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Rates are a major source of revenue for Local Government.
Part 9 of the Local Government Act 1993 (the Act) provides numerous tools for councils to use in raising rates and each council uses these tools in a way that is suitable to its municipal area. Every year that a council makes a rates resolution, it is making policy decisions about how it wishes to distribute the burden of tax across the community.
Ratepayers often do not know why rates are raised or what decisions are being made on their behalf. Rates are often compared between municipal areas, without regard to the level of services provided by that municipal area, or the differing decisions made by each individual council.
In December 2011, the Act was amended to require councils to implement rates and charges policies to provide transparency in decision-making, and to educate their communities about how revenue is raised.
Initially, rates and charges policies must be developed by 31 August 2012 and then reviewed, at a minimum, on a four yearly basis.
Policies should be consistent with a council’s long-term financial plan, long-term asset management plan and strategic plan. This is to ensure that there is sufficient revenue from rates to provide the services that a council wishes to provide, and to assist in planning for the future.