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Thursday, 25 November 1999
Page: 12695

Mr BEAZLEY —My question is to the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. Are you aware that the Antipodean Gallery in Subiaco, sellers of second-hand books, maps and prints, is closing early next year and shifting its stock to New York because the GST will, in the words of the shop owner, David Lilburne, `create an impossible administrative burden'? How can you claim that a tax system which requires regular reporting monthly or quarterly according to a 100-page instruction manual—this is what the small businesses have to go through—will simplify business red tape? Won't your new tax tangle be an impediment to the operators of small businesses, like the owner of the Antipodean Gallery already anticipates?

Mr REITH (Workplace Relations and Small Business) —The implementation of the goods and services tax provides us with an opportunity to change the way in which the tax system is administered. For many years, we have seen the small business community loaded up with a string of tax administration systems—all different, none coordinated and all of which have led to a significant impost of red tape on small business. That is why a lot of small business people have been saying for many years that we need a better system.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr REITH —Well, just you wait! When we were elected, we set up the Bell committee. The Bell committee went around to small business to talk to them about how we could better administer the tax system.

Mr Tanner interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne is warned!

Mr REITH —The Bell committee recommended a consolidation of five existing tax systems into one pay as you go system. That system will see the end of the reportable payments system, and it will see, for example, the end of provisional tax.

Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting

Mr REITH —For many years a lot of small businesses have gone broke because of the provisional tax which you kept in place. We will abolish the provisional tax system.

Mr Downer —There is sales tax on books in New York.

Mr REITH —There is sales tax on books in New York. Thank you to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He does travel more than I do. For small business this will mean a consolidation of the system. Instead of up to 32 different iterations with the tax office in an annual period, it will be reduced to four quarterly payments. If it were the case that your small business put the invoices, the receipts and the cheque butts into a shoe box until the end of the year and then passed them to the accountant, there is no doubt that you would have a greater transition cost. But you would also have a better set of accounts and a better understanding of what was happening in your business.

This package represents the most significant attack on red tape in recent Australian tax history. It is very good for small business not just from a red-tape point of view but because customers will have more money in their pockets and because we are reducing tax on business. This is a very good package. When it is topped off with the fantastic reforms on capital gains tax, small business is going to be a lot better off.