About GST distribution
Distribution of revenue from the Goods and Services Tax Pool
Australia is a federation of eight states and territories with diverse economic, social and geographic circumstances. This leads to differences in the cost of providing services to residents and different capacities to raise revenue from taxes.
Yet all Australians, regardless of the state in which they live, should be able to receive comparable levels of health, education, justice, welfare, public housing and other services.
The Australian Government helps put state governments in a position to provide their residents with comparable services by distributing revenue from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) pool according to need.
It is the job of the Commonwealth Grants Commission to advise the Australian Government on how the GST pool should be distributed to ensure each state can provide comparable services, if they all make a similar effort to raise revenue from their own taxes.
The Australian Federation
Commonwealth, state and territory governments have different spending responsibilities and sources of revenue to pay for their spending.
The spending responsibilities of states exceed their revenue raising capacity.
In contrast, the revenue raising capacity of the Commonwealth exceeds its spending responsibilities.
To fill the gap, the Australian Government transfers some of the money it raises to state governments.
Some of this money is tied to the delivery of specific services, such as hospital and schools.
The revenue the Commonwealth raises from the GST is different. It is given to state governments, and they can use the money as they see fit. Also, the amount of revenue from the GST pool given to each state reflects differences between each state’s spending needs and ability to raise revenue.
State government spending needs
State governments provide services such as hospitals, schools, justice, public housing and transport and welfare. They also provide the infrastructure to support these services.
The cost of providing services and infrastructure can vary a lot from one part of Australia to another. For example:
State governments’ revenue raising ability
State governments raise revenue from taxes on property, payrolls, mining, motor vehicles and insurance.
Economic features of states influence their ability to raise revenue from these taxes. For example:
Payments from the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth government makes payments to the states to help meet the cost of delivering state services, such as health, education and skills, infrastructure, environmental protection and housing.
This is a significant source of revenue for states. Agreements between Commonwealth and state governments determine the amount each state receives from the Commonwealth.
Need for revenue from the GST
The Commonwealth Grants Commission assesses the spending needs and revenue raising ability of each state.
The Commission then makes recommendations to the Commonwealth Government on how the revenue from the GST pool should be distributed. States can raise and keep the revenue from their own sources, and use this revenue, along with that provided by the Commonwealth, to fund services.
While the arrangements are sometimes characterised as complex, the aim is simple: to provide states with the opportunity to provide their residents with comparable services.
Current arrangements for distributing revenue from the GST pool
In 2018, the Commonwealth Parliament legislated a new way to distribute GST revenue among the states and territories.
The key elements are:
- a new equalisation benchmark linked to the fiscally stronger of NSW or Victoria
- a GST relativity floor
- Commonwealth funded top-ups to the GST pool
- transitional arrangements, staging implementation of the new equalisation benchmark and giving states a no-worse off guarantee.
Assessed state budgets
Figure 1 illustrates the assessed state budgets per person for 2022-23. The blue bar on the left shows the total assessed expenditure (expenses and investment) for each state. The bar on the right shows the sum of: assessed own-source revenue; assessed net borrowing; Commonwealth payments; and revenue from the GST pool.
Under the previous GST distribution arrangements, each state’s GST share was calculated so that its assessed revenue (including GST) equalled its assessed expenditure.
Western Australia is assessed to have revenue per person greater than assessed expenditure per person. The revenue bar on the right is taller than the expenditure bar on the left. All other states are assessed to have slightly less revenue than expenditure.
Figure 1 State government assessed expenses, revenue and GST distribution