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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 15 Hansard (Thursday, 15 December 2005) . . Page.. 4913 ..

In fact, from the research my office has undertaken it would appear that only Western Australia has gone for this list price option that is being advanced by the ACT government. I would hope that the Treasurer, unless he has information to the contrary, will correct that inaccurate information that was contained within his tabling speech.

The other important issue on this bill is the proposed requirement to register for payroll tax. There is an increased compliance burden from requiring every employer whose payroll exceeds the monthly threshold to register with the revenue commissioner and be fined up to 250 penalty units, which is about $25,000 for an individual and could be up to as much as $250,000 for a corporation, if he or she fails to register within seven days after the end of the month. Since section 16 of the Payroll Tax Act 1987 requires every employer whose monthly wages paid exceed the tax-free threshold to submit a payroll tax return, nothing seems to be gained from an additional requirement for registration. I have raised the question with the Treasury officials, through Mr Quinlan’s office, and have asked why the payroll tax return cannot be deemed to be an automatic registration. These matters are under consideration, I understand, but I do not think they were warranted to be introduced in this legislation.

Current practice is for an end-of-year adjustment in payroll tax payments to take account of variations in wages paid from month to month. The system is self-correcting and there is nothing to be gained from making it more onerous by having to register within seven days, especially for businesses that are just becoming familiar with payroll tax and are new entrants, if you like, to this tax administration. Again, the Treasurer’s argument for the amendment is that it will bring the ACT into line with other jurisdictions and with the registration requirements of other ACT tax returns. He claims as benefits the opportunity to obtain greater levels of information from companies and the increased capacity of the revenue office to target compliance activities.

The government’s proposal is in fact anti-business. It adds to paperwork, red tape and compliance costs and runs very contrary to the views constantly espoused by the government that they are a business-friendly government. I say it is anti-business, because for the first time it threatens individuals with penalties of $25,000, and vastly more than that for corporations, if they fail to comply within seven days of lodging this registration. It is an overreaction, it is an extreme penalty that is being applied, and it is not one that the opposition in any way could support.

In order to lighten the burden on business, I foreshadow amendments to the Payroll Tax Act to remove the registration requirement, noting that employers who lodge payroll tax returns are immediately recorded on the revenue office’s database, and to extend the time in which payroll tax returns must be lodged to 21 days after the end of the relevant month, noting that the government is currently having discussions with other jurisdictions about extending the lodgment time for returns. It is not unreasonable to give people 21 days after the end of the month. Seven days is extreme and I would suggest that it is not a time frame that is fair to business. When one attaches the severe penalties that are contained within the legislation, it is, I would suggest, a gross overreaction.

Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.

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