Toowoomba & Surat Basin Enterprise, a chamber of commerce, has been annoyed by the Queensland Government’s decision to exclude Toowoomba from its 1% regional payroll tax discount, announced in the 2019-20 state budget. A recent email from TSBE, directing its contacts to its Payroll Tax Regional Discount Survey, announced:
TSBE believes that Toowoomba deserves the same discount in payroll tax that other regional areas will receive. We have the same challenges that other regional areas have in doing business including attracting staff, paying increased energy costs and internet connectivity and we believe that in this instance the Queensland Government is not applying public policy equitably and fairly across the regions.
The exclusion is a big deal for Toowoomba businesses, because its means the difference between a payroll tax rate of say 4.75% or a discounted 3.75% (for payroll up to
$6.5 million and over the $1.3 million threshold). This mean a business with a $5 million payroll would pay $37,000 less in payroll tax per year if it received the discount. Toowoomba businesses will be annoyed their competitors in other parts of regional Queensland, including in Townsville, Wide Bay, Cairns and the Outback, will receive the discount.
Toowoomba residents must be confused about whether they are considered part of regional Queensland or not. There do not appear to be any consistent definitions of South East Queensland or regional Queensland. Indeed, the Queensland Government is inconsistent in its classification of Toowoomba. For example, although Toowoomba has been excluded from regional Queensland in defining eligibility for the payroll tax discount, it was considered regional enough to be eligible for funding from the Regional Capital Fund in 2016:
Also, it appears Toowoomba is considered part of regional Queensland, and not as part of SEQ, in determining retail trading hours:
For the record, I’m not necessarily supportive of regional tax discounts. I’d rather governments avoid complexity in the tax system and work on lowering rates in general, for all businesses across Queensland.