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Wednesday, 20 May 1936

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia) . - The Minister's explanation is not particularly satisfactory to me, and it does not agree with a statement of opinion which I had from his colleague, Senator Brennan, a year or two ago. On that occasion, Senator Brennan said that the word " may " is frequently interpreted by the courts to mean " shall." On the other hand, the Minister in charge of the bill has just told us that it may be advisable for the Commissioner to retain money overpaid, as a set-off against other claims which the department may have against the taxpayer concerned. If a taxpayer is over-assessed he has to pay the amount, but may lodge an objection. In due course his objection is treated as an appeal. If, eventually, the Commissioner agrees that the taxpayer is right, there should be a definite obligation on the Commissioner to refund, without delay, the amount of the overcharge. Indeed it is not unreasonable to urge that there should be an interest charge against the Commissioner, just as there is an interest charge against the taxpayer who does not pay his assessment within the time allowed. To put this discussion in order, I move -

That the word " may " be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word "shall ".

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