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Monday, 27 September 1993
Page: 1227

(Question No. 125)

Senator Watson asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 13 May 1993:

  With reference to the fact that where a taxpayer lodges a tax return without a tax file number (TFN) it is the practice of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to hold that return and send an application for a TFN to the taxpayer, that the ATO regards the return as not being lodged in the meantime and if the taxpayer fails to reply to the request or refuses to complete an application for a TFN, the return is sent to audit for appropriate action:

  (1) If the taxpayer later replies to the request for information applicable to a request for a TFN, is the ATO able to impose any penalty for `late lodgment' of that return.

  (2) If that can be done, under what authority can a penalty be imposed, taking into account the fact that the taxpayer has lodged the return.

  (3) Is there any legislative authority for the Commissioner to refuse to accept the return even though all information necessary to raise an assessment has been given.

  (4) What legislative authority exists for the Commissioner to demand that an application for a TFN be supplied and is there any legislation which requires a taxpayer to have a TFN.

Senator McMullan —The Assistant Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) Yes, where any revenue has been deferred.

  (2) Under Section 222 of Part VII of Income Tax Assessment Act because Regulation 34 of Part 4 of the Income Tax Regulations states in part:

`A return shall not be deemed to have been duly furnished to the Commissioner unless and until:

  (a) the proper form signed as required by the Act and Regulations and containing a full, true and complete statement of all matters and things required to be stated therein by the Act and Regulations, the Commissioner, and the form itself; and

  (b) . . . have at the place where under these Regulations the return is to be furnished, been received by an officer authorized by the Commissioner to receive returns.'

  When a taxpayer receives a penalty through circumstances beyond his/her control, the Commissioner will generally use his remission powers to ensure that the taxpayer is not unduly disadvantaged.

  (3) Yes. Regulation 15(1) of Part 4 of the Income Tax Regulations states in part:

  `Except as otherwise prescribed, every return under the Act shall—

  (a) be made and furnished in such of the forms provided by the Commissioner for the purpose as is applicable;

  (b) contain the information and particulars mentioned or referred to in that form;'

  A TFN is used by the ATO with other information, such as name and address details, to determine the identity of a taxpayer. A return without a TFN may not have all information necessary to raise an assessment because the identity of the taxpayer has not been previously established.

  (4) There is no legislative authority to demand that an application for TFN be completed, nor is there legislation requiring a taxpayer to have a TFN. The consequence of not having one is that the Commissioner is not obliged to accept the `incomplete' return for lodgment, as per Regulations 15(1) and 34.