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Wednesday, 20 May 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - I appreciate the point made by the Minister that, strange as H may seem, some of our common English words are capable of t-AVO meanings; that " may ", for instance, can, in certain circumstances, mean " shall ". I have had experience of what government departments can do so far as demands on taxpayers are concerned. Accepting the position, however, that the departmental officers may .be right in 49 cases out of 50, they will be tempted, mi the fiftieth case, if they are given permissive power under this clause, to cover up a departmental mistake, particularly when the amount involved is small. The department - and I do not blame it - gets every penny it can collect; I could give two or three instances of its actions in this respect. I support the amendment moved by Senator Duncan-Hughes, with this proviso - which, I think, offers a reasonable way out of the difficulty - that to it, after the word "overpaid", the following words should be added: " where the taxpayer is not otherwise indebted to the Commissioner ". If the taxpayer is up to date with his payments I can see no reason why it should not be made mandatory on the Commissioner to refund any tax overpaid.

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