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Tuesday, 25 May 1993
Page: 1259

Senator WATSON (10.52 p.m.) —I refer to a question that was put on notice and to which a response was given. The question concerned the assessability for fringe benefits tax of outplacement services provided by employers. Many of us are very concerned that the provision of a number of these sorts of services can attract fringe benefits tax. In times of recession, it seems to be an unfortunate extension of fringe benefits tax law where certain assistance provided by the employer to a departing employee is certainly needed.

  Perhaps the response should really come from the Minister to ensure that, as well as counselling and retraining to enable employees to undertake alternative work, there is the provision of other office services to enable retrenched staff to organise interviews and have resumes typed. Training in interview techniques and the preparation of resumes, which are the sorts of things that a responsible employer should do for his retrenched and departing employees, unfortunately now attract fringe benefits tax.

  I refer to the obvious psychological stress that retrenchment places on people. Having been associated with it, I am well aware of the traumas that affect families where these notices are given to a member of the family.

  I think this is a good time to ask the Minister to consider the appropriateness of the fringe benefits tax regime being extended so widely to these very necessary services. The extension of this tax will discourage responsible companies from engaging in some very worthwhile activities. It is most unfortunate that the tax law has been interpreted in such a way as to allow the imposition of a tax which I believe nobody really intended should be imposed in the first place. We would like the Minister to look at this. Perhaps some people have taken up this matter. In any case, it should be attended to as a matter of some priority.