Thousands of north coast pensioners living in mobile-home parks face a 10 per cent hike on their rents under a federal government plan which many have only just found out about.
A draft ruling two weeks ago by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) paid by park owners means they now face having to pay a 10 per cent GST on their rents.
Ken Cummins, president of the Tweed Heads/Tweed Coast branch of the Affiliated Residential Parks Residents Association (ARPRA), says the move is outrageous and will impact severely on fixed-income pensioners and retirees living in mobile-home parks in the region.
Richmond MP Justine Elliot, who has taken up their fight this week in Parliament, has slammed the plan as ‘devastating for thousands of locals who simply cannot afford a 10 per cent increase in their rents’.
Mr Cummins says many pensioners own their own mobile homes but will be forced to pay the GST on the leases on which they sit.
‘In many cases this will amount to around $30 a fortnight increase for many, which they just can’t afford. Most of them are just absolutely shocked by it,’ he said.
In some Tweed mobile-home parks, the rent varies from around $135 to $250 a week and many pensioners receive around $360 a week. The GST in these cases would add between $27 and $50 a week to their rent.
‘It’s incredible that with all these ministers rorting their allowances and big tax breaks for the rich under the coalition government, that pensioners are being slugged this,’ Mr Cummins said.
‘There are around 2,000 old-age pensioners in the parks around the Tweed and 95 per cent of them are already living on the bones of their bums,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘They didn’t know anything about it till we let them know. The government tried to sneak this in under the radar and the plan is to backdate the increase till October 30, which is also outrageous.
‘We’ll leave no stone unturned in our bid to have this reversed. A lot of these pensioners finding out about it say they’re disgusted by the plan,’ Mr Cummins said.
ARPRA has launched a campaign to prevent the plan becoming law, and a petition it has circulated in the Tweed has already attracted more than 2,000 signatures and will be presented to federal parliament by Mrs Elliot.
The MP has called on the Abbott government to rule out the plan to overturn a decision by the Howard government in 2000 to exempt mobile-home residents from the 10 per cent GST.
‘This is an attack on the nation’s most vulnerable, particularly pensioners who are already struggling with cost of living pressures and can’t afford this rent hike,’ Mrs Elliot said.
She said that on July 1, 2000, when the GST was introduced, moveable-home estates (mobile home parks) were deemed residential premises and therefore exempt from GST.
‘However, on 30 October 2013 the Australian Taxation Office released a plan stating that these moveable-home estates would no longer be considered residential premises and therefore not exempt from GST.’
Assistant shadow treasurer, Dr Andrew Leigh, agrees with her, saying the draft ruling, now out for consultation till the end of this month, will mean park owners are slugged double the GST paid on leased sites.
‘Labor is concerned the ATO ruling would not just lead to higher costs for park owners but that those costs will be passed on to low-income Australians who permanently live in demountable or mobile homes,’ Dr Leigh said.
‘Most people living permanently in mobile homes either as a lifestyle choice or as a last resort live in very basic conditions with minimal facilities and few amenities compared to conventional forms of housing. Many are pensioners and families doing it tough,’ he said.
The ruling can be seen at: http://law.ato.gov.au/atolaw/view.htm?docid=%22DGS%2FGSTR2013D2%2FNAT%2FATO%2F00001%22.