Commissioner of Taxation - new powers in fixing the tax law

Not that we are counting, but there are only four sleeps to go until the release of Federal Budget for 2015-16. As always, The Tax Institute will be participating in the Budget lock-up, and a special Budget edition of TaxVine containing key insights will be released on Tuesday night, so that you will be ready to talk ‘revenue measures' at the coffee machine on Wednesday morning.

In other news, last Friday the Assistant Treasurer announced that the Commissioner would be given a power to fix the tax law where it results in unintended consequences.

We support a statutory remedial power for the Commissioner of Taxation in principle, but have reservations regarding its operation in practice. The essence of the power is pragmatism and that should not be lost in its administration.

The power is based on sound principles of building certainty, reducing complexity, and achieving timely resolution of unintended tax outcomes. Those principles should be front of mind when the power is implemented, and appropriate safeguards should be built in to its exercise.

There are questions still to be answered regarding the power. The Assistant Treasurer's announcement does not mention public consultation in relation to the establishment of proposed power, only in relation to its exercise.

In an ideal tax system, such a power would not be required because tax legislation would be clear, timely and consistent with its policy intent. The mere existence of the power should not encourage complacency on the part of Government when it comes to legislating tax measures.

Thilini Wickramasuriya FTI is a Tax Counsel of The Tax Institute.

The Tax Institute is Australia’s leading professional association in tax. Its 13,000 members include tax agents, accountants and lawyers as well as tax practitioners in corporations, government and academia.


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