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Thursday, 14 November 1985
Page: 2147

Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance)(12.28) —Firstly, I will deal with the letter from which Senator Baume quoted. Of course, I have not actually seen a copy. That appears to be related to normal practice where the Australian Taxation Office asks the taxpayer whether he wishes to supply any additional information prior to the case going to the board of review. I think it is a very sensible procedure. On the matter of the backlog, I do not have the precise figures with me but from my recollection the backlog is of the order Senator Baume mentioned. It is continuing to increase, up to this stage. It is not quite as bad as it seems: I am advised that when one case is settled a large number of other cases frequently drop out because they are so close to being identical that they are resolved by the settlement of one case.

The Government is addressing the other question of the length of the backlog and the fact that, I think, it is still increasing, up to this stage. A submission has been prepared, and I expect it to be considered fairly soon, in which the question of both the number of boards and the composition of boards will be addressed. I expect an announcement to be made about that within the next few weeks, although I cannot guarantee it because it has not yet been considered by Cabinet. I am also told that, independently of the Cabinet submission, some new procedural practices have been adopted by the Taxation Office and the boards of review which it is expected will deal with the claims more efficiently and more quickly than has been the case in the past.