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Tuesday, 3 April 1984
Page: 1086

Senator RICHARDSON —Can the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate how many applications for new taxation file numbers the Department of the Treasury has received since the introduction of the prescribed payments taxation system on 1 October last year? Of this number, how many applications were from people or companies who had previously not registered with the Australian Taxation Office or paid any taxation? From the information available to the Minister, is he in a position to state whether any of the people in this category were operating in their various industries prior to the commencement of the prescribed payments taxation? Finally, do the early figures suggest that the prescribed payments legislation has been a successful measure in combating a major portion of the only growth industry in Australia during the Fraser years, the tax avoidance industry?

Senator WALSH —I have a note from the Treasurer on this matter. All the figures state the position as at 9 March; they are the most recently available figures. They show that almost 43,000 applications for new taxation file numbers have been received. It is not possible at this stage to say how many of those were from applicants who had been obliged to lodge returns before but had not done so . But the early indications are that something like 25 per cent of those 43,000 applicants had not previously lodged income tax returns even though they had a liability to do so. Of the balance of the other 30,000-odd, some are individuals who claimed to have newly arrived in Australia, but most are new entities like partnerships, trusts and companies in relation to which it seems reasonable to expect or to assume that the proprietors had commonly previously had a liability to lodge returns but had not done so. The vast majority of defaulters detected so far had been operating in the respective industries prior to the introduction of the prescribed payments system.

It is too early to gauge the overall effectiveness of the prescribed payments system, but it is evident that the system has been extremely successful in bringing to light large numbers of taxpayers who have evaded tax in the past by failing to lodge returns, which I think explains the vociferous campaign waged last spring to torpedo the necessary legislation, a campaign which I note with regret was supported by a number of Liberal and National Party politicians, concentrated, as is usual for campaigns on behalf of tax evaders, in Western Australia. The actions of such people were at best opportunistic and at worst something much worse.

On Senator Richardson's final comment about the growth rate of various industries in Australia it is perfectly clear-as he said, the only growth industry under the Fraser Government, at least in its final years, was of course the tax avoidance industry-that almost every industry other than the tax avoidance industry has grown at quite a spectacular rate since the Fraser Government was dispatched to the dustbin of history. The one industry which has not fared at all well under this Government, and indeed would become extinct were it not for the obstructionist actions of half the members of the Senate, is the tax avoidance industry. That industry has fared very badly under this Government. Regrettably, the actions of half the members of this Senate have precluded the Government from ensuring that that industry becomes extinct.