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Monday, 26 June 2000
Page: 15600

Senator ELLISON (Special Minister of State) (4:33 PM) —I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows

The Bill will establish a new uniform penalties regime for all taxation laws administered by the Commissioner. Under the current framework, penalty provisions are either duplicated or differ between different taxation laws and some tax shortfalls currently do not attract penalties. The existing framework needs to be modernised to cope with the requirements of the new tax system.

The amendments in the Bill will remove inconsistencies and will rectify deficiencies that exist in the current penalties framework. As a result, the new framework will be simpler, uniform and equitable.

The Bill will also make amendments to allow people other than registered tax agents to prepare or lodge a business activity statement on behalf of taxpayers and to give advice about the new tax system. Under the current law, most of this work is restricted to registered tax agents or legal practitioners.

Those who will be able to assist businesses with their obligations under the new tax system will include:

· members of recognised professional associations that represent accountants and tax practitioners;

· bookkeepers working under the direction of registered tax agents;

· persons that provide payroll bureau services to employers; and

· customs brokers.

The Bill makes a number of miscellaneous amendments to the provisions covering the pay as you go arrangements, the business activity statement, general interest charge provisions and the standardised collection and recovery rules to ensure a smooth transition to the new tax system on 1 July 2000. This will include amendments to ensure that a small or medium-sized business which enters into a contract to purchase plant or software for GST purposes before 1 July 2000 will qualify for an immediate deduction.

The Bill also makes amendments to The Corporations Law consequential to the introduction of the pay as you go withholding arrangements. The Government has consulted the Ministerial Council for Corporations about these consequential amendments and the Council has approved the amendments for introduction into Parliament.

The Bill amends the Diesel Fuel Rebate provisions contained in the Excise Act 1901 and the Customs Act 1901 to enable a lower rate of rebate in relation to “like fuels” and to apply the rate averaging provisions to the new lower rate of rebate from January 2001.

The Bill makes amendments to limit public access to details contained in the Australian Business Register. It will also allow a person to apply to the Registrar of the Australian Business Register to not disclose information that would otherwise be released.

Full details of the measures in this Bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

I commend the Bill.

Ordered that further consideration of this bill be adjourned to the first day of the 2000 spring sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.