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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 21


Mr PEARCE (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (10:26 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill makes numerous improvements to Australia’s tax laws.

Schedule 1 gives effect to the government’s announcement in the 2005-06 budget that it will abolish foreign loss and foreign tax credit quarantining and streamline the remaining foreign tax credit rules. This is achieved by repealing the existing arrangements and replacing them with new simplified foreign income tax offset rules.

These rules allow taxpayers to claim relief for foreign income taxes paid on an amount included in their assessable income. These amendments also include transitional rules for the treatment of existing foreign losses and credits.

These amendments also provide a mechanism to allow the Commissioner of Taxation to give effect to Australia’s tax treaty obligations to provide relief from economic double taxation arising from transfer pricing adjustments.

By reducing tax complexity and compliance costs, these changes will assist businesses of all sizes operating, or seeking to grow, internationally. They build on the previous reforms undertaken by the Review of International Taxation Arrangements to ensure Australia has a competitive international tax system.

Schedule 2 amends the income tax laws to provide a capital gains tax rollover, similar to the scrip for scrip rollover, for membership interests in companies limited by guarantee that are also medical defence organisations. This rollover will ensure that capital gains tax need not be an impediment to mergers or takeovers of medical defence organisations.

Schedule 3 to this bill allows investment by superannuation funds in instalment warrants that are of a limited recourse nature.

In recent years, many superannuation funds, particularly self-managed superannuation funds, have invested in instalment warrants. These changes will allow superannuation funds to continue to invest in limited recourse instalment warrants with certainty.

Schedule 4 amends the ultimate beneficiary reporting rules in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936. These rules target arrangements where taxpayers use complex chains of trusts to effectively obscure the ultimate beneficiary of the assessable trust income.

Under the new rules, trustees of closely held trusts will no longer be required to trace income through interposed trusts to the ultimate beneficiary and report those details to the Commissioner of Taxation. Instead, trustees of closely held trusts will be required to report only the details of trustee beneficiaries that are presently entitled to income of the trust and tax-preferred amounts.

Family trusts and their related trusts will be excluded from the new reporting requirements, on the basis that under the family trust election rules any distributions outside the family group are already subject to a penalty rate of tax. In addition, the commissioner will be given a determination making power not to require annual reporting for some trusts where he considers it unnecessary.

These amendments will reduce compliance costs for trustees of closely held trusts whilst maintaining the integrity of the tax system.

Schedule 5 to this bill assists in a smooth transition to the new simplified superannuation regime and clarifies the policy intent.

These amendments ensure that where a tax file number is provided by the commissioner, the tax file number is taken to have been quoted by the member, and the provider can use the tax file number.

These amendments also address strategies which seek to circumvent the minimum drawdown requirements for superannuation income streams. Concessional tax treatment will only apply to those assets included in the income stream account balance.

These amendments also further improve the readability of superannuation and taxation provisions rewritten as part of the reforms.

Schedule 6 amends the list of deductible gift recipients in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. Deductible gift recipient status will assist the listed organisations to attract public support for their activities.

Schedule 7 implements various technical corrections and amendments and also some general improvements to the law of a minor nature. These amendments are an important part of the government’s commitment to improving the quality of the taxation laws and reducing their complexity.

Schedule 8 amends the trust loss regime to provide more flexibility for family trusts. The amendments allow family trust elections to be varied or revoked in a broader range of circumstances than is currently the case. The amendments also expand the definition of family to include lineal descendants, former spouses, widows, widowers and former stepchildren.

Full details of the measures in this bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Ms Plibersek) adjourned.