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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3458

(Question No. 1404)


Senator Kilgariff asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 25 September 1986:

(1) Has the Australian Taxation Office commenced a campaign of telephoning businesses requesting lodgement of fringe benefit tax forms?

(2) Is the Treasurer aware of any such telephone calls being made to businesses in the Northern Territory?

(3) Has the campaign been authorised by the Australian Taxation Office: If so, at what level?

(4) What is the nature of the information or requests being made via this campaign?

(5) Is it the case that officers of the Australian Taxation Office have visited businesses and refused to leave until individuals have filled in the fringe benefits tax forms; if so, under what authority has this action been taken?

(6) It is proposed that this sort of tactic continue to be used or adopted in the future?

(7) Is the Treasurer able to comment upon the statements in the ``NT News'' that the behaviour of officers of the Australian Taxation Office is causing distress to business people?

(8) Does the Treasurer believe that this is an appropriate way for the Australian Taxation Office to carry out its business; if not, what steps will the Treasurer take to put an end to this practice?


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

(1) Yes. The Commissioner of Taxation advises that officers of the Australian Taxation Office are contacting those employers who have not responded to either of the two circulars issued to them. About 446,000 employers were sent requests in recent months for some basic information about their possible liability to FBT.

(2) Yes. The Commissioner confirmed that Northern Territory employers have been contacted by telephone. All such contact has been made from the Adelaide Branch Office.

(3) Yes. The campaign was authorised by the Commissioner.

(4) The information being requested will enable the ATO to determine which employers will or will not be liable to FBT. Those affected by FBT are being sent relevant documentation and FBT forms to enable them to comply with the FBT law.

(5) No. The Commissioner advises his officers do not adopt a coercive approach to employers. They are either telephoning or visiting those employers who have not responded to the circulars. To 29 October 1986, these contacts have resulted in 95,755 Request for Information forms being completed. During the course of these contacts and while carrying out normal PAYE inspection work, all taxation inspectors are taking the opportunity to advise employers of their responsibilities under the FBT legislation and are responding to questions about the tax. Explanatory material on FBT is being provided to those who require it.

(6) Taxation officers will continue in a courteous and professional manner to contact those employers who have not responded to either of the two circulars requesting some basic information about their possible FBT liability.

(7) The Commissioner advises that the approach taken by his officers has been to ask only the basic questions necessary of an employer with minimal interruption to his business. Should the employer be unable to answer the questions after having basic FBT requirements explained to him the discussion is politely terminated. Employers are not pressured to provide information.

(8) I believe the approach taken by the Commissioner is appropriate. The telephone contact by his officers has been necessary because of the slow response by some employers in providing information requests in the two circulars about their possible liability to FBT. The information is needed so that employers liable to FBT can be furnished with explanatory documentation and FBT forms to enable them to comply with the new law. To 29 October 1986 completed Request for Information forms have been received from over half of the employers circularised. 102,446 employers have indicated that they are providing fringe benefits.