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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr SPOONER (Robertson) (10:15 AM) . - The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has referred to an anomaly which has slipped through the whole social services system. I am aware of cases similar to those which he mentioned. In fact, one was brought to my attention about a week ago. In general terms it is the case of an invalid who depends entirely upon a taxpayer. The invalid may be at any age between sixteen years and 60 years, but the taxpayer is not allowed any deduction in respect of him. This is not a matter for an income tax deduction. It is really a weakness in the social services system. The Commonwealth has not yet come into the general field of social services. Certainly it has control of invalid and oldage pensions, but most of the other social services are controlled by the States, and between the various systems this case has escaped attention. The honorable member should be fair to the Government; this has never been an allowable deduction for federal income tax purposes, although, during recent months, it has become a deduction for State income tax purposes in New South Wales. Taxpayers in that State now have the benefit of an allowance of £60 calculated according to their rates of taxation. Whilst this is a useful contribution towards the maintenance of invalid dependants, it is a very small one, and is far from adequate. I wish to make clear the position of the Government in this matter. The committee on uniform taxation, which advised it, considered the concessional deductions and allowances provided in all the income tax systems of Australia. No two systems have identical concessional deductions and family allowances. New South Wales makes an allowance for dental fees, which is not granted elsewhere, and in September last it allowed a deduction similar to that which the honorable member for Hunter urges. The Commonwealth committee on uniform taxation had to recommend some plan of concessional deductions, and it concluded that the only one which it could recommend was the existing federal plan. Had it adopted one deduction from New South Wales and one from South Australia, for inclusion in the Commonwealth system, it might have been obliged to go farther and take items from the Western Australian and Tasmanian systems until it had a huge list of deductions. It did the obvious thing when it recommended that the Government should use the existing Commonwealth plan, which does not provide for cases such as the honorable member for Hunter mentioned. The Government has stated clearly that .it has accepted the recommendations of the committee on uniform taxation for the time being in order to establish a basis for its legislation. The Treasurer promised a few minutes ago that any anomalies could be investigated within the next two or three months before the introduction of the budget. By adopting the committee's report, the Government has excluded the particular case which is under discussion, but the Treasurer will probably investigate it in the next few months. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter that dependent invalids should be provided for in the social service system. However, the income tax law is not the proper place to provide for them. The honorable member should realize that nobody is losing anything under these proposals. The allowance 'which he proposes has never been included in the Commonwealth income tax provisions, and it has only recently been adopted by New South Wales.

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