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Thursday, 25 November 1999
Page: 12642

Mr COX (12:15 PM) —The necessity for the A New Tax System (Indirect Tax and Consequential Amendments) Bill (No. 2) 1999 again exposes the totally fraudulent claim by the Howard government that a GST means a simpler tax system. There have already been 756 amendments to the new indirect tax system legislation since it was passed less than six months ago, and this bill adds a further 151. That is a total of 907 amendments. I understand that, immediately following the divisions on this legislation, a further 119 amendments will be introduced, which will take the total to 1,026.

Mr Crean —I am glad it's a simple system!

Mr COX —There is nothing simple about this system. That is part of the transitional cost of getting from one system to another. No matter how brilliant the Commonwealth Treasurer thinks he is, he could never have contemplated every possible implication of the GST for the way Australians do business. What seemed simple in concept has in reality turned out to be very complex. These amendments will by no means be the last. They are just the last GST amendments that will be made before the year 2000. I am prepared to predict that there will be another 2,000 amendments to the GST in the year 2000. Each time there is another crop of GST bills, regulations and explanatory memorandums, the member for Rankin weighs and measures them.

Mr Emerson interjecting

Mr COX —He tells me it is 5.1 kilograms.

Mr Emerson —And getting heavier.

Mr COX —Heavier than Anna Burke's baby! Remember there will be about 1.4 million taxpayers doing the book work to comply with all these laws, which is a lot more than the 70,000 who had to comply with the wholesale sales tax. One of the problems of all these changes is that it is making it even harder for businesses to prepare for the GST. Accountants are finding it difficult to advise their clients, when so much of the detail of the new indirect tax system is up in the air.

Deficiencies in the legislation will continue to be identified both before and after the date of its introduction. I am being constantly told that the ATO is not able to advise clients on much of the detail. Some of the stories about other jurisdictions where a GST has been introduced are instructive. The tax authorities may take several years to work out how to administer the legislation. Some of it will depend on interpretations of the law by the courts. Businesses may find that they are facing tax office audits several years down the track and being penalised for acting in a manner which the ATO had been unable to advise them was non-compliant at the time the actions were being taken.

The Treasurer used to criticise the old indirect tax system because it had a number of different ways of treating various products. He said that this would all be replaced by a simple 10 per cent GST. The degree of complexity with the GST has reached a similar situation, and now there are: GST free, input taxed, five per cent GST on caravan park sites, 10 per cent GST, wine equalisation tax, luxury car tax, per stick tobacco excise, beer excise, spirits excise, fuel excise, taxed and untaxed food, high rollers casino concession and premium Olympics tickets tax as distinguished from the ordinary Olympics tickets, which are untaxed—same product, different tax rates. No wonder Treasurer Costello is adamant he does not want the amount of GST paid to appear on sales dockets and invoices. He persists with the fiction that the GST is simple and everyone will know what they are paying in tax in each transaction. The truth is, when it comes in, they do not want people to be reminded that it is even there, let alone reminded how much they will be paying.

Question put:

That the amendment (Mr Crean's ) be agreed to.