HARVEST TIME: Freshly picked strawberries at the SSS Strawberries packing shed.
HARVEST TIME: Freshly picked strawberries at the SSS Strawberries packing shed. Eliza Goetze

Backpacker tax a sweeter deal for strawberry farmers

COAST farmers have been praised by Federal MPs for the hand they played in having the backpacker tax cut from a proposed 32.5% down to 19%.

Originally touted as a rise from 13% to 32.5% there were fears such a hike in the tax rate would make it tough for local farmers to attract backpackers for seasonal fruit picking work.

Instead the increase in tax has been restricted to a 6% climb up to 19% from January 1, with ordinary tax rates to apply on earnings above $37,000 although departing backpackers will have their superannuation taxed at 95% from July 1 next year and the Passenger Movement Charge has increased an extra $5 to $55.

Working holiday visa charges have also been reduced $50 to $390 from July 1 next year.

Bli Bli's McMartin's Strawberry Farm owner Lillian McMartin pointed out the tax rate had still increased, but was pleased it hadn't been lifted to 32.5%.

"I think that (32.5% rate) probably would've had an impact on it (backpacker recruitment) when that came through," Mrs McMartin said.


IN THE KNOW: Lillian McMartin from McMartin's Strawberry Farm.
IN THE KNOW: Lillian McMartin from McMartin's Strawberry Farm. Warren Lynam

She said they relied on a combination of locals and backpackers through picking season - having grown strawberries since 1987 - and they fielded up to 12 calls a day at times from backpackers seeking work.

Mrs McMartin said she didn't think the 6% increase in tax would drive many away from seasonal work, but thought they had a right to be unhappy with the 95% tax on superannuation.

"It might upset them a bit," she said, but she didn't expect that to impact backpackers as much as a 32.5% tax rate on earnings would have.

How do you feel about the backpacker tax being reduced?

This poll ended on 04 October 2016.

Current Results

It's great news.


It should be scrapped entirely.


It should have been kept at 32.5%.


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said the reduction of the tax rate from 32.5% to 19% showed the Coalition Government was listening to the community on important legislation.

He said the reduction wasn't a give away as the departure tax on holiday makers had been increased to cover the reduction in tax.

Mr Wallace said the decision would give greater certainty to both backpackers and farmers moving forward.

Member for Fairfax Ted O'Brien said Coast growers had been among the first to identify weaknesses with a 32.5% tax rate.

"It was of particular concern for strawberry growers across the greater Sunshine Coast region who produce around 50 million punnets of strawberries each year, employ up to 8000 pickers each season and account for at least 80 per cent of the State's entire strawberry crop," Mr O'Brien said.

"For growers it wasn't about defending a foreign labour force from paying its dues, it was about remaining competitive in a global market economy.

"Very rarely do you have a tax policy that makes everyone happy and this probably won't be any exception, but I'm delighted that we've had an enormous break through as a result of growers, including those here on the Sunshine Coast, expressing their view," Mr O'Brien said.

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