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Wednesday, 2 November 1910


Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - I move -

That the following new clause be inserted " 58A. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, any taxpayer may apply to the Commissioner to have a valuation made of his land for the purposes of this Act.

The Commissioner shall thereupon or within a reasonable time thereafter cause such valuation to be made.

The making of any such application shall not exempt the taxpayer from the provisions of sections fourteen, forty-seven, and forty-eight of this Act, but -

(a)   if the Commissioner's valuation shall be greater than the valuation shown in the taxpayer's returns, the Commissioner shall notify the taxpayer to pay an amount equal to the difference between the tax assessed upon the Commissioner's valuation and the tax payable on the taxpayer's assessment, and the taxpayer shall thereupon become liable to pay the said amount, and in respect of same shall be subject to the provisions of section forty-eight of this Act;

(4)   if the Commissioner's valuation shall be less than the valuation shown in the taxpayer's returns, the Commissioner shall thereupon refund to the taxpayer an amount equal to the difference between the tax payable under the taxpayer's assessment and the tax assessed on the Commissioner's valuation."

I hope the Vice-President of the Executive Council will agree that this is a very reasonable provision to introduce here. Clause 14 provides that the taxpayer shall make his return. Clause 47 provides for the notice, and clause 48 for a penalty in case payment is not made in due time. If this Bill is passed, and it probably will be, notwithstanding any opposition from this side, the Government will have the right to demand the tax whatever it may be. The Commissioner of Land Tax will say to a taxpayer, " You have stated the unimproved value of your -land," and he has to state both the unimproved and the improved value of the land. The Commissioner will say, " If I form the opinion that you have undervalued your land I shall appeal to the High Court and subject you to all sorts of pains and penalties." It must be remembered that if a man undervalues his land he is liable to a fine of £500 and to treble the amount of the tax, or to the forfeiture of the land. After all, a difference as to value is merely a question of one man's opinion against another's, and it may be an honest opinion on each side. The other day Senator Millen quoted valuations of land which had been given by different authorities, and which ranged from -£40 up to £100. If opinions can vary, and honestly vary, in this way, and a taxpayer feels that he has an honest opinion as to the value of his land, and it does not accord with the speculative value of some outside person, ought he not to have the opportunity of getting the difference settled in a fair and reasonable manner? It is admitted both elsewhere and here that sooner or later Government valuations will have to be made. I believe it will be found that opinions differ so greatly, and honestly differ, with regard to the value of land that the Government will be forced to make their own independent valuations for the purpose of carrying out the Act. There is no standard of valuation to be found anywhere in the Bill; there is no rule laid down by which a man can value his land. A man may say, " This land is of a certain value to me," and if somebody else chooses to say, " It is of a much higher value to me," it will simply be a matter of opinion between the men. Although the owner may be quite honest about his valuation, yet, if the Commissioner forms the opinion that there has been undervaluation on his part he can subject him to all these inconveniences and roundabout proceedings. It may be said that if the amendment were made every taxpayer might apply to have his land taxed. But I do not think that that is likely to happen. I imagine that in the bulk of cases there will be some rule by which the owner can fix fairly well the value of his land. Take the case of a man who lives in a State which imposes a land tax. At present the Bill does not allow a taxpayer to say to the Commissioner, " Here is the value of my land as fixed by, say, the State of South Australia." He cannot plead that as being the fair value of his land if the Commissioner holds a contrary opinion. No matter what valuation may be made, the Commissioner can still take proceedings against the owner under this provision. The Government ought not to object to a man who has an honest doubt as to the fair commercial value of his land asking the Commissioner to make a valuation. I would not object if the Government would accept my proposal with an amendment that thereupon, or within a reasonable time thereafter, the Commissioner should cause such valuation to be made at the expense of the taxpayer. I hope that the amendment will be accepted so as to remove the terror which otherwise will be in the minds of a good many persons. If it be inserted it will not do any harm to the measure or the Commonwealth, but it will do a service to the taxpayers. After all, thereis an ethical side of the question. I do not think that the Government ought to want to penalize a man because he is honestly of the opinion that his land is not worth so much as the Commissioner estimates. I certainly think that the provision ought to be inserted in order to prevent persons from giving an extraordinarily high value to their land merely out of fear of the terrible consequences which are apprehended from the measure.







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