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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (4 May) . . Page.. 1252..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

recover rates and land tax debts owing on other properties held by the same owner, but only if the commissioner requests such payments in the application to the court.

In its scrutiny report No 19 of 21 November 2005 the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs commented on the question of whether the provisions that authorised the forced sale of a property of a tax defaulter are compatible with a person's right to property. The report indicates that the committee's concerns are already addressed within the proposed legislation. I agree with the committee's comments that draw the Assembly's attention to the human rights compatibility statement provided by me as Attorney-General confirming that the Revenue Legislation Amendment Bill 2005 (No 2) is consistent with the Human Rights Act 2004.

As noted by the committee, provisions already exist that allow the Commissioner for ACT Revenue to sell a parcel of land to recover outstanding tax debts that relate to that parcel. This power is reserved, to be exercised as a last resort where a taxpayer is either unwilling or unable to enter into an agreement with the commissioner to pay or defer the outstanding debt on the land.

The procedure to forcibly sell a property is a protracted process with a number of steps. This includes the notification on the legislation register of a notice of the tax in arrears and an application to a court of competent jurisdiction for an order for the sale of the property. At any time prior to the sale the tax defaulter is able to cease the process. All that is required to do this is to pay in full the outstanding rates and/or land tax, as well as any additional expenses incurred by the commissioner. This allows the tax defaulter every opportunity to prevent the sale, and therefore balances the demands of the general interest of the community and the protection of the individual's fundamental rights.

Currently the commissioner has the power to defer rates liabilities on application from certain ratepayers. The final provision of this bill extends this power. Where a ratepayer is unable to apply for a deferment due to unusual or exceptional circumstances, the commissioner may defer their rates and liability without an application from the ratepayer. This is to the ratepayer's benefit, as deferment incurs a relatively low rate of simple interest on the deferred amount as well as preventing arrears, notices and legal action to recover the debt.

I thank members for their contribution to this debate. I commend the Revenue Legislation Amendment Bill 2005 (No 2) to the Assembly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to.

Detail stage

Clauses 1 to 8, by leave, taken together and agreed to.

Clause 9.

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