Ball ‘in ATO’s court’ over backpacker tax
A RECENT court ruling may have determined that the backpacker tax is invalid, but Southern Downs producers aren't implementing any changes just yet.
Granite Belt Growers Association (GBGA) president Angus Ferrier said the region was following advice from the National Farmer's Federation to stay cautious about the ruling.
"The advice of the National Farmer's Federation is to not change your payroll systems because a court ruling is not a directive from the ATO," Mr Ferrier said.
"We don't take our advice from the legal system but from the ATO. The ball is in the ATO's court to see what the next move could be."
The tax, which was introduced in 2015, has meant that working holiday-makers on 417 or 462 visas earning less than $18,200 have had to pay a 15 per cent tax on their income.
For the Granite Belt region, this has meant producers already experiencing tough times have seen a drop in the number of seasonal workers available to hire, although given recent drought and fire, being able to afford workers was a struggle in itself, according to Mr Ferrier.
"I think the requirement for backpackers being reduced because of drought is a far bigger issue than having a backpacker tax in place or revoked," Mr Ferrier said.
A recent GBGA survey showed that the region could see a loss of 900 jobs by the end of summer, including permanent and seasonal workers.
However, Mr Ferrier did remain hopeful about what an official reversal of the ruling could mean for producers in the region.
"It would mean, in theory, that our workplace is more attractive to the residents of those eight countries, perhaps leading to more steady and stable seasonal labourers," he said.
But until the ATO stepped up, Mr Ferrier said producers would focus on getting through their day to day.
"Until we hear from ATO, it's business as usual."