Monday, 21 June 2010
Tax Laws Amendment (2010 GST Administration Measures No. 3) Bill 2010
Debate resumed from 26 May, on motion by Mr Bowen:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I am pleased to speak on the Tax Laws Amendment (2010 GST Administration Measures No. 3) Bill 2010. This bill was introduced into this place on 26 May 2010 and it implements some of the 46 recommendations made by the Board of Taxation from its review of the legal framework for the administration of the goods and services tax. Legislation implementing some other recommendations from the Board of Taxation’s review included the Tax Laws Amendment (2009 GST Administration Measures No.1) Bill 2010 and the Tax Laws Amendment (2009 GST Administration Measures No.2) Bill 2010, which passed through the House earlier this year. As I did with those earlier bills, I would like to say at the outset that the coalition will be supporting the passage of this bill through the House and the other place.
Schedule 1 of the bill amends the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 to ensure the supply of goods transport services in Australia GST free if that supply is made as part of the international transport of goods to a nonresident that is not in Australia. Schedule 1 also changes the liability for paying GST on the transport of goods within Australia, where that transport is part of the international transport of imported goods from the transport service provider to the importer of the goods. The amendment will mean that importers will add the cost of domestic transport into the ‘value of taxable importation’ used to calculate GST liability on importation and remove the GST liability on the supply of domestic transport services made to a nonresident. This will ease compliance costs for domestic transporters and nonresidents. The amendments in schedule 1 were announced by the then Assistant Treasurer in the 2009-10 budget on 12 May 2009. Schedule 1 has a revenue cost of $2 million a year.
Schedule 2 of this bill amends the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 to ensure that global roaming telecommunication services remain GST free. Schedule 2 was initially announced by the former coalition government. The then Assistant Treasurer, the Hon. Peter Dutton MP, announced, on 21 December 2006, that the government would clarify the law to maintain the intention that supplies of global roaming telecommunication services would remain GST free. There was a requirement for clarification in this area of GST law because a tax ruling by the Australian Taxation Office cast doubt on the treatment of such supplies. These supplies were always intended to be GST free in accordance with Australia’s obligations under the Melbourne agreement on international telecommunication regulations. The former coalition government began consultation with the telecommunications industry to ensure that the amendments were properly targeted. As the amendments reflect the original intention and operation of the law in this area, the amendments will apply retrospectively from 1 July 2000.
Schedule 3 of this bill amends the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 to allow entities to make appropriate adjustments where the entities are members of the same GST group, GST religious group or GST joint venture. These amendments are in addition to the amendments made in a previous bill, the Tax Laws Amendment (2010 GST Administration Measures No. 1) Bill 2010, which was passed with the support of the coalition earlier this year.
As I said at the outset, the coalition supports the measures in this bill. I commend the bill to the House.
I speak in support of the Tax Laws Amendment (2010 GST Administration Measures No. 3) Bill 2010. Amendments to tax laws are made by schedule, and the first schedule deals with GST and cross-border transport supplies. It has been suggested by the industry that this change is necessary and it is important reform to allow certainty and clarification with respect to the transportation of goods from export as well as import. The second schedule deals with GST relief for telecommunications supplied for global roaming in Australia. That has been on the cards for some time, as the member for Farrer said. It deals with the Melbourne agreement, which was an important reform. The third schedule deals with GST amendments to the third-party payments adjustment provisions. Again, that is an amendment as a result of consequences which were unintended by previous legislation.
The first schedule, as I said, deals with the GST and cross-border transport supplies. It is important that nonresidents are not drawn into the Australian GST system, and it is important that jurisdiction with respect to the collection of tax is clarified and made certain. You do not want companies or individuals caught up in our system when they should not be. Parts of the transport industry have expressed concern in relation to this. They have expressed concern about compliance costs, and they have expressed concern about difficulties in complying with the GST law. The first schedule amends the GST act to ensure that the transportation of goods by subcontractors within Australia that forms part of the international transport of those goods by another entity from or to Australia is taxable unless the transport supply is made to a nonresident that is not in Australia. Those amendments operate from 1 July this year. The changes, as I have said, have been sought by the industry. It is consistent with what the government has said previously, and it is about reducing tax compliance and ensuring a regulatory system in which small businesses and medium businesses have the best opportunity and climate to operate free of regulation. At the same time, it improves the integrity of our GST system.
The second schedule deals with GST relief for telecommunications supplied for global roaming in Australia. The Melbourne agreement, particularly the provision known as article 6.1.3, provides that the tax levied in accordance with the national law of a country on collection charges for international telecommunications services can only be collected in respect of international services billed to customers in that country. It was always thought, as the member for Farrer said, that international telecommunications supplies were not considered to be taxable under our GST law. I always take the view that inherently rulings by the Commissioner of Taxation are a good thing—they prevent litigation, reduce administrative costs and provide certainty with respect to the businesses and practitioners who deal with taxation law, with compliance costs and also with business generally. However, sometimes the Commissioner of Taxation can get it wrong, and sometimes decisions made by the Commissioner of Taxation can confuse and cause difficulties. What we are doing here is restoring the situation to what the business community and the accountancy field always thought it was and what the government policy always intended to ensure.
Global roaming by Australian residents when travelling overseas is not subject to GST as it is not connected with Australia for the purpose of GST, and we intend to ensure that we fulfil our obligations under the Melbourne agreement. We want to make sure that nonresidents are not subject for GST purposes. The previous government made the announcement, as the member for Farrer said, in December 2006 that it would take steps in relation to this matter but, as is so often the case when the Rudd government brings in legislation, we hear that the previous government thought it might deal with this in its 13th or 14th year but never got around to actually doing anything. This is important reform. The business community will think it is sensible, the accountancy industry will think it is sensible, and anyone who deals with this area will also think it is a prudent measure by the government.
The third schedule relates to adjustments for third parties. This is a confusing area, but what it actually means is that the inappropriate interaction of the GST will not create third-party payment adjustments which are unintended. It means that the correct amount of GST outcome will be achieved in circumstances where there are third parties involved in the supply chain. We want to make sure that there are no consequences adverse to consumers or to groups such as religious groups or joint ventures or in fact GST groups. Entities that deal with one another also need to be aware of the consequences of that. This has been relevant especially to the automotive industry, who have expressed some concerns particularly in respect of the public consultation process. They will welcome this change. The member for Farrer spoke about this and I do not intend to outline exactly what the consequences of the schedule 3 amendments will be.
I think this is important reform. All three schedules add to the certainty and clarification of tax law in this country. They add to business certainty. They promote a climate in which business can operate with less regulation and a lighter burden. They create a climate in which we can ensure that businesses—particularly small and medium-sized businesses as well as those in the transportation sector and the automotive industry—can operate profitably, employ more people and create the jobs which we hope will get us through the difficult days we face now and in the future.
I rise today to speak on the Tax Laws Amendment (2010 GST Administration Measures No. 3) Bill 2010 and take the opportunity to concentrate on one component of this bill. I begin by referring to my media release of 29 September 2006 when I was a member of the Howard government. I was ecstatic at being able to release this information, because a plan that I had worked on for so very long had started to unfold. It was not a panacea, it was not going to rebuild the lives of people caring for disabled children in a flash and it was not going to be the answer to everything; but it was the beginning of an understanding that we had to provide some mechanisms to enable parents to prepare to look after their disabled children. These children may have been born with intellectual disabilities or physical disabilities. They may have acquired disabilities through brain tumours, accidents or simple things such as a cricket ball or cricket bat hitting them in the head and rendering them brain damaged. They may have had illnesses that had afflicted them with a disability from then on. But in each case the lives of the parents of these children are in turmoil as they try to determine how to prepare to care for their disabled child through their adult lives when the parents themselves become aged persons.
I concentrate today specifically on schedule 4 of this bill, which centres around changes to the taxation of the unexpended income of special disability trusts. I recall that I put out my press release of December 2006 after I had lobbied the former Minister for Family and Community Services, Kay Patterson, over an extensive period, had talked to many parents of disabled children and had listened to the advocacy of Judy Brewer—who was the wife of the Hon. Tim Fischer, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia—on the needs of parents with disabled children. We wanted to ensure that they could be cared for in the future by ring-fencing property and allowing people to save into a trust while not being penalised for doing so. The idea was that they could put money, property et cetera into a trust and not be penalised by losing their disability support through having an income tax penalty applied to them. I lobbied very hard on both this and a system that could be applied either at birth or at any time afterwards to insure families in their management of the care of disabled children over many years.
I was not successful at the time in getting a national insurance scheme up and running, though not for want of trying. However, we were successful in putting in place special disability trusts. I recall welcoming the fact that families were able to start to prepare for the future care of their disabled sons or daughters through the special disability trusts created at that time by the Australian government. I talked about the measure that would enable families to make preparations financially to provide current and future care and accommodation for a son or daughter with a severe disability without being affected by social security means-testing. I talked about the fact that they could place up to $500,000 in a special disability trust and not have it impact on the beneficiary’s income support, such as disability support pension or the gifter’s pension if they were of pension age. I talked about needing to support both people with a disability and the people who care for them.
I concentrate today on a submission that was sent into the discussion paper on this issue. I will not identify the author of this submission, but it puts everything into context and determines the real issues confronted by parents who are facing the lifelong care of a child. This submission talks about the problems associated with one particular family, and it was so well put together that I could not do better than to come into this House and quote extensively from it. I think it clearly picks up many of the issues.
I welcome the changes in this bill. I think they are good changes. They are the beginning of a recognition of the issues that confront our families, but they do not go far enough, and I am acutely aware of the fact that there should have been changes made by the last government. I am not saying that this government is responsible for making all the changes. I am acutely aware of that, because I lobbied hard for changes while we were in government, and I am just adding that the change needs to continue to happen.
In this submission, the author—who, as I said, shall remain nameless because I do not believe it would be correct to put their name in, although the submission is public—says:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Exposure Draft. At the outset I would like to make the following comments—
and I have been in touch with this person on numerous occasions.
- The change from taxing the unexpended income within a SDT—
a special disability trust or SDT—
from 46.5% to the beneficiary’s marginal tax rate is a very significant and positive step—
which I absolutely agree with—
that will be appreciated by those who have established or those who are contemplating setting up a SDT.
- However, the above is only one step forward. This is clearly stated in the Exposure Draft at 1.9 page 2 ie.
- 9 These amendments remove one of the tax issues identified by the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs and are designed to ensure that taxation is not a disincentive for the establishment of a SDT.
There are many other disincentives relating to tax issues that have not been stated in this document or whether they will be considered or addressed in the future.
The author goes on to say:
One example is the CGT impost of placing a residence, however meagre, into a SDT. This is particularly the case for elderly couples who have been extremely frugal during their lives to save sufficient to house their severely disabled son or daughter. Many have been caring for a disabled offspring in excess of 40 years, as in our case.
… … …
Data provided by FaHCSIA in September 2005 gave an initial estimate of 5,000 trusts to be established by 2010 however, very few trusts have been established and these are by carers with an average age of 78 years, which is indicative that the SDT was an option of last resort before they themselves lost legal capacity or met their demise. Currently the only means for elderly parents to avoid the substantial financial impost of CGT on placing a residence in a SDT is through their death, whether that is brought about by natural causes, tragic accident or suicide. In the press release to herald the Exposure Draft, the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten MP stated:
‘This Bill will rectify an inappropriate taxation outcome and further assist immediate family members and carers to make private financial provision for the care and accommodation needs of people with severe disability.’
The author goes on to say:
The question arises then, what other inappropriate taxation outcomes are a disincentive hindering parents from establishing a SDT?
It is worth noting that the only change to the administration of SDTs prior to the 2009/2010 budget was to permit agencies/institutions to combine aids and accommodation expenditures. This was possibly sanctioned specifically for accounting/auditing purposes. It appears that very little thought has been given to the concept of social inclusion within the community in the legislative framework of SDTs. Many severely disabled people with complex health problems and needs may not survive within the confines of an agency’s institutional care and accommodation. In the case of our 43 year old severely disabled daughter, she would not be alive today if she had been subjected to such ‘care’. Currently, after at least two years we are still waiting for approval to be granted conditions for inclusion in a SDT that are outlined in Guidelines 2006, subsection 2.8 ( 1 ).
In raising this issue and quoting extensively from the submission outlining this family’s plight, I wanted to thank the government for making some changes to this legislation that will ease one very small part of the burden for carers who are trying to make arrangements for the future care of their children. But I also ask the government to continue to make these changes—to continue to understand that these changes are sometimes the most important thing that a carer who is an ageing parent can hope for when they care for a disabled ageing son or daughter.
The pure fact of special disability trusts being established, I thought, could be the beginning of monumental change in the future. As I said, when they were established, I saw their limitations; I was not advocating that they were the best thing that had ever happened to families struggling through such a crisis in their lives, but I did feel proud that we had made movement on it and that people were being recognised for the pain they have suffered and for their endurance. They have been asked to accept these things without receiving true and proper recognition. When I speak on the carers bill, hopefully later this week, I will quote extensively from a book that has been released, which I have been fortunate to receive a copy of, detailing the feelings and experiences, the fun and the pain of dealing with someone with a severe disability. I am looking forward to making that speech.
But in this speech I want to appeal to the minister: please, this is a good movement, but let us look at capital gains tax; it should not apply. You should be able to place a family home into a disability trust. You should be able to secure and ring-fence that home. That is what I thought was the intention of the special disability trusts. I do not know how I missed the fact that it would attract capital gains tax and that this would be a major impediment for people wanting to take this up.
If you could ring-fence and put your home or a future home for your child in the trust and earn income from it and leave that in the trust and not have tax implications or capital gains implications for it, imagine how much relief you would have in actually being able to provide for the future care of your child should something happen to you and should you not be the one who is able to provide that care. One of the carers in my region is 93 years old, and he has been caring for 70 years full time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There seems to be no real answer to how we could structure an appropriate vehicle to enable families to adequately provide for the future of their child.
In speaking to this bill, I want to say to the government: thank you for making a small change. We appreciate it. The people of Australia who have disabled children and who want to enter into a special disability trust thank you as well. But I do ask you not to say: ‘Well, we’ve done something there and that is all we need to do.’ It is not all we need to do. Regardless of who is in government and who runs this country, we have so much to do—and it begins with removing things like capital gains tax and implementing things like a national insurance scheme that people can pay into in order to care for their children.
I will continue to raise this before I leave this parliament. It has been one of the things that I have advocated most for and railed against in this parliament. I feel that the recognition of carers with disabled children is still far from top of mind in any government that I have witnessed since being in this place. I would like to see it far more top of mind and I would like to see more effort put into trying to resolve the issues of carers of disabled children and particularly those carers with ageing disabled children. I thank you for the opportunity to speak.
I rise to speak briefly on the Tax Laws Amendment (2010 GST Administration Measures No. 3) Bill 2010 and I begin by providing a brief outline of this bill. The bill provides three schedules which amend the GST legislation. Schedule 1 amends the GST law to provide that the transport of goods by subcontractors within Australia that forms part of the international transport of those goods by another entity from or to Australia is taxable unless the supply of transport is made to a nonresident that is not in Australia.
Schedule 2 amends the GST law to ensure telecommunications supplies under global roaming arrangements provided to subscribers of nonresident telecommunications suppliers while roaming in Australia remain not subject to GST. The global roaming telecommunications supplies covered by the amendment are mobile telephone global roaming and mobile internet roaming. The amendment makes GST-free the following supplies of global roaming services: the supply made by an Australian resident telecommunications supplier to a nonresident telecommunications supplier of use of its network in Australia and provided to subscribers of the nonresident telecommunications supplier when visiting Australia and the supply by the nonresident telecommunications supplier of global roaming facilities made to its subscribers visiting Australia.
Schedule 3 amends the GST law to ensure that the appropriate amount of goods and services tax is collected and the appropriate amount of input tax credits claimed in situations where there are payments—often referred to as third-party payments—between parties in a supply chain which indirectly alter the price paid or received by the parties for the things supplied but where certain parties in the supply chain are members of the same GST group, GST religious group or GST joint venture. The amendments correct an unintended consequence of recent changes to the GST legislation which created an adjustment to apply in situations where third-party payments are made.
Let me briefly explain each of the schedules. Schedule 1 will reduce GST compliance costs and provide greater certainty for the domestic transport industry by streamlining the application of the GST law to this industry. The changes to the GST treatment of cross-border transport suppliers have been sought by industry and I am sure will be welcome. The changes will reduce nonresident involvement in the Australian GST system, make the GST law consistent for postal and nonpostal goods, and assist subcontracted transport suppliers with tax compliance. This measure is consistent with government initiatives to reduce tax compliance costs particularly for small and medium businesses.
Schedule 2 talks about relief for telecommunication suppliers for global roaming in Australia. Australia is a party to the Melbourne agreement. Article 6.1.3 of the Melbourne agreement provides that tax levied in accordance with the national law of a country on ‘collection charges for international telecommunication services’ can only be collected ‘in respect of international services billed to customers in that country’. This means that international telecommunication supplies made under arrangements for global roaming in Australia provided to subscribers of nonresident telecommunications suppliers’ customers while those subscribers are ‘roaming’ in Australia should not be subject to GST. I understand that up until 14 December 2005 these international telecommunication supplies were not considered to be taxable under the Australian GST law. However the Commissioner of Taxation then determined that these supplies were taxable. Therefore it is necessary to amend the GST law to ensure that the treatment of these supplies remains consistent with the Melbourne agreement.
The type of telecommunication supply provided to the user of a portable device under a global roaming arrangement is not limited by this amendment. Those supplies include transmission of voice, pictures and text messages, email and internet access. A charge that is for the content delivered to a portable device, as distinct from the transmission service to deliver that content, is not covered by this amendment.
Due to the convergence of telecommunication device capabilities in recent years, there are many portable devices which subscribers of non-resident telecommunication suppliers may use to access global roaming in Australia. These include mobile phones, smart phones, personal digital assistants, laptop computers and universal serial bus modems. Global roaming by Australian residents when travelling overseas is not subject to GST as it is not connected with Australia for the purposes of the GST.
Schedule 3 refers to adjustments for third-party payments. The amount of GST paid or input tax credits claimed in a previous tax period may need to be adjusted to ensure that the correct GST outcome is obtained when circumstances change. Adjustments may arise due to, among other things, changes in consideration such as a change in price due to a discount. The law was recently amended to allow a third-party payment adjustment to arise where there is a payment between parties in a supply chain which effectively alters the consideration paid for a thing but which would not have given rise to an adjustment because it would not, ordinarily, alter the consideration for the supply by the payer to its customer, or the consideration paid for the acquisition by the payee from its supplier.
This amendment ensures that an entitlement to a decreasing adjustment will still arise in situations where an entity supplying things to another entity for resale makes a monetary payment to a third party in the supply chain in connection with the third party’s acquisition of something and this payment effectively reduces the price the payer receives for the thing but where the payer and the other entity are members of the same GST group, GST religious group or GST joint venture. The amendment also ensures that an increasing adjustment arises for the recipient of a third-party payment where the payee is registered for GST and has acquired the thing for a creditable purpose but where the payee and the entity from which it acquires the thing are members of the same GST group, GST religious group or GST joint venture. The government has foreshadowed further amendments to the GST legislation to ensure that the appropriate GST outcome is also achieved in situations where the taxable status of a supply which is the subject of a third-party payment changes as it moves through the supply chain.
I make the observation that GST laws and tax laws generally often have unintended consequences as new services become available and as the way services are provided change. There are also unintended consequences as a result of globalisation and international service delivery as both schedules 1 and 2 highlight. As we all know, people are today travelling more often and in greater numbers. With travel comes the need for services, the purchase of goods and the use of communication services and equipment—and we see that on a daily basis around the world today. It does not matter where you are, you will inevitably see people with their iPhones, their normal phones or even laptops carrying on their work, even if they are on the other side of the world. Those services have to be provided by someone from the country from which they are departing originally and then perhaps through the use of other contractors along the way. The use of those services has clearly complicated the GST arrangements in respect of this matter. Not surprisingly, the intent is to try to make the whole process and the transaction much simpler with respect to the application of the GST.
This legislation will simplify Australia’s tax system with respect to the GST, particularly in those areas that I have just spoken about. But the measures are also consistent with other measures that the Rudd government has taken to simplify Australia’s tax systems for all Australians, and particularly for Australian businesses. In the recent budget handed down by the Treasurer, we have seen that there will be a reduction in the company tax rate—from 30 per cent to 28 per cent. That will support some three-quarters of a million businesses here in Australia. By way of making taxation laws much simpler in this country, there will be an asset write-off provision that will be made available to all small businesses in this country, whereby they will be able to write off up to $5,000 of their assets rather than the current $1,000—again, making life for them easier than it was in the past.
In the year 2012-13 we will see standard deductions of $500 for household taxpayers. Again, that will make their life much easier and save them money. I understand that some six million plus household taxpayers would normally use the services of an accountant in order to lodge their tax returns. That figure of $500 will go up to $1,000 in 2013-14. I understand that that will mean that some 8.9 million Australians will find lodging their tax returns much easier and it will save them money because they will not have to, in many cases, engage the use of a tax accountant. For those who do not normally engage the use of a tax accountant, it will simply make their life easier because, if they have a standard deduction of up to $1,000, they will not have to keep a record and track every expenditure they have along the way, as many of them are possibly doing right now.
But I guess the biggest beneficiary of streamlining our tax laws would be small business in this country. The GST measures that I alluded to in this bill would effectively be measures that would be imposed on small businesses—because, along the way, all of the beneficiaries of these measures are small business. I am pleased to see that this is another step in all of the changes made by the Rudd government since coming to office which have assisted small business.
We saw last year, as part of the government’s economic stimulus measures, the 50 per cent tax rebate for capital purchases that applied to small business. I know of many small businesses that took advantage of that. It helped them during a difficult time. We know that the majority of funds in the government’s stimulus packages firstly went to small business in one form or another and then clearly flowed through to the rest of the economy. Again, whether it was the Building the Education Revolution funding, the infrastructure funding or even the direct payments we made to families, who in turn spent those moneys, most of the money went into small businesses in one form or another and enabled them, through those very difficult times, to maintain the staff they had, maintain employment in this country and maintain the viability of their operations. In earlier times, we also put an incredible amount of funding into establishing business enterprise centres around the country, again clearly with an intent of supporting small businesses and providing advice to them. I certainly welcome the money that was put into my own region, both at the Tea Tree Gully Business Enterprise Centre and the Salisbury Business and Export Centre, to assist those two centres with the business advice that they provide to the local community. As I said at the outset, these measures are about simplifying the tax system for Australians, and I have absolutely no doubt that they will be welcomed by individuals and by businesses alike. For those reasons, I commend this bill to the House.
I thank those members who participated in the debate on the Tax Laws Amendment (2010 GST Administration Measures No. 3) Bill 2010. The amendments in schedule 1, dealing with the GST and cross-border transport provisions, will ensure that the transport of goods by transport subcontractors within Australia that forms part of the international transport of those goods by another entity to or from Australia is GST free in specific circumstances. The amendments will also provide GST-free treatment for loading, handling and other services in certain circumstances that facilitate the international transport of goods. This measure will improve certainty and clarify the application of the GST law for businesses involved in the domestic transport of exported and imported goods.
The amendments contained in schedule 2 of the bill will ensure that global roaming by visitors to Australia remains GST free, consistent with Australia’s treaty obligations under the International Telecommunications Regulations—the so-called Melbourne agreement. The amendments exempt from GST supplies of global-roaming services provided to subscribers of non-resident telecommunications suppliers while the subscribers are visiting Australia. This includes both the use of an Australian telecommunications supplier’s network by a non-resident telecommunications supplier and the supply of global-roaming facilities by the non-resident telecommunications supplier to its subscribers.
The amendments contained in schedule 3 of the bill will ensure that the underlying policy objective of the recently enacted measure provided for GST adjustments for third-party payments is met in situations in which the relevant parties in the supply chain are members of the same GST group, GST religious group or GST joint venture. The underlying policy objective is that the appropriate amount of GST is collected and that the appropriate amount of input tax credits are claimed in situations where there are payments between parties in a supply chain which indirectly alter the price received or paid by the parties for the things supplied. I commend this bill to the House.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.