Australia: VoH urges immediate solution on backpacker tax

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Australia: VoH urges immediate solution on backpacker tax

An Australian horticultural industry group has urged the Federal Government to put an end to the backpacker tax debate and find a resolution before parliament finishes for the year. tomatoes-1

In a release, Voice of Horticulture (VoH) highlighted that so far this week the topic had not been scheduled for debate.

The government's initial proposal would have taxed working holiday makers 32.5% on all earnings, but in late September the rate was reduced to 19%.

At present, backpackers do not pay any tax until their income exceeds AUD18,200 (US$13,500) a year. 

The proposed tax has promoted outcry from the horticultural industry, since many farmers employ backpackers as seasonal workers.

VoH warned of 'serious consequences' to the agricultural sector if no solution was found and the tax was implemented from January 2017.

"The issue is beyond being serious, we are losing backpacker numbers by the day as they turn to other countries for a more viable working holiday," VoH Chair Tania Chapman said.

"All across Australia fruit will be left to rot on trees or vines and vegetables abandoned in paddocks because industry cannot find a workforce to pick their produce.

"At the end of the day the whole issue is about real jobs, and Australian farmers who just need to be able to get on with the job knowing they have access to a workforce they desperately need."

VoH has been vocal about the tax since the debate began and has suggested a 'workable' 15%.

"It goes without saying, that Australia must have an internationally competitive tax rate that is attractive to backpackers coming from other destinations such as Canada and New Zealand, to work and holiday," Chapman said.

With Labour, the Greens and the Independents now all coming into the debate, VoH said it feared time was running out for a decision to be made.

"Growers are getting tired of politics threatening the horticulture industry, an industry that has become the fastest growing one in Australia," Chapman said.

"We also must remember that backpackers contribute more than $3.5 billion to the economy each year and around 40,000 find employment on Australian farms. We need more of them, not less to harvest our crops."



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