NSW's newest property tax labelled as unfair

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Changes to how emergency services in New South Wales are funded have been described as unfair to property owners.

Last week the state government announced that from 1 July 2017 the Emergency Services Levy (ESL) on insurance policies will be abolished and replaced by the Emergency Services Property Levy (ESPL).

The ESPL would be paid alongside council rates by property owners, with the state government estimating the average payment to be around $160 a year.

In announcing the reform, NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian said the scheme was a fairer model as it meant that all property owners, not just those with insurance, would contribute to funding emergency services in the state.

“Under the current funding model, NSW property owners who insure their properties are subsidising households who don't purchase contents or building insurance,” Berejiklian said.

But Glenn Byers, the Property Council of Australia’s NSW executive director, said the new scheme is unfairly weighted against property owners.

“It now appears exemptions are already on the table, and the cost will be carried by homeowners, commercial property and the 4.5 million people in NSW with a stake in it through superannuation,” Byres said.

“The Government’s own discussion paper in 2012 said motor vehicle incidents account for around 17% of the cost of emergency services – yet they are exempt from the new tax,” he said.

“It means the cost of funding emergency services is being loaded onto property and goes against the notion existing contributors should be spared increases as the net is widened.”

Given that the state’s property industry already generates significant amounts of revenue for the state, Byers said the sector should be given tax relief, especially the commercial sector, given the fact that it takes extra safety steps.

"Commercial property owners already do the right thing by investing millions in fire mitigation and suppression systems, insuring their property and paying the existing tax charged via insurance,” Byers said

“There are already biases against commercial property in the rating and land tax systems, so adding more through a poorly-conceived new tax to fund fire and emergency services makes no sense.”

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