Remember the heady days of 2019? They were pre-COVID with fewer restrictions on our movement and a greater ability to get together.

Reminiscing about those pre-COVID days took me back to a large group dinner at a restaurant in which 100 people came together to celebrate. It was a day of freedom, fun and frivolity. The drinks flowed, whether one drank water or wine, the food was plentiful, the jokes – some a little risqué, some corny – added to the convivial atmosphere.  Then came the bill, with a side order of complication.  While some had lived large, others had supped on salad. This large group, in various states of sobriety, needed to decide how to split the bill. The fair thing might be for each to pay for their own consumption but even that was complicated. Some couldn’t really afford to pay.

Now, you may wonder why people came to dinner if they couldn’t afford to pay but what if the restaurant was Scotty’s Famous Restaurant (aka our Federal Government) and the diners were taxpayers paying for government services via taxation. How does Scotty do it?

Each year, the ATO distils tax information from 14.7 million people into a profile of 100 Australian taxpayers.  It’s a nice way of making information more digestible by converting a percentage to real numbers.

So, let’s take a closer look at the merry 100 diners in Scotty’s Famous Restaurant. But, before we do, as with pre-COVID days, the numbers are from 2018/2019 because:

(a)  We can’t have 100 diners together in a restaurant anymore (at least, not in Victoria) and some state borders remain closed.

(b)  The bill is paid after the meal or, to put in in tax terms, we pay tax after the end of the financial year; and

(c)  Some people reach for their wallets a little slower than others, submitting their tax returns late.

As you can see from the illustration below, Scotty’s Famous Restaurant has drawn people from all over Australia.

Breakdown of 100 Australian Taxpayers

The split of diners is fairly representative of the population split in Australia.

But, the number of diners at the table only represents bums on seats. It doesn’t tell us what each has paid or consumed. Some will pay more than others and Scotty’s Famous Restaurant isn’t just famous for its food. It’s famous for its payment method. High income earners pay more than low or no income earners. Why? Because our tax system is predicated on the same principle as our health system, the healthy subsidise the sick, and the high income earners subsidise the lower income earners.

So, how did our diners pay? Nine people paid 48% of the bill while 25 paid no tax.  Some felt that was unfair until the discussion at the table turned to the broader contribution each diner makes to society. Why should a nurse, a teacher, an ambulance driver or a police officer earn less than an engineer, architect or top footy player? 25 of our diners were happy to be earning income while out dining, ten of these operate a business in their own name, while the remaining 15 earn rental income (only 6 enjoy a rental profit).

Scotty knows that paying the bill can spoil a good dinner so he plans in advance and asks for money upfront. Eighty of our diners paid too much and received refunds, while 13 people didn’t pay enough and, not willing to do the dishes, they had to pay more. The remaining seven of our diners, we can call them Goldilocks, paid exactly the right amount.

So, who paid what exactly?  Nine of our diners paid 48% of the bill. Yes, that’s right. Ending the restaurant parable for a moment and returning to real life, 48% of income tax is paid by 9% of taxpayers. The next 31% of taxpayers paid 40% of all net tax while 25% of 14.7 million taxpayers paid no net tax.

We hope you enjoyed this visit to Scotty’s Famous Restaurant. While the restaurant itself is a fantasy, the numbers are a reality and perhaps remind us of the contributions we make, whether monetary or otherwise, are also investments both for our own future and the future strength of Scotty’s Famous Restaurant, aka the great fertile food and cultural bowl we know as Australia.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.