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New toilet tax triggers outrage

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A person running to the toilet.
A NSW council is charging a "pedestal tax" for premises with more than two toilets. (Image: Getty)

A cash-strapped council in NSW has triggered outrage with a toilet tax on local businesses.

The Balranald Shire, in the south-west of the state, has enacted a "pedestal tax" that slugs $100 per toilet for any businesses that have more than two.

The charge predominantly affects tourism and hospitality businesses – such as motels, hotels, pubs and clubs – which are already hammered from the coronavirus recession.

Australian Taxpayers' Alliance director Emilie Dye said the federal government should be assisting the local council so such an absurd tax could be repealed.

"The Balranald Shire needs to repeal the shi--y pedestal tax before all the hotels in their local area go under, and the federal government needs to make councils privy to the money already collected in their area."

Yahoo Finance understands the tax was introduced for the 2018/19 financial year but it was waived in the first year.

Balranald Shire general manager Michael Kitzelmann told Yahoo Finance that guidelines require councils to cover sewerage costs from the user rather than cross-subsidise from other revenue.

“We’ve been undercharging for many many years,” he said.

“We can’t turn back time and collect that revenue from previous years... We’re not trying to make up for lost revenue, we’re simply trying to cover the cost of operating today.”

Even with this levy, the council will run at a loss at least for the next five years, according to Kitzelmann.

Dye claimed that the federal government nabs 81.4 per cent of tax revenue, while local councils only receive 3.4 per cent.

"The commonwealth government expects councils to provide all of the practical services, like sewage, that allow a community to function, while siphoning off the bulk of the funds," she said.

"In lieu of new and creative local taxes, the councils should be allowed to keep more of the traditional tax revenue collected in their community."

Earlier this year, The Balranald Shire was slapped with a performance improvement order and went into administration as a result.

The co-owner of Balranald Motor Inn and Billabong Restaurant, Lisa Dalton, told the ABC that it was unfair that tourism businesses were targeted for extra revenue, but not residents.

"We are just feeling quite stressed about it and concerned that nobody is listening to us," she said.

"We've seen a 90 per cent decrease in income and looking at a 2 per cent occupancy rate at the moment."

Kitzelmann denied that residential ratepayers were not being charged, saying their sewerage fees had actually increased more than business ratepayers – just not on a per-toilet basis.

He also pointed out that hardship allowances would be introduced, to allow businesses in financial difficulties to defer council payments without interest.

“We do understand the impact of the coronavirus and how it’s affecting our businesses and the community.”

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