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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 February 2010) . . Page.. 36 ..

Some examples of the type of situation that may arise for an applicant and, therefore, for the commissioner include a person who may not be able to live in their home due to health issues that require them to be hospitalised or to live in a rehabilitation or care facility; a home is rendered uninhabitable through no fault of the applicant—for instance, a home destroyed by bushfire, as we know so well in the ACT—or indeed a person who is a member of the defence force and is posted interstate or overseas unexpectedly. As an aside, I can say I know about that. My sister’s husband has recently been moved to Perth at very short notice. Hence, I empathise with these issues.

In these types of situations, circumstances which were not known at the time of application or commencement of the eligible transaction have arisen to prevent the applicant meeting the residency requirement and the person is likely not to have had sufficient time in which to apply to the commissioner for the exercise of discretion relating to the residency period. This provision will provide the commissioner with discretion to exempt or extend the residency requirement for a first home owner grant.

The second of these matters also relates to residency. This concerns the situation where there have been two or more applicants for a first home owner grant and the circumstance of one or some of these applicants changes, such that they will no longer satisfy the residency requirements. Under this proposal, the commissioner will be able to provide an applicant with an automatic exemption from the residency requirements, provided that at least one other applicant complies with the residency requirement.

The third of the matters concerns the identification of reviewable decisions. There has been some confusion about which of the commissioner’s decisions in relation to the administration of the first home owner scheme are able to be reviewed. The proposal in this bill will clarify that reviewable decisions are those decisions that are made by the commissioner under section 29 of the act. These amendments will provide benefits to applicants and to the commissioner. They will assist applicants by clarifying the process for objecting to decisions that have been made by the commissioner and they will provide the commissioner with greater flexibility to take account of unforeseen circumstances experienced by applicants.

I now turn to the fourth amendment. This applies to the Taxation Administration Act. Currently, taxpayers have an unlimited period within which to lodge applications for the refund of tax paid. The proposal in this bill is to place a limit of five years on the period within which taxpayers must apply for a refund of tax. This amendment will bring the ACT into line with all other jurisdictions, except Tasmania. Tasmania has a limit of three years. All other states have five-year limits.

The community will benefit from this provision as good governance dictates that there should be a finite time within which application for refunds of tax can be made. An open-ended arrangement is generally not good public policy. While some people may argue that a period of longer than five years should be maintained, I would argue that anyone who needs more than five years to make an application for a refund of tax is not managing their tax affairs efficiently.

The proposal appears quite sensible and realistic. I commend the bill to the house.

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