Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 5037 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
Similarly, the changes to the Taxation Administration Act foreshadowed by the bill are simply to rectify the omission of a now repealed act. This was apparently a legislative oversight when the Taxation (Administration) Act 1987 was repealed in 1999. This amendment protects the privacy of information given to the ACT government under the repealed act, which I assume has been the practice of the government in any case.
Both these changes seem sensible and necessary to maintain certainty and privacy in the ACT taxation system, and both these conditions are necessary for members of the ACT public to have confidence in understanding and trusting the taxation system. However, it is of concern that these problems have not been attended to previously and that we are almost rushing them through at the end of the year.
While I understand that, with the limited resources of the public service, a close review of existing legislation cannot happen every day it is unfortunate that it took 12 years for the problems in the Rates and Land Tax Act to be identified. I assume this has occurred due only to the Treasurer's review of the act. That is of concern. It shows why we need to take time to consider legislation before us, to make sure it is workable.
I note that the Treasurer has also tabled legislation that splits the Rates and Land Tax Act into two separate pieces of legislation. I think this will assist in understanding the legislation more clearly. There have been so many changes to the Rates and Land Tax Act since its inception that it has become extremely difficult to read or follow. These changes to the taxation legislation are obviously long overdue. I am happy that we are rectifying this small oversight today. Hopefully this will not result in a blow-out of the budget. I am sure it will not. It does give us forewarning to consider legislation carefully so that these kinds of errors do not occur in the future.
MS TUCKER (4.37): This bill corrects an error in the wording of elements of the land tax regime, as it has evolved over the past 10 years, and an oversight in the updating of taxation legislation in 1999. It seems fairly clear that this bill is simply about ensuring that the intent behind the acts being amended is pursued.
As I understand it, part of the problem relating to land tax is that it once applied to all properties but now applies only to rental properties, and that the complications occur in how it is applied to unit titled property. It seems the existing legislation could be interpreted to mean that land tax would be imposed inequitably to the disadvantage of some property owners against others and, that being the case, would open the law up to challenge. Either way it makes sense to amend the legislation so that it clearly and inarguably imposes equal land tax on equally valued units.
The urgency here is that, now that this drafting discrepancy has been brought to the public eye, landlords might be inclined to leap in and challenge the validity of the land tax charges imposed on them. Interestingly, however, there was no mention of urgency in the tabling speech or the EM.
The other function of this bill is to remedy an error in transition from the 1987 Taxation (Administration) Act to the Taxation Administration (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 1999. There are specific secrecy provisions in the current Taxation Administration Act. Unfortunately the transition arrangements in that act did not extend that protection to taxpayer information collected and protected under previous