GPs consider interstate move amid tax grab

Michelle Wisbey

11/09/2023 3:25:43 PM

More than one third of respondents to a recent newsGP poll said they would be willing to pack up and move if it meant more favourable payroll tax settings.

A woman sitting on top of a over-flowing suitcase.
An August newsGP poll revealed 94% of respondents said they would need to increase their fees due to payroll tax changes.

Governments who fail to launch tax protections are staring down a potential GP exodus, as doctors threaten to pack their bags in search of better conditions.
According to the latest newsGP weekly poll, which received more than 1100 votes, 35% of respondents would consider moving interstate if that region offered more favourable payroll tax requirements.
Eleven per cent said they were unsure and 52% said they would not consider moving.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins told newsGP the results are not surprising as payroll tax continues to be the ‘front-of-mind concern’ for many GPs and practice owners.
‘If there are options to move to states where they can have a viable and thriving practice, I’ll support that,’ she said.
‘Payroll tax has created so much uncertainty and when people are worried that they may be unable to provide a future for their family, then they’re going to make those decisions.
‘This will further impact trends that happened during COVID where Victorians left the state. GPs will leave to other states that support general practice such as Queensland, South Australia, or WA.’
New South WalesSouth AustraliaQueensland, and the Australian Capital Territory have already announced amnesties or concessions for medical centres.
Western Australia has confirmed it does not intend to change its payroll tax provisions.
But Victoria is yet to announce any tax protections despite pleas for urgent intervention from the RACGP and healthcare professionals.
The state is now facing an escalating shortage of GPs, as they threaten to leave in search of a better deal.
‘I’m really concerned about those practices in communities if they are considering closing down and the impact that will have on local health services, because it has a ripple effect on the hospital system and other health professionals,’ Dr Higgins said.
‘People are really starting to question why should I be a GP in this part of Australia when I can be doing it somewhere else?
‘Especially for new Fellows, it’s really sending the wrong message at a time when we are working towards solving shortages in the general practice workforce.’
General practices across several states have already been handed large retrospective payroll tax bills, with one Victorian owner asked to pay back $800,000.
Dubbed the ‘tax on sick people’, many owners have said they will be forced to pass the cost onto patients more or shut up shop completely if long-term changes are not made.
Last month, 94% of more than 1500 respondents a different newsGP poll said they would need to increase their fee for a standard consultation because of payroll tax changes.
Meanwhile, the ACT has set its own course by introducing an amnesty but placing conditions around those who will, or will not, be exempt from paying payroll tax.
Under its policy, clinics will be required to bulk bill 65% of patients, and register with MyMedicare and the Revenue Office to be exempt.
Canberra currently has the lowest bulk billing rate of any capital city at just 56.6%. while the same time, the ACT has the highest payroll tax rate in the country at 6.85%.
Dr Higgins said this is not a workable solution and that she is ‘very disappointed’ with how initial conversations between the college and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr have played out so far.
‘This current approach just demonstrates that his government is out of touch and doesn’t understand general practice,’ she said.
‘Tying it to bulk billing just demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the business of general practice, and as a practice owner, we can’t tell our independent practitioners how to bill, how to work.
‘I would never tell another doctor how to value their time or value knowledge, it’s completely unrealistic.’
Dr Higgins said the RACGP will continue its advocacy efforts to better protect practices and doctors as it works towards a long-term tax solution.
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general practice payroll tax

newsGP weekly poll What areas of healthcare were you hoping would get more funding in this year's Federal Budget?

newsGP weekly poll What areas of healthcare were you hoping would get more funding in this year's Federal Budget?



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Dr Nadine Elise Perlen   12/09/2023 10:41:47 AM

What do they not get? Such short sighted poor policy that will impact the state for years to come!

Dr Jimmy Tseng   12/09/2023 11:23:17 AM

The reality is that these doctors actually wouldn’t leave. The different states, and regional areas already pay far more than 5% difference, yet there are no takers.

This questionnaire does nothing to argue against the tax.