• Greg Morgan

What is the Typical Aussie Income

If you've ever wondered what the average Australian earns each year, you are certainly not alone. The $200,000 tax bracket has been getting lots of attention in recent weeks, as both the Liberal and Labour leaders attempt to define the "top end of town" without alienating the common worker. As it turns out, $200,000 per year is far from typical, with the average income roughly one-quarter of that amount. Let's take a look at annual earnings data in Australia, based on official figures from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

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While federal politicians may earn $200,000 or more per year, this level of income is uncommon for the vast majority of Australians. As it turns out, only 2% of the tax-paying population earned more than $211,365 in the last financial year, and only 3% earned more than $188,667. There were only two postcodes in Australia that recorded an average income higher than $200,000. The highest earning postcode was Double Bay in NSW at $202,541, followed closely by Hawksburn and Toorak in Victoria at $201,926.


The other 97% of the population earned less than this amount, with the average annual taxable income recorded at $59,538. In fact, close to 40% of people who filed tax returns earned less than $37,000. People living in regional NSW and regional Queensland were among the lowest earners, with one drought-ravaged postcode covering Burren Junction and Drildool dipping into negative territory by almost $10,000. In terms of professions, fast food cooks, waiters, and domestic cleaners were at the bottom of the pile with around $20,000, $25,000, and $27,000 of annual income respectively.


On the other side of town, the top 1% of earners had a taxable income greater than $350,134. There were roughly 110,000 people in this income bracket, of which roughly 80,000 were men. When you go even further up the income ladder, there were almost 40,000 people with taxable income greater than $500,000, and almost 15,000 with taxable income more than $1 million. In terms of professions, surgeons were top of the heap with an average income of $394,303, followed closely by anaesthetists and internal medicine specialists.


As you might expect, the amount of tax paid varied considerably between income brackets, and for the most part, the results were far from fair. According to the Australian Institute's chief economist Richard Denniss, "The Australian tax system is as complex as it is unfair... While many middle income earners face marginal tax rates of nearly 100% due to the combined impact of their income tax, [and losing] family tax benefits and child care benefits, there are people in Australia making more than $1 million who don't pay a cent in tax."


In what is slightly more unexpected, many of the people on high incomes weren't as "hardworking" as politicians like to portray. Only 9,144 of the 14,467 Australians on more than $1 million per year did any work at all, and only 17,883 of the 222,813 Australians on more than $250,000 worked. However, those who did work made a significant contribution to income tax. While just 3.5% of Australian taxpayers fall into the top income tax bracket by earning more than $180,000 per year, these people contribute 31.5% of all income tax collected.

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