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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 2652 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

The Bill also provides for broader inquiry and inspection powers. At present where the commissioner wishes, on reasonable grounds, to inspect documents relating to a person's liability for land tax, written notice specifying the information or documents required must be given. This process is cumbersome and resource intensive for both the ACT Revenue Office and the recipients of these notices. It is also ineffective in situations where a person is trying to evade liability for land tax.

Mr Speaker, the Bill provides inquiry and inspection powers which are effective and essential for the protection of the land tax revenue base. The powers are similar to those available to the Australian Taxation Office and the revenue offices in most other taxation jurisdictions. The powers of entry are restricted to business premises during normal business hours or at any other time only if the occupier is present. Inspections would normally be subject to the Revenue Office's practice of prior appointment, and the enhanced inspection powers would be used only where tax avoidance is suspected. Only authorised inspectors would be empowered under the Bill. Inspectors are predominantly interested in occupancy and tenancy records, and the inspection powers would, in the main, be exercised at government agencies such as ACTEW and the Rental Bond Board and at real estate agencies. The Bill also provides for the appointment of authorised officers to exercise these inspection powers.

Mr Speaker, another situation which the Bill addresses is where a residential property is assessed as liable for land tax. In cases where the landowner disagrees with that assessment and claims that the property was not rented during the period in dispute, the landowner will have the right to object to that decision. Should the landowner still be dissatisfied with the result of the objection, then the right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will be created. Another area of concern for landowners occurs where a residential property is rented for part of a quarter, becomes vacant and is then rented for part of the succeeding quarter. Under existing provisions, the property would be liable for land tax for both quarters. Mr Speaker, landowners have made the point that this is inequitable, depending on the period of vacancy. This Bill addresses this problem. It provides that where, in any two succeeding quarters, a property is vacant continuously for a period of 91 days or more then the property will be exempt for the second of those quarters.

Another concern is the treatment of multipurpose leases during the period of development. Under the present provisions, such a lease, which is for the development for residential and commercial uses, must be valued and assessed for rates and land tax charges as a commercial property. This involves higher valuations and charges than a residential property would attract. The Bill addresses this inequity. It makes provision for the residential and commercial parts of the lease to be valued and assessed as residential and commercial properties. The property owner will also receive valuations and assessments for the whole property which are the totals of the two components. These concessional arrangements cease upon completion of the development.

In summary, this Bill protects the Territory's rates and land tax base and, in some areas of the legislation, provides for more equitable treatment of property owners. I commend the Bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Quinlan) adjourned.

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