Thursday 10 Dec 2015
New South Wales homeowners will have to pay around $160 a year in an emergency services property levy which will be introduced by the Baird government in a tax reform that claims it will actually save people money.
Mike Baird, the New South Wales premier said that he estimated the move could see people save about $250 a year on their current insurance premiums, if they are insured.
Foreshadowed on the front page of the Daily Telegraph under the headline 'Triple-0 Tax', New South Wales treasurer Gladys Berejiklian made the announcement today ahead of a tax reform meeting of state treasurers, with the Baird government to label it its biggest tax reform in government.
Berejiklian said the new way of collecting the levy would bring NSW in line with other states and hopefully boost the number of people who take out home and contents insurance.
"This fairer model for funding fire and emergency services will reduce the cost of insurance and encourage more people to insure their properties," she said.
The emergency services property levy will replace the emergency services levy which now goes on household insurance bills.
It will fund firefighters and state emergency services workers around the state.
The new tax from its 2017 introduction will remove a similar charge from insurance bills that currently funds firefighters and state emergency services workers.
At present $800 million of the $1 billion a year cost of funding fire and rescue NSW, the rural fire service and the state emergency service is paid for by a tax on insurance companies, passed on to customers via higher premiums for home and contents insurance.
The government will argue that replacing this with the new system will mean the majority of householders are better off and that the system will be much fairer.
The government’s argument is that those who are insured are paying for services provided for landholders who are not insured and the introduction of the levy will create a fairer system.
They say NSW is the most non-insured state in the country and hope the change will encourage more people to have their property insured, as premiums will come down.
Under the current system, of an average $1000 a year paid in insurance, $200 is paid for the insurance levy.
For a person with that average land value, from July 2017, they will have a $160 a year charge on their council rates instead.
A new insurance pricing watchdog under former ACCC head Allan Fels will be set up to police the companies, who can face fines of up to $10 million for "unreasonable prices" should they not pass on the savings.
All other states have introduced similar levies and it has been estimated 810,000, or 36%, of NSW properties do not have home and contents insurance.
In Victoria, where a similar levy was introduced in 2013, a report by professor Fels found residents paid 18%less for insurance than before the reforms.
The reform was recommended by the Henry tax review and also by the royal commission into the 2009 Victorian bushfires with the goal of reducing the level of underinsurance.