DGR tax reform comment: 'This is why we can't have nice things'

DGR reform whacks NFPs

Turnbull's tax whack targets community advocates

Comment by Our Community managing director Denis Moriarty

The not-for-profit sector makes up a significant part of Australia's economy, does all the work that governments increasingly neglect, and represents our finest instincts. It's disappointing to see that the Turnbull Government still sees our main function as that of being a chew toy for the radical right of his party, thrown across the room to distract the crazies, and give them something to do so they don't get bored and start voting against important budget measures.

The Government has just issued a discussion paper on Tax Deductible Gift Recipient Reform Opportunities.  The paper points out that the rules for getting a tax break on donations are a crazy quilt of different types, different rules, different processes, and different regulators, and makes some reasonable suggestions that might simplify and standardise at least some of the anomalies.  

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If the government was acting in good faith, these proposals might be worth considering.  But it isn't, and they can't be.

Because right after making these more or less reasonable suggestions, the paper jumps back to putting the boot into the right wing's old adversaries - environmental charities that get in the way of mining projects, animal rights groups that complain about farming practices, human rights groups that do anything at all.

The government suggests that environmental charities should be compelled to spend 25% on things like picking up litter ("environmental remediation work") and be delisted if their employees act illegally (a reform I'd actually be all in favour of if it applied to our major political parties).  

This is a government, remember, that relies for its majority on the vote of George Christensen, a man who considers some green groups "terrorists" that are guilty of treason.

The DGR "reform" report is a discussion paper. The government is calling for submissions on its recommendations, which is sheer government waste and duplication, considering that a House of Representatives committee collected submissions on exactly those points last year and virtually all submissions from the charity sector overwhelmingly trashed them.  

If the government gave a rat's about what not-for-profits thought, they'd have dumped these lead balloons back then. As it is, they'll pay attention to the views of the community sector when (and only when) a vast brown coal seam is discovered running under the offices of Greenpeace.

Even where the report's suggestions for change sound reasonable, they amount to a greater concentration of power in the hands of the ACNC, which would in itself be reasonable if we could only believe that the government was prepared to allow the ACNC to operate as an independent voice for the sector - which we can't.  

The Coalition opposed the creation of the ACNC, has only just withdrawn its long-term goal of abolishing it, and has now moved its long-time head Susan Pascoe on, so that its new (and arch-conservative) Minister Michael Sukkar can have a free hand to appoint someone more to his liking.

If the present government had shown that it was honest, open, and trustworthy, or shown itself capable of giving its own loudmouthed blowhards a clip over the ear rather than the keys to the vehicle, several of the recommendations it makes would be worthy of close consideration.

Sadly, it looks as if the increasing polarisation of Australian politics, where one of the two sides in any and every dispute is eventually assigned to Labor and one to Liberal, has hobbled us again. This is why we can't have nice things.

Submissions are open until 14 July 2017. More details here:

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