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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2274

(Question No. 945)

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 5 June 1984:

(1) Is the Treasurer considering introducing taxation deductions in the next Budget for transport costs, maintenance of wheelchairs and parking costs for employed disabled persons.

(2) Do employed disabled persons have to pay much higher transport costs than able-bodied employed persons and well in advance of the $10 per week mobility allowance.

(3) Do employed disabled persons have less disposable income because of disproportionate transport costs compared with able-bodied employed persons, and that this disparity is not recognised under the current provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act.

Senator Walsh —The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The 1984-85 Budget did not include a proposal to allow income tax deductions in respect of transport costs, maintenance of wheelchairs and parking costs to employed disabled persons.

The Government's view is that allowing such deductions is not necessarily the best way of providing assistance to the disabled. In this regard, it should be noted that persons on higher incomes in higher tax brackets stand to benefit the most for each dollar expended, while persons on lower incomes would receive little or no tax benefit.

Concessions are, however, available to disabled persons. The cost of buying and maintaining a wheelchair, and the remuneration paid to the attendant of a person who is permanently confined to a wheelchair, are 'medical expenses' in terms of the income tax law, and can be claimed as part of concessional expenditure in respect of which a taxpayer is entitled to a rebate of tax when the total of such expenditure exceeds $2,000. In addition, sales tax exemptions apply to wheelchairs and goods designed and manufactured expressly for use by disabled persons, while in certain circumstances sales tax exemption is available on motor vehicles used by disabled persons.

(2) From available information, it is known that some employed disabled persons incur additional transport costs because the effects of their disabilities may preclude the use of public transport.

The mobility allowance, which was introduced in April 1983, was never intended to meet all transport costs faced by eligible persons but rather to assist in off-setting some of the additional expenses involved. I understand that the mobility allowance is currently under review by my colleague Senator the honourable Don Grimes, the Minister for Social Security, and also by the Disability Advisory Council of Australia (DACA).

(3) Relevant details of disposable incomes are not available from taxation statistics.