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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 2756

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (19:16): The member for Casey and I seem to be a double act. It is like Abbott and Costello, if I can use that appropriately—but I think that little reference is dear to his heart! As the member for Casey has outlined, the Indirect Tax Laws Amendment (Assessment) Bill 2012 is common-sense tax reform and I support the bill. There is no doubt about it, this government has a record of tax reform. The number of TLAB bills that we have had in the four years I have been in this place is extraordinary.

Since our 2008 budget was delivered by the Treasurer, the Hon. Wayne Swan, we have delivered three rounds of personal income tax cuts totalling $47 billion. We have seen our secure and sustainable pension reforms, and the Hon. Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, played an important role in the historic rise in pensions. We saw in the 2010 budget what we called the Stronger, Fairer, Simpler package of reforms in relation to tax law reforms, particularly in non-renewable resources and support for growth across the economy. In the last 12 months we have announced and delivered many of them. Further measures which had been identified by tax reviews have been included in the budget, including what we have seen as a necessary boost to workforce participation. We are taking a million people out of the tax system with our Clean Energy Future package. I think that is a particularly important reform, increasing the tax threshold from $6,000 to over $18,000.

This bill is in the same context and on the same pathway of reform measures that this government is undertaking. I have to say that on some of these reforms, particularly those I would call the more esoteric or obtuse, if not indeed boring, tax law reforms there is agreement by both sides of politics on common sense. Our indirect taxes, including the GST, will be self-assessed like income tax under this legislation, which aims to simplify the law. The member for Casey is right, there is some codification here and it gives a legislative basis in schedules 2 and 3. Also, in schedule 1 there is harmonisation of the income tax system of self-assessment.

Many people do not realise that we self-assess. In large part they think that a man or woman from the Australian Taxation Office comes down and does it. In fact, most people self-assess and most people get it right—they are actually quite honest about how they assess their own tax. There are 2.7 million small businesses in Australia and a population of just under 23 million, and self-assessment obviously works. I do not see people on the rampage, saying, 'Let's get rid of self-assessment.' So what we are seeing here is that the self-actuating system for GST, luxury car tax, wine equalisation tax and fuel tax credits harmonises with our self-assessment of income tax. As the member for Casey correctly stated, it is recommended by the Board of Taxation Review, and that is the harmonisation specified in schedule 1. There has been a history of this and I think that this will improve the tax system as contemplated over a number of years. Going back decades, this type of thing was envisaged, so this is a particularly important measure.

The second schedule is important as well because it is legislating the commission's power to make determinations, allowing a taxpayer to take into account his or her tax or a fuel tax return for the current year. In the past we saw them having to make amendments to correct errors in earlier years on a current return. So it really is a practical way. That is what has been happening in the past and this schedule is designed to make sure the commissioner has a legislative basis for allowing this to take place. It is not wrong that in fact people make errors in their previous returns or in their current returns, and so this is an important change to ease the simplicity and the regulative burden on people as well.

The third schedule changes the GST law to confirm that the luxury car tax and the wine equalisation tax are part of what is called the net amount, because in the past there was some uncertainty. The LCT and WET acts both provided that the amounts paid were added to or subtracted from the net amount. The definition does not specifically mention this in the current legislation, so there are some changes to be made there. It is a matter of legislative certainty.

These are important reforms. These things make a difference in the lives of businesspeople. Anyone who has been in business knows how important it is to ease the regulatory burden and make life simpler when they do their taxes. Anyone who runs a business—and I was running businesses for two decades before I was elected to this place—knows how important it is to get the tax law right. I know how much time I spent dealing with accountants and how important it is to make sure that the tax law is simpler, fairer and stronger for our whole economy and community. That is the how we pay our bills and provide the roads, schools and hospitals. That is how we make sure that we can take one million people out of the tax system. That is the way we can make sure we have a decent society that provides services to people. I commend the minister and congratulate him on becoming a minister. He is a good friend of mine and a former parliamentary secretary. We were elected at the same time and I think he is worthy of the honour. Well done.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): I call the Assistant Treasurer to sum up, and I add my congratulations on his new role.