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Wednesday, 20 May 1936

Senator ABBOTT (New South Wales) . - The committee may be interested to learn what happened about twenty years ago, concerning which I exonerate every living official of the Commonwealtih or State Taxation Departments. A friend of mine prepared his income tax return, was daily assessed, and paid the amount owing. Many years later, from certain information which he received, he discovered he had been overassessed to the extent of £500. That amount had been paid into a trust fund, and, of course, as Senator Brennan lias told us, no possible harm could come to it, although the taxpayer suffered the loss of interest on the amount overpaid for the whole of that period. The Commissioner and officials of the department must have known that he was entitled to a refund, but no action whatever was taken to do the right thing. When, however, he learned that the money was due to him, he made a claim, which was paid without demur. Senator Duncan-Hughes has submitted a very reasonable amendment. I am surprised that any member of the Government should attempt to defend the present practice, but I hope that the Minister in charge of the bill will adopt a more reasonable attitude. No possible harm can come to the department if in clause 172 we substitute the word " shall " for the word " may ", thus requiring the Commissioner of Taxation to refund any money overpaid. There is no justification for the Commissioner retaining money overpaid, merely because the department may, at some later and unascertained date, have a claim against the taxpayer concerned. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.

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