Greek Australian property mogul Theo Maras is amongst a number of property developers in South Australia that are currently protesting against the Marshall Government’s proposed changes to the way in which land tax is aggregated. His warning about the controversial changes and the terrible effect that they will have on property owners across the state comes in the wake of last week’s announcement by South Australian Treasurer Rob Lucas concerning the SA Government’s plan to prevent people from splitting their properties into different names and trusts to lower their land tax bill.
Mr Lucas said the bill would be offset by reducing the top land tax rate from 3.7 per cent to 2.4 per cent from 1 July next year.
Interestingly, the Government had announced in June’s State Budget that it would lower the tax rate for property portfolios worth $1.3 million-$5 million from 3.7 per cent to 2.9 per cent from next July, with a slower reduction for those worth more than $5 million.
Mr Maras, a long-time supporter of the Liberal Party, has slammed the move. “This is just a disaster. We are run by a government that’s addicted to tax for the monetary dependence of the state and that’s just wrong. It’s like someone who is on drugs. I honestly feel as if I’ve become a tax collector on behalf of the Government,” he said.
“I don’t know how it all started and where it is going but the government went out knowing the damage this would create. The Treasurer and Premier should really have a good hard look at themselves.”
Mr Maras also rejected the Government’s assertion that there had been consultation on the original proposal, since its announcement, saying there had been no genuine engagement with the party or industry bodies such as the Property Council.
“I asked the question. Did the Treasurer or the Premier put this proposition of the Tax to the Party or not? And the answer was no.”
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On the other hand, the South Australian government has refused to back down on its controversial stance.
“I feel as if some members of the Liberal party don’t like the fact that some of us own property but they seem to be forgetting how hard we have all worked for it,” Mr Maras said, predicting that if the proposal gets through, it will stop people from wanting to invest or move to SA.
“Where’s the incentive for a South Australian to invest in this state? Why isn’t the government focusing on how they spend the money they have, instead of collecting more. Let’s be honest here, the anxiety of keeping SA’s unemployment rate down is the driving force of the land tax proposed changes and that’s where the problem lays.”
President of the SA Property Council and Theo Maras’ son, Steve Maras, also told the local press that while many investors have welcomed the reduction in the top rate from 3.7 to 2.4 per cent from next July, SA remains relatively uncompetitive because the top rate is levied at a much lower
threshold than every other state except Tasmania.
The land tax legislation’s passage through parliament will depend largely on the Opposition, but if Labor blocks the Bill, the Upper House cross-bench will become crucial.
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Leader of the Opposition Peter Malinauskas is doing his own investigations regarding the matter whilst former SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has also expressed his discontent regarding the issue in Parliament and via his social media.
“Initially, Premier Marshall and Treasurer Lucas claimed their new policy of aggregation of all taxable land would raise $40 million per year in new taxes. Then we discovered last week aggregation would raise $118 million per year in new taxes. Now, with his third package, they claim aggregation will raise over $80 million per year in new taxes. In every model the Premier has proposed, aggregation of land holdings for Land Tax purposes raises more taxes for the SA Government,” Mr Koutsantonis wrote, announcing that the Labor party will be holding a western suburbs forum to hear from affected self-funded retirees and investors on the impacts on their families from the proposed Liberal Land Tax hike.
According to Mr Maras and members of the Property Council, if the proposed Bill gets the numbers to past the Upper House, the Greek Australian community will also be affected.
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“We have come to this country and worked very hard to achieve what we have achieved. So many of us are going to have to fund the rest of the state and that’s just not fair. It’s a wealth tax and that’s just so wrong on the government’s behalf. Where are we going to get all this money from to pay for everything and why are we the ones getting penalized for working hard keeping the state alive,” said a source of the Property Council.
“We have dedicated our lives to this country and with our hard work we have contributed significantly to Australia’s economy.
“We all hate what’s happening at the moment and it needs to end right now,” Mr Maras said.