According to the fund, the government needs to build on the savings it announced in October’s budget with even more that would in turn take some demand pressure out of the economy and reduce the threat of inflation.
“Comprehensive medium-term tax reforms are needed to meet higher structural spending needs and support economic efficiency and growth,” it said.
“Sizable structural spending pressures limit the degree of consolidation and risk crowding out important spending priorities. Reviewing existing, large spending programs and improving expenditure efficiency will be important to underpin medium-term fiscal consolidation.”
The fund for the first time identified the stage three tax cuts, possibly replacing them with ordinary increases in tax thresholds, as one area of potential saving.
“With the cuts taking effect from 2024-25, there would be time, if needed, to re-assess the parameters to appropriately balance costs on the budget and benefits to the economy,” it said.
“Addressing bracket creep in personal income tax by raising the tax brackets periodically will limit distributional implications, including for low-income households and women.”
Apart from dealing with personal income tax, the IMF urged a review of the tax system including exemptions and concessions, saying this would make tax more efficient and equitable.
It controversially said the exemption of the family home from capital gains tax, worth an estimated $64 billion in 2021, should be restricted. Most countries exclude family homes from capital gain tax.
It also advocated the replacement of state government stamp duties with ongoing land taxes, saying this would promote housing affordability, produce more stable tax bases over the longer term and enable people to move more easily.
The fund said it expects Australia to avoid a recession in 2023, forecasting the economy to expand by 1.6 per cent this year and 1.7 per cent in 2024. These are slightly stronger than the Reserve Bank’s own forecasts which are due to be updated next week.
It expects inflation through 2023 to slow slightly to 5.5 per cent and then 3.2 per cent the following year. Across both 2023 and 2024, inflation is forecast to be higher than average wage growth.
It also believes property prices to fall 16 per cent from their pandemic-period peak in April last year. Data released on Wednesday by CoreLogic showed values have fallen by 8.9 per cent.
“As interest rates increase further, (housing) affordability is expected to continue declining, despite falling house prices,” the fund said.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the IMF had delivered a provided a “glowing report card” on the government approach to the budget and economy.
“The report is another reminder that in the face of a challenging international outlook, our economy has a lot going for it: historically low unemployment, good prices for our exports, and the beginnings of wages growth after a decade of stagnant wages,” he said.
“The IMF confirms that – despite a difficult year ahead – Australians have every right to be optimistic about the future of our economy and our country.”
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