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Tax hits transport operators

ALREADY reeling from tough conditions in regional areas, the WA transport industry is moving to end the crippling burden of a 5 per cent stamp duty introduced on luxury vehicles.

Stamp duty on vehicles worth more than $40,000 is blamed as a major cause of the problems currently plaguing the trucking industry – both for truck companies and those that fit out the vehicles.

A prime mover capable of most haulage jobs costs between $350,000 and $500,000, meaning the owner faces a stamp duty slug of between $17,500 and $25,000. In Queensland, the cost is 2 per cent on trucks, while trailers are duty free.

Transport industry groups are hoping to have the two-year-old tax reduced, with the State Government accepting submissions for its review of State business taxes until December 7.

The efforts come as trailer fabrication company Howard Porter Pty Ltd emerged as the latest victim of the downturn, closing its doors on Friday after two years of hard slog during which time the company has been constantly on the market.

The 65-year old company, which is in the middle of negotiations with a potential purchaser, did not blame the stamp duty, claiming general economic conditions had carved at least 20 per cent off its 2000-01 revenue of $15 million, even after the workforce had been halved to around 55.

In 1999 the Court Government changed stamp duty from a flat 3 per cent to a sliding scale of stamp duty aimed at putting a higher tax rate on those who bought luxury vehicles. But the duty extended to truck drivers, bus companies and even crane operators.

The 5 per cent stamp duty also applies to any trailers that truck companies need to buy.

South Australia’s stamp duty regime has made it competitive in the bus manufacture market. Any bus with more than 12 seats is stamp duty free.

Transport Workers Union organiser Glen Sterle said the union was still campaigning to have the stamp duty on truck sales reduced.

“This is a considerable impost on an owner driver,” Mr Sterle said.

Motor Trades Association executive director Peter Fitzpatrick said the stamp duty problem affected more than truck drivers.

“I heard of one truck sales representative who lost a 20-vehicle order to New South Wales because they only charge a 3 per cent stamp duty,” he said.

A spokeswoman for WA Treasurer Eric Ripper said the Government was giving the stamp duty problem high priority in its business tax review but had never made it an election promise.

p Also see page 11

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