What’s The Deal With The Backpacker Tax?

What’s The Deal With The Backpacker Tax?

Parliament wrapped for the year yesterday. And before our nation’s federal politicians headed back to their electorate offices ahead of the silly season and a hard-earned summer break, they spent a pretty big portion of the day discussing and then voting on the backpacker tax.

What that heck is the backpacker tax, you say? Great question. It’s basically the rate at which foreigners on working holiday visas are taxed during their time in Australia. And it’s been a big topic of debate recently. While it might not seem like (a) a big deal or (b) something that really affects anyone who’s not here on a working holiday visa, it actually kind of is (c) all of the above.

So what even is it?

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The issue up for debate was around how and how much backpackers could be taxed while they are working in Australia. The initial proposal that was put forward last year was going to see people under 30 years on working holiday visas in Australia (i.e. backpackers) no longer entitled to claim the tax-free threshold. This was largely to boost revenue. Oh, and their superannuation would be taxed at 95%.

It might not seem like something that has huge implications for you (stay with me, it gets more interesting I promise), but it’s worth considering. A lot of backpackers who come to Australia on working holiday visas tend to work in hospitality and customer service jobs, and do farm work in regional areas. Because these types of work, farm work in particular, tend to be casual, labour-intensive and seasonal work, it can be tough for employers to get enough people for the job.

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On the flipside, the fact that we have seasonal farm work available, means it’s easier for young people from around the world to come to Australia and stick around for a while. While they’re here they’ll probably spend their cash in Australia on things like hugging koalas, checking out our beaches and a few delicious frothy beers.

So legislation that could make it harder for employers to fill these jobs could have big implications and not only on our ability to enjoy mangoes this summer dammit!

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Cool story hey!

Indeed. I wouldn’t be surprised if despite my stellar attempt to make this sound interesting, you’re not really picking up what I’m putting down. Which is kind of the point of my story. A lot of the issues that are debated in parliament and the decisions that are made are complex. They’re tricky to follow unless you’re a big time political junkee with your Twitter feed open 24/7 and ABC News Breakfast on the telly every morning (love your work Virginia).

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It’s kind of the point of our political system – we elect the people who we think are the most qualified to do the job and let them get on with it. Great.

But a new idea around political engagement has got us thinking over here at FYA – maybe it would be cool to be more engaged with what’s going down on Capital Hill? The smart people over at MiVote have created an information platform that has the potential to do just that. It presents you with a variety of perspectives on all major issues up for debate in the Australian Parliament and many others that affect our lives. Then you can use their app to have your say on where you want our country to go. 

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Visit their website and read all about what this new platform has potential to do.

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