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Federal Politicians Must Legislate to Remedy Defects in Tax Laws

Publication date: 12 Mar 09 | Source: THE TAX INSTITUTE

Australia’s premier professional tax body, the Taxation Institute of Australia, today acknowledged the clarification of the Tax Commissioner’s discretionary powers in speeches by Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo and Bruce Quigley, the Second Commissioner of Taxation, at the Institute’s 24th Annual Convention in Sydney today.

“However, it is now clear that the Tax Commissioner will not remedy ambiguities and technical defects in taxation law, as it stands, and that this must be done by Federal Politicians through legislation in the Parliament,” Taxation Institute President, Joan Roberts, said.

Mr. D’Ascenzo and Mr. Quigley were addressing more than 500 tax professionals at the Convention.

Ms. Roberts said that despite the Australian Taxation Office’s role changing in 2002 to that of an administrator of the tax system, there were still many misconceptions about the ability of ATO to administer its way around defects in the law.

“Mr. Quigley’s paper on discretionary powers makes it clear that the Commissioner’s powers of general administration are narrow in scope in that they can only be exercised in relation to management and administrative decisions, not in respect of interpretation issues,” Ms. Roberts said.

“This creates a greater onus on the Government to be more responsive to detected legislative defect or other policy issues problems requiring quick resolution.

"This is crucial given Mr Quigley has noted that ‘the Commissioner’s role is to apply the law not the policy [and] where the law is clear, the Commissioner has a duty to apply that law, even if it produces inconvenient outcomes for the community or for an individual taxpayer”.

Despite these limitations the Taxation Institute pointed out that the Commissioner does have extensive discretions in respect of lodgement and debt collection.

“It was pleasing to hear from the Commissioner of that the ATO is using those powers empathically,” Ms. Roberts added.

“In these tough times we would urge the Commissioner to continue to exercise them judiciously, she said.

“We note the Commissioner has responded quickly in respect of the recent tragedies in Victoria and North Queensland and we have little doubt he will continue to do so in these tough times.”
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About the Taxation Institute of Australia:  The Taxation Institute is Australia’s largest and most diverse body of tax professionals working together to improve the tax system and the delivery of tax services through education, sharing of information and consultation.

Media Contacts:    

Joan Roberts, President - Taxation Institute of Australia on 0419 308 141
Dr Michael Dirkis, Senior Tax Counsel - Taxation Institute of Australia on 0417 400 349
John Hanrahan, Lighthouse Communications, 0411 212 965.