Payroll tax lifeline for Queensland general practice

Michelle Wisbey

14/09/2023 4:05:06 PM

Relief is in sight for the state’s medical centres, after the Government announced GP services will not be subject to the tax.

NIcole Higgins, Shannon Fentiman and Bruce Willett
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins, Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman, and RACGP Queensland Chair Dr Bruce Willett. (Image: supplied)

Queensland general practices can breathe a sigh of relief, with the State Government announcing it is bringing an end to an 18-month payroll tax battle.
The RACGP has welcomed the change, which will see normal business arrangements, patient fees including Medicare benefits and out-of-pocket fees, not subject to payroll tax when they are paid directly by a patient to a GP.
Treasurer Cameron Dick made the announcement in State Parliament on Thursday morning, with the reform to be officially issued by the state’s Revenue office next week.
‘I understand that this presents a viable option for these practices going forward, it is an important step on the path to the resolution of this national issue,’ Treasurer Dick said.
‘I thank the Queensland Revenue Office and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners for their commitment to working in good faith to find a nation-leading solution to this issue.
‘They are strong advocates for their profession, and we always welcome their advocacy.’
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins applauded the Queensland Government, telling newsGP it will provide certainty for practices moving forward.
‘It’s a good day for Queensland GPs and practice owners,’ she said.
‘We are still awaiting the details and we’ll be continuing to negotiate with the Queensland Government on those.’
The change comes as more than a third of respondents to a newsGP poll said they would consider packing up their lives and moving interstate if that region offered more favourable payroll tax requirements.
Queensland was the first state to provide an amnesty period for practices, which was initially planned to last until June 2025.
Several other jurisdictions have now followed suit, with New South Wales, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory all introducing concessions, and Western Australia ruling out tax changes completely.
The pressure is now on Victoria, which is yet to announce any amnesties despite one practice in the state being hit with an $800,000 retrospective tax bill, leaving it on the brink of closure.
Dr Higgins said Queensland is setting a precedent for the rest of the nation’s governments to follow.
‘It’s important that we have some national consistency, and we have certainty for those states, this will be important so that they continue to have a workforce and investment in general practice,’ she said.
‘This is a nationally important issue, and what this means is that in all states outside of Queensland and Western Australia, patients will be financially impacted.
‘We’re talking about harmonisation of payroll tax law; we now need to ensure that we have harmonisation in line with Queensland’s interpretation and the rulings today.’
Previous newsGP polls have revealed just 3% of practices would be able to absorb the costs of extra payroll tax, and more than half of respondents said they would have to increase out-of-pocket fees by more than $20.
RACGP Queensland Chair Dr Bruce Willett said the RACGP will continue to work with the Queensland Government to get the details of the ruling right.
‘This issue has caused a great deal of anxiety and stress for GPs, practice owners and our teams, and I am so pleased that the Queensland Government sat down with us, listened, and worked with us to find a permanent solution,’ he said.
‘GPs across Queensland will be celebrating today, and our community should be celebrating too.
‘This decision provides certainty for practices that they won’t need to increase out-of-pocket fees to cover a new tax, because there is none.
‘It will help to keep general practice care affordable, which means healthier people and less spending on expensive hospital care. It is smart, future-focused reform for our community.’
The State Government also announced it is extending the expression-of-interest period for the amnesty from 29 September until 10 November.
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