren, if your Dad does not bill for his work off the books, then I don’t think Tracey is referring to him cynically in this article.
      Also, a very large contingent of long term unemployed are mentally, socially and intellectually impaired people who are not being sufficiently cared for by our governments and therefore, the tax payers, and certainly not by the tax cheats, because they are looking after no one but themselves.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    The US is big on small government and expects charities and the churches to pick up the slack. Health insurance is provided by employers which is fine if you’re one of the employed, otherwise you buy your own or go without.

    It’s a very inequitable system and one defended very strongly by many of those it effects oddly enough.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    It is unfortunate that high income earners have the opportunity to evade taxes quite within the law in Australia. It baffles me that the wealthiest demographic pays the least tax.
    I am concerned that our society can’t sustain the widening gap between rich and poor for too long without serious repercussions.
    Short term gain for few – as always, at the expense of others.

    • Reply September 25, 2012

      The Huntress

      Anne, my family is technically considered to be high income earning and we’re taxed at 48%. Believe me, we do not get the opportunity to evade taxes and due to getting no subsidies and whatnot from the government (which is perfectly fine, I do not believe in middle class welfare) we are absolutely no better off than people in the tax bracket below us. We do not live extravagantly and find it difficult to get ahead as we do pay huge amounts of tax.

      I wonder if it’s people who are wealthy, rather than high income earners who find it easier to evade tax through investments schemes and the such, because we’re certainly not avoiding it.

      • Reply September 26, 2012


        The Huntress, the means are there for your family to structure your finances so as to avoid paying taxes.
        That you don’t take advantage of them is commendable, but I feel you may be in the minority.
        For many Australians getting ahead is not an option, I’m afraid.

        • Reply September 26, 2012

          The Huntress

          Thanks for your considered reply, Anne.

          It does sadden me that many Australians (particularly Gen Y) will never get ahead, which is why I actually have no issue with paying so much tax. I just resent it when our idiotic premier is busy spending tax dollars creating monuments to himself, rather than give it to the schools, hospitals and other social services that desperately need it.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    Onya Tracey. Succint and brilliant article.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    Absolutely and the Rich 500 list becomes the TOP honoured citizens list – those who take on projects in the global community (like Gates Foundation) to help humanity.

    Welfare cheats don’t cost us as much as tax cheats, by a long shot.

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    I too Tracy could bring my tax down to 14%. Its called investement !! I just dont have enough money to do so, however I do some, and it has reduced the amount of tax I pay.
    It dosnt bother me how much tax these billionares make, as I know they put plenty of money in investments, which means more jobs.
    Tax the wealth=Less Investments=Less Jobs= Less Tax money=less money to disabled or your favourite charity etc

  • Reply September 25, 2012


    Well my DH overheard his multi millionaire employer once boast about paying no tax. Mind you this employer was providing jobs and had built his business from the ground up. Had done the hard yards. But…

    These millionaires just don’t get that Australia is owned by it’s entire population and that the infrastructure they use is owned by it’s entire population. That we, as in the Australian people, enable them.

  • Reply September 25, 2012

    Will Marshall

    Hmmm, another brillian article by Tracy Spicer, the solution is simple everybody pays 10 % of their salary to tax, except I pay more than that
    and am happy to! Also as an atheist I do not believe there is a hell for tax
    evaders to go to

  • Reply September 26, 2012


    Couldnt agree more with you Tracy. Its all about social justice.

    People who minamise or avoid paying tax dont care about public schools or hospitals, they wouldnt dream of sending their children to public schools or going to public hosptals, its just not an issue for them.

    Personally, I dont want to live in a place where there is no social justice and those who can afford it, live in gated communitiesn to protect themselves from the poor people – like the US.

  • Reply September 26, 2012


    What a good article- as an unskilled migrant in 1974 I went to uni for free courtesy of Gough Whitlam and the Australian tax payer- within ten years I was paying more in tax every year than I received in tertiary allowance and single parents benefit- and I was proud to do so and am still proud to do so- paying tax proportionate to income is the mark of a great civil society.

  • Reply September 27, 2012


    I was astounded at the negative gearing rip off when we came to OZ. In the end we did use the system and bought a second home. This we have sold to our son and daughter.
    The system is so exploited that a colleague of mine bought a whole block of 80 units in parramatta and became extremely wealthy.Once you are on the NG treadmill it becomes very addictive and the poor get poorer.
    I now do voluntary work and hope to get around to the Aboriginals shortly


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