NSW property owners could face a new tax of some $250 apiece to pay for emergency services.
A PROPERTY-BASED tax is being considered to raise the more than $1 billion a year needed to keep firefighters, police, paramedics and the State Emergency Service going.
“The way we currently fund these services in NSW is complicated, inefficient and unfair,” Treasurer Mike Baird said, flagging the plans on Thursday.
“Recent reviews of the state tax system, including the Henry Tax Review, have recommended we move to a property-based levy.”
The change would bring NSW into line with other states, including South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.
Victoria is also set to move to a property levy system.
In NSW, emergency services are primarily funded via a tax on insurance companies and to a lesser extent through local and state government coffers.
But ministers say this is unfair because those who don’t have insurance don’t contribute.
Documents released by the state government on Thursday show that if the proposed tax were applied uniformly across the state, each household would pay about $250 a year.
This could be offset by a reduction in household insurance premiums – if insurers lowered their prices as a result.
But the government has also raised the possibility of varying the tax depending on the value of properties and their location.
That would mean Sydneysiders pay more than rural residents, and owners of more valuable properties would be slugged more.
Opposition Leader John Robertson dismissed the plan as a cash grab.
“This just sounds like a straight-out cash grab by the O’Farrell government,” he told reporters in Sydney.
The Insurance Council of Australia CEO Rob Whelan welcomed the idea.
“Ultimately the Insurance Council would like to see all state and territory governments working to abolish all taxes on insurance by 2015,” he said in a statement.
The Property Council of Australia also favoured the plan.
The state government has opened a three-month consultation period.
A discussion paper and feedback form is available at haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/ESL.
This is really bad for firefighters, and really bad for the community.