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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3230

(Question No. 917)


Senator Macklin asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 30 May 1984:

(1) Why is the income of married pensioners assessed jointly for pension purposes but separately for taxation purposes.

(2) Will the Government give an undertaking to introduce a standard system of assessment that applies to both areas so that any current discrimination is stopped.


Senator Grimes —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) Under the social security system the incomes of husbands and wives are aggregated for income test purposes to reflect the fact that couples can pool their incomes, while the tax system assesses the capacity to pay tax on an individual basis.

In practical effect, however, the differences between the two systems of assessment are not so great. For example, the tax system takes account of family responsibilities through the dependent spouse rebate, while the free area under the social security income test is higher for married couples than for single persons. In addition, the tax liabilities of married couples are reduced by the fact that the pension payment is split between them and by the operation of the special pensioner rebate.

(2) The Government has no plans at this stage to change the method of assessment for either the social security or the personal income tax systems. The introduction of a standard method of assessment would require fundamental and complex changes to the tax/transfer systems which would need careful and detailed consideration.