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Thursday, 27 November 1941

Senator KEANE (Victoria) (Minister for Trade and Customs) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a' second time.

This bill gives effect to the Government's proposals to obtain increased revenue from estate duty. It will be remembered that the previous Government adjusted and increased the rates of estate duty in May, 1940. These rates, which are at present in force, commence at 3 per cent., which applies to all estates up to a value of £10,000, and then rise steadily to a maximum rate of 20 per cent, in respect of estates amounting to £500,000. The Government considers that further revenue can be obtained from this source without undue hardship. It proposes, therefore, to obtain this revenue by steepening the rate of progression in respect of estates in excess of £20,000. It 13 not proposed to alter the rates on estates up to this value because the Government considers that they already bear a sufficiently heavy burden. I believe that honorable senators opposite are generally in agreement with the Government on the propriety of this form nf taxation.

Honorable senators have received copies of a schedule which has been prepared in order to show the effect of the proposals of the Government upon estates in various ranges together with the death duty in the highest taxed state, and British estate and succession duties on estates in these ranges. It will be seen that no change in the present amounts of duty payable is indicated in that schedule until the estate of £30,000 in value is reached. The increase of duty for such an estate is less than £100. There will be slight increases on estates of values between £20,000 and £30,000, but. generally speaking, they are negligible. The increases are not really substantial in any range until the estate reaches a value of £100,000. I suggest, however, that no particular hardship is involved in the increase of the rate applying to estates of this and higher values.

It is expected that the additional revenue for a full year, to be derived from these increases, will amount to about £650,000; but it is not expected that any additional revenue will be derived from this source in the current financial year. This is due to the fact that the increases will apply only to the estates of persons dying after the commencement of the act, and it is not possible for the Commissioner of Taxation to issue such assessments until some months after the date of death. In this respect honorable senators will appreciate that executors and trustees require a considerable time to prepare an estate duty return. The act allows three months after death for the lodgment of the return. Necessarily, a considerable amount of examination and valuation work must bc done prior to the issue of assessments in these higher ranges.

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