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Friday, 22 May 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - The committee should bear in mind the following facts: An assessment is levied, the taxpayer receives it, and he knows what has been done. An analysis of the whole position is put before him. There is then a period of 60 days in which he can make up his mind, after conference with his expert adviser or the departmental officers, as to the reasons why the assessment is excessive. It is a much longer period than is allowed in furnishing one's pleading in a court of law, unless an extension of time is granted by the court. The Sydney Chamber of Commerce, I venture to say, is composed of men who are well enough versed in matters of taxation to decide within a period of 60 days whether they have grounds for appeal against an assessment. Not only have they access to expert advisers, but they themselves also have a wide experience of the taxation laws.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - They know what the prevailing feeling in the community is, because they represent so many interests.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - "While 1 would have a certain degree of sympathy with the proposal if it were decided to appoint a judge to hear the appeals, I feel that the effect of the request will be to place the taxation authorities in a most invidious position if some persons, who make a habit of appealing on every conceivable occasion against their assessments, are allowed to be able to change their ground at the eleventh hour. The tribunal either allows or disallows certain pleas, and is not empowered, I suggest, to visit pains or penalties upon taxpayers, who vary unreasonably the grounds of their appeal, nor can it give to the Commissioner any redress. This is particularly so in respect of a board of review, which would probably not be governed by judicial principles.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - If it is not a fair amendment in respect of the Appeal Board, how does it become a fair amendment in respect of a tribunal consisting of a single judge?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Board of Review, naturally, will allow a layman considerable latitude. In the case of a taxpayer who is a simpleminded fellow the provision in the bill may operate a little harshly, but in the case of the average man, or in the case of men like those who compose the Sydney Chamber of Commerce no allowance for illiteracy or inexperience is called for. The average man is fairly capable of understanding the details of his assessment, and many people who are unable to do so can afford to obtain expert advice.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And pay for it.


Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is not that an argument against the provision in the bill?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - There is no ground for believing that taxation officers will be prejudiced in dealing with a taxpayer's objections. The provision in the bill has been agreed to by the States. All I can say at this juncture is that when taxation matters are reconsidered in September this matter will again be reviewed. I would have had more difficulty in opposing the honorable senator's amendment if th«> Board of Review had been abolished.

Senator Abbott - If a taxpayer lodges his original objection within the prescribed period of 60 days, is he enabled, under the bill as it now stands, to enter further .grounds of objection before the expiration of the 60 days ?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes ; he can lodge additional grounds of objection, or alter his original grounds, if he takes such action during the prescribed period of -60 days. I have taken such action myself. Furthermore, I remind honorable senators that an adviser to a taxpayer, whether he be a professional man or a tax agent, fully avails himself of this period of 60 days to make every point in the taxpayer's favour.

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