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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2898


Senator MESSNER(11.16) —Again I am addressing the definitions in clause 15. I refer to the heading 'eligible termination payment'. The Committee will know that the Commissioner of Taxation has generally applied a formula for determining maximum benefits payable from superannuation funds. I think that until recently that has been based on seven times the estimated final average salary of an employee who is a member of a superannuation fund. Now that the amounts of benefits will be severely cut back as a result of the imposition of the tax and therefore less benefit will come into the hands of beneficiaries, I seek the Minister's comments as to whether or not the Commissioner will be altering his formula for determining the maximum benefits to take account of the loss of benefit to employees as a result of the Government's tax. It is a reasonable request that people have that opportunity and it would introduce the question of choice between taking lump sums and annuities under the new taxation regime as it is envisaged.

I proceed now to the definition of 'registered organisation' in the same clause . May I have the Minister's comment as to why professional associations and other organisations representing small business organisations and employers are excluded from the definition of 'registered organisation' and why there is no capacity in the legislation for such bodies to gain the same benefits as do associations of employees. I turn now to proposed new section 27E which sets out conditions upon which approval will be granted for early retirement schemes. This, of course, is another extension of the Commissioner's power into an area quite beyond his expertise and takes him into the area of industrial relations. It seems to me, especially referring to proposed new section 27E (b) (iii), where we talk about cessation and reduction in part of the output of an employer , that decisions on schemes of arrangement or schemes for early retirement and so on would have to be determined in a very rapid manner. I would like the Minister's assurance that the Commissioner of Taxation will be able to cope with the situation where urgent approvals for retirement schemes can be given.

Clearly, there will be a great deal of work which is new to the Commissioner of Taxation, because his office will have to give approval for early retirement schemes. I wonder what expertise the Australian Taxation Office envisages it will have to cope with this kind of work. What kind of liaison will go on with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations? What kind of guidelines will be issued on 1 July so that employers can take account of this new situation when seeking approval for early retirement schemes in order to render their employees who face the situation outlined in the Bill free of tax?

Finally, I refer to the clause 56 of the Bill regarding group employers. I note that there are requirements now for employers, presumably-I will come to that in a moment-to be granted group status under the group payments arrangements of the Australian Taxation Office. My question is: In the situations that are envisaged , where trustees of superanuation funds as well as employers are involved, who will have to register as the group employer? Is it the trustee of the superannuation fund, the employer, both or somebody altogether different, or is there some requirement upon the employee himself to be registered as a group operator in those situations?