Cartoon: tax advisors discuss the confusing situation of Queensland's tax legislation.

“Systemic dysfunctionality” is alive and well at the QRO! Confusion on confusion!

“Systemic dysfunctionality” is alive and well at the QRO! Confusion on confusion!

Cartoon: tax advisors discuss the confusing situation of Queensland's tax legislation.

By an email of 11 April 2024, the Queensland Office of Revenue (QRO) proudly announced: “As part of our commitment to support [sic] self-assessors, we are pleased to advise a new [sic] system of practice directions has been established. The practice directions will sit alongside the existing suite of public rulings on the QRO website.” But that’s not right if it is to suggest that there have been no Practice Directions in the past. It isn’t hard to find where the QRO acknowledged the previous dichotomy between Practice Directions and Revenue Rulings: see, for example, Practice Direction – General: GN1.3 and Public Ruling – General : G1.2.

The dichotomy between Public Rulings and Practice Directions was removed years ago precisely because it made no sense to separate them. It only confused taxpayers and tax practitioners. So, why go back to that system? There is nothing to be gained let alone to “support self-assessors”. This “new” system requires the QRO to hold explanatory education webinars not only for self-assessors but also for taxpayers and tax practitioners.

How does a taxpayer or a tax practitioner, especially a self-assessor, handle paragraph 3 of each of GEN001.7 and GEN001.1 which states: “Further, where necessary, some matters of interpretation may be contained in a practice direction, or some matters of practice may be contained in a public ruling.” This effectually jumbles how one is supposed to rely on what each of the Practice Directions and Revenue Rulings system is about. You have to not only search through the Practices Direction but also the Revenue Rulings to see if anything in either applies to the matter in point. And worse: if you find something in both, you have to make a judgement as to how much may be applicable. Neither of those paragraphs gives any precedence one over the other between Public Rulings and Practice Directions (contrast Public Ruling GEN002.1, paragraph 6) but the taxpayer and the tax practitioner have to “consult” both the Public Rulings and the Practice Directions which confuse and adds cost for one thing to taxpayers. And note the woke use of “their”. It no doubt refers back to the singular “Commissioner”, an absurd example of etymological gymnastics!

That is precisely why the dichotomy was abolished. The best example of that is in the area of rulings affecting the matrimonial exemptions.

The Practice Directions and the Public Rulings commenced on different dates (see paragraph 14 of each of GEN001.7 and GEN001.1). Why? The answer is not easy to find but are set out in Public Ruling GEN002.1. QRO should have issued something like an Explanatory Note on how all of this fits together.

Has the resurrection of the dichotomy between Public Rulings and Practice Directions been driven by the need to finally, after years and years of requests by tax practitioners for the QRO to state its view on (for example) the nature and valuation of goodwill for professional partnerships? That is, QRO doesn’t have to issue a Public Ruing anymore on the nature and valuation of goodwill for partnerships. That leaves the chances of arriving at an Australia wide definition and valuation methodology for goodwill kicked down the road again.

“New” Practice Direction DA000.2.1 sets out the QRO’s requirements for professional partnerships. A draft Revenue Ruling Stamp Duty: 41.1D was issued by the QRO in 1999 (see Queensland Law Society, Proctor of 1995 Vol.15 No 1, reproduced in Duties Legislation Queensland, JG Mann (Thomson Reuters) paragraph 2.5520, item 7) for “public comment” but did not go ahead because of push back from the QLS committee. So, after 30 years of maturation, this is the best the QRO can do. There is nothing in this “new” Practice Direction about arguments around “No goodwill” partnerships, that is, where any goodwill must be valued at NIL. See the ATO Taxation Ruling IT 2540; Taxation Determination TD 2011/26 where goodwill is to be determined at NIL. What a daunting task for taxpayers and their advisers to understand Practice Direction DA000.2.1. Will the QRO offer any webinars on this Practice Direction? Hopefully, but that is a forlorn hope. As an example of The Tax Reformer’s (TTR) pessimism, the QRO held a webinar on 6 March 2024 titled “Need help with your transfer duty transactions?” Enquiries by TTR of the QRO reveal that this was not a “Master Class” that is, it did not teach anything but looked at procedures.

The email from the QRO ends up stating: “The Practice directions now available relate to duties, first homeowner grant and taxation administration legislation, with more to follow.” No, no – not more! Please!


Oh, dear!! Have a look at the Google reviews for the QRO.

“Oh, dear!! Have a look at the Google website for the QRO.

There are admittedly some compliments, but Complaints should never arise for such an important part of government and remember revenue gathering is such an intrusive function. TTR is left most times still in the dark when TTR makes even a basic enquiry at QRO. And that is assuming one can find the relevant person to help. QRO is just not up to the task on being helpful. Is the reason that QRO has no proper technical education structure? It’s another case of Castle QRO siege mentality of “Just because someone wants something doesn’t mean you have to give it to them”! Pathetic!”


Cartoon: Plain clothes militia guard the Revenue Office front door

Ex gratia payments: A level playing field? Open and accountable government? Reform required here.

Ex gratia payments:
A level playing field? Open and accountable government? Reform required here.

Cartoon: Plain clothes militia guard the Revenue Office front door

How can a tax administration require a taxpayer to pay a tax to the relevant State/Territory but then that taxpayer receiving an “ex-gratia” payment for the same amount be justified? What’s going on, please?

Such payments are available in nearly all of the States and Territories and are separate from the appeal systems. Such administration reeks of the cherished place that policy has in some of the jurisdictions which provide them fn1. And in so doing breaches the Rule of Law fn2. The law applied has been described as discretionary or made on moral or equitable grounds fn3. In other words, forget about the place that the relevant legislature may be thought to have. All smoke and mirrors.

The payments have variously been described as ranging from “ex gratia” to “unforeseen expenditure” to “act of grace payment” to “special circumstances.”

A question then for the revenue offices/Treasurers: having conceded that the act does not work as intended, why not amend the relevant revenue law? The Tax Reformer has never heard of this happening. And what about making the new law retrospective not only to exclude this taxpayer but also any other taxpayer in the same position? And why not have a register of such payments so all taxpayers can see whether their matter should be similarly treated? And telling self-assessors about it?

The correct, technical application of the relevant act leads according to the relevant revenue office to “an unintended result,” that is, the wrong policy outcome. Don’t worry about the proper interpretation of the legislation! “Never mind the quality, feel the width!” fn4. Perhaps the taxpayer can be invited to lodge an application for “ex gratia” relief. Or the taxpayer’s advisers may be aware of this system and make an ex-gratia application. The difficulty in doing so is that the taxpayer needs to know about this administrative system and then make an application. The Tax Reformer has never heard of a revenue office bringing these systems to the attention of the relevant taxpayer.

The Tax Reformer has sent a letter to the Queensland Revenue Office fn5. But no one should hold their breath waiting for an answer. This is another example of the motto “Just because taxpayers ask for clarification of a provision or section or whatever, there is no need to give it to them!” There are so many provisions, rulings and practices in this description. Time for open and accountable government and relevant revenue offices relationship with the tax paying community and their advisers.


Fn1 Qld Financial Accountability Act 2009 s. 35; SA Treasurer’s Instruction 14; NSW Government Sector Finance Act 2018 s. 5.7; Tas Financial Management Act 2016; Vic FDR 11A; NT Financial Management Act s. 37: ACT Financial Management Act s.130; WA: only for charities. This does not purport to be an exhaustive statement of the provisions in any jurisdiction but is
given to demonstrate that the general position in the jurisdictions. Subscribers need to consult the legislation in any particular jurisdiction.

Fn2 see generally Rule of Law.

Fn3 see Vic Disclosure of ex gratia expenses FRD 11A, 6.1.

Fn4 see Urban Dictionary.

Fn5 The letter dated 29 January 2024 read:
“Taxpayers and their advisers have a right to be able to see the topics/circumstances where ex-gratia relief has been granted. This ensures a “level playing field” for all.

Could you kindly therefore answer these questions:

  1. Can the QRO please confirm that ex gratia relief payments are made by the Treasurer pursuant section 35 of the Financial Accountability Act 2009?
  2. If they are paid under some other Act (s), could the QRO kindly please provide the name of the relevant Act(s) and the relevant section(s)?
  3. Can the QRO please confirm that ex gratia relief payments are made by the Treasurer pursuant section 35 of the Financial Accountability Act 2009 (or other Act(s) if applicable) on the recommendation of the QRO in the form of a submission from the QRO?
  4. If the recommendation from the QRO is agreed to, are the payments made by the Treasurer to the taxpayer and if not, by whom?
  5. Alternatively, does the QRO simply credit its file?
  6. Without of course naming any taxpayer, could the QRO kindly please provide details of the subject(s) /circumstances where ex gratia payments have been made over the last 5 years?
  7. Is the ex gratia payment usually made to overcome “unforeseen circumstances” in the operation of a relevant Act?
  8. If there are other reasons, could you kindly provide details of the reasons for ex gratia payments?
  9. Does the QRO keep a register (or some such) where ex gratia payments and the results of any of your recommendations are kept/entered.
  10. Is that register (or some such) open to the public to search so that taxpayers can see if their particular circumstances have been the subject of an application by a taxpayer and there is a “level playing field”?
  11. If not, why not?

These and other questions need to be answered and published in the name of open and accountable government. The Rule of Law for one requires it.


The Vanderstock elephant approaches WW1 trenches

Vanderstock decision. All quiet on the Western Front!

Vanderstock decision.
All quiet on the Western Front!

So far, nothing has been issued by any revenue office as to their view of what are the implications of the case and how they will approach it. Why? The decision was made on 18 October 2023. It is now, at the time of this Monthly Report, February. Surely there have been some discussions either at an internet revenue office level or at inter-revenue office level! How are taxpayers supposed to go forward on a “nothing to see here” approach from the States/Territories? One can add a question: what does the Commonwealth see are the case’s implications? Surely there has been some contact with the ATO or Treasury!

The Vanderstock elephant approaches WW1 trenches

There have been several articles on this case:

Allens Linklaters, Johnson Winter Slattery, King and Wood Mallesons and Australian Lawyers Alliance to name just a few.

And a letter has been sent to the Queensland Law Society Revenue Law Committee as well as letters to each of the revenue offices in much the same terms:

“The High Court decision in Vanderstock v Victoria [2023] HCA 30 (18 October 2023) is a particularly important one so far as the Commonwealth and States/Territories tax base is concerned. Could you kindly advise your Office’s views of the implications of the decision such as:

  • Will your Office distinguish the facts/ratio of the case?
  • Will your Office follow the ratio?
  • In either case, what does your Office consider will be the impact on taxes in your respective State/Territory?
  • Will your Office make provision for a High Court case to declare a particular tax (taxes) in your jurisdiction invalid?
  • What happens to claim for refunds?
  • Has there been any suggestion that it may require a Commonwealth – States/Territories tax restructure?
  • Will your Office issue a public advice/ruling to the community on these and other questions?
  • Will your Office issue that advice urgently so that taxpayers know what your Office expects of them?
  • Will your Office throw all of issues to open, transparent, widespread consultation?

Your answers will be published in a subsequent The Monthly Report. It would of great benefit to taxpayers in Australia to have those answers as soon as possible.”

So, it’s not that others have not pointed out this case. Surely, no revenue office has not heard of the case and read at least one of these articles!! That would be taking systemic dysfunctionality to extremes. TTR does not believe that that is the case. So, what’s going on?

It’s not right that taxpayers are left in the dark. Should taxpayers “pay under protest”? What are self-assessors supposed to do? For Queensland, will s. 20 of the Taxation Legislation Act 2001 (Qld.) come into view. This case is no mere interesting sideshow.

TTR will give the revenue offices a bit more time to respond but then it is time for a Right to Information application. It will be interesting to see what the QLS Revenue Committee does not only to help taxpayers and their advisers to understand the case and its wider implications but how assessments and their payments is concerned.


The tax reformer cartoon for december

Is the Palaszczuk Labor Government facing defeat at the next election due on 24 October 2024?

Is the Palaszczuk* Labor Government facing defeat at the next election due on 24 October 2024?

The tax reformer cartoon for december

Opinions suggest so and have done so for some time: see “Recent polling suggests Premier Palaszczuk is ‘on the nose’ among voters” and “Palaszczuk goes stale with voters, deputy hits back against ‘gossip’”

But will a new government effect the wide range of reforms detailed in previous editions of The Monthly Report?

As 2023 comes to an end and the New Year is just around the corner, The Tax Reformer (TTR) sees only small signs of the QRO embracing a new stance. That stance requires a grip of the Rule of Law tightly and implement its tenets. “QRO, its called ‘democracy’. To ignore it makes it easier for you to administer the various tax lines but at the expense of due process and proper government. Taxpayers feel ambushed and let down.”

So, where can the revenue offices start the reform process? How about setting up a Standing Committee of the States and Territories Revenue Offices with a wide public call for submissions?

Yet, as TTR said in the May 2023 Issue: “When you wish upon a [reform from the revenue offices, you’re likely to be disappointed].”

“Castle Siege” has been well and truly rebuilt and in place!

So, what would The Tax Reformer wish for? It’s easy to set out a long list as was done in the May Issue. Just a few then can be referred to:

  • The Rule of Law requires wide and proper consultation. Secrecy is not all important!! It can rarely be justified. And the QRO shot itself in the foot with the proposed amendments of the Land Tax Act. See the April 2023 Issue of the Monthly Report.
  • Evidence that adherence to the Rule of Law is paramount as required by section 4 (4) (c) of the Legislative Standards Act 1992;
  • Root and branch review of the operations of each State and Territories revenue office compared with the structure and operations of the ATO;
  • Root and branch review of the operations of the State and Territories revenue office within a federal system and the extent that that has on costs of commerce and business;
  • Adopt the ATO protocol for the introduction of new legislation to achieve more accountability in the revenue offices around the jurisdictions;
  • Install an equivalent of the ATO Inspector General of Tax in all jurisdictions;
  • Make the revenue offices accountable to the equivalent of a Board of Directors;
  • Redraft sections of Acts which are simply low grade (see, for example, s. 12 of the Duties Act 2001 (Q):
  • Get the matrimonial exceptions updated and properly interrelated with the Family Law Act exemptions;
  • Define what a partner’s interest is, especially in the context of Chapter 10, Part 1, taking notice of the High Court case of Commissioner of State Revenue v Rojoda Pty Ltd [2020] HCA 7
  • Advise taxpayers what stance the revenue offices will take as a result of the High Court decision in Vanderstock v Victoria [2023] HCA 30 (18 October 2023
  • Undertake a complete review of the Public Rulings, many of which are wrong and others unclear or out of date;
  • Redraft s. 70 to take away the contortions of language in section 70 (1) (c) for What is a widely held unit trust;
  • Establish an “Ex-gratia Register” and an “Administrative Arrangements Register” (and publish those Registers on the QRO website) so all taxpayers can get the benefit of any exemptions or concessions granted to others; this practice is contrary to the Rule of Law;
  • Publish the legislation program;
  • Publish the Public Rulings program;

… and on and on …

What a joy it would be to see the revenue offices to put these points to a new Standing Committee!

*Palaszczuk resigned on 10 December after this page was written. The new Premier is Steven Miles. But the question remains: will the Miles Labor Government survive the next election? See Queensland has a new premier in Steven Miles, but is it enough to change Labor’s fortunes before the state election?


A cartoon depicting the elephant in the room at the Queensland Revenue Office

What now, Mr. Commissioner!! Back to the drawing board?

What now, Mr. Commissioner!!
Back to the drawing board?

Impact of the High Court’s Decision in Vanderstock.

A cartoon depicting the elephant in the room at the Queensland Revenue Office

Vanderstock v Victoria [2023] HCA 30 (18 October 2023) has seen the High Court rule by a 4:3 majority that the Victorian electric vehicle road user charge levied under the Victorian Zero and Low Emission Vehicle Distance-Based Charge Act 2021 (Vic) is unconstitutional and therefore invalid as it imposed a ‘duty of excise’ as prohibited by section 90 of the Constitution. Vanderstock extends the scope of s. 90 of the Constitution to taxes on the use or consumption of goods after they reach the hands of a consumer.*

The Court’s decision in Vanderstock has expanded the scope of taxes that can only be levied by the Commonwealth Parliament to the exclusion of the states. The majority of the High Court justices are of the view that the Commonwealth Parliament has exclusive legislative power to impose taxes that are properly characterised as a ‘tax on goods’.

So, now we have the proposition that any state tax which is properly characterised as a ‘tax on goods’, under the tests laid down by the Court, is unconstitutional and therefore invalid. What effect this decision will have remains to be seen. But the view is widespread that this decision is likely to have broad repercussions for the tax base of the states and the commonwealth – state distribution of taxation powers. Well, it may be that this case will be a short term wonder with lots of hype, but we’ll see.

There is no shortage of speculation about how (if any) it will affect non-Commonwealth taxes. So far as duties levied under the Duties Act 2001 (and its counterpart acts in other jurisdictions) are concerned, there is in the dissenting judgements of the minority warnings that taxes such as the following could come within the expanded scope of s.90 based on the reasoning of the Vanderstock majority (see [437] and [785). For example,

  • duties paid on the transfer of goods where transferred with land or businesses (eg plant and equipment, or trading stock in the case of Queensland)
  • motor vehicle duties and vehicle registration charges
  • commercial passenger vehicle levies
  • gaming machine levies and ‘point of consumption’ betting taxes
  • waste disposal levies
  • tobacco licensing fees
  • payroll tax; but see Aymsheen Pty Ltd v Chief Commissioner of State Revenue [2023] NSWSC 1237 (5 October 2023)
  • industrial land tax
  • licences to carry on a business where the business concerned the production or manufacture of goods
  • a tax concerning the carriage of goods
  • taxes on a gift of goods or an inheritance of goods.

In the meantime, the question for the revenue offices is: “What are you going to do about it?”

TTR has asked the QRO:

  • Will the QRO purport to distinguish the facts/ratio of the case and ignore it?
  • What will be the impact of the QRO doing so?
  • Will the QRO follow the ratio?
  • What will be the impact of the QRO doing so?
  • Will the QRO make provision for a High Court case to declare a particular state tax (taxes) invalid?
  • What happens to claims for refunds?
  • How does the QRO see this case impacting current commonwealth – state financial arrangements?
  • Will the QRO issue some sort of advice to the community on these and other questions?
  • Will the QRO issue that advice urgently so that taxpayers know what the QRO expects of them?
  • And, importantly, will the QRO throw all of issues to open, transparent, widespread consultation.

TTR will publish any answers in a forthcoming Issue.


Simon McKee The Queensland State Commissioner

New Queensland Commissioner, Simon McKee!!

New Queensland Commissioner, Simon McKee!!

Simon McKee The Queensland State Commissioner

Simon McKee (pictured) is the new Commissioner of State Revenue, Queensland. Simon was appointed effective from 24 August 2023: see Qld. Gov. Gazette, No.90, page 621 (QGG).

The Tax Reformer (TTR) hopes the new Commissioner will bring about change at the Queensland Revenue Office (QRO). But TTR asks the big question: if the new Commissioner is a reformer, then can he weather the forces, the forces encountered by all Commissioners wanting the status quo to remain as is?

As Sir Humphrey said: “The civil [public] service generally hopes there will be no movement on any subject”: Yes, Prime Minister, Bernard is a great help.

Now, let’s hope that Simon will implement urgent reforms for such things as the Queensland Revenue Office’s administration, the quality of consultation that the QRO initiates, the quality of the legislation it initiates, the extent and quality of the public education it is responsible for in order to clear out the systemic dysfunctionality that has plagued QRO for years and years to implement the Rule of Law, especially provisions of the Legislative Standards Act 1992 highlighted in The Monthly Report of August 2023. LinkedIn lists his education as including a Master of Law (Commercial) from Melbourne University and Executive Fellow, Australian and New Zealand School of Government so, the new Commissioner has the fire power to do good!

The Tax Reformer has found Simon to be a straight shooter, measured and fair.

But the appointment notice only states the appointment date. Usually these appointments are for 5 years, 5 years to bring about massive changes starting with culture which is a top down thing. For those wanting no change, they simply put their tin hats on, bunker down and let any reforming zeal to go over the top and then the old ways come out again!

So, please Mr. Commissioner start out your term by declaring publicly:

  • Your term will see a commitment to the Rule of Law in all aspects of tax legislation and tax administration;
  • Your term will see the Legislative Standards Act 1992 implemented;
  • Your term will see the issues raised by these Monthly Reports addressed as a matter of urgency.

Mr. Commissioner, you only have to go to the previous issues of the Monthly Reports (for example, May 2023) to see what is crying out for reform:

  • Evidence that adherence to the Rule of Law is paramount as required by section 4 (4) (c) of the Legislative Standards Act 1992;
  • Root and branch review of the operations of each State and Territories revenue office compared with the structure and operations of the ATO;
  • Root and branch review of the operations of the State and Territories revenue office within a federal system and the extent that that has on costs of commerce and business;
  • Adopt the ATO protocol for the introduction of new legislation to achieve more accountability in the revenue offices around the jurisdictions;
  • Install an equivalent of the ATO Inspector General of Tax in all jurisdictions;
  • Make the revenue offices accountable to the equivalent of a Board of Directors;
  • Redraft sections of Acts which are simply low grade (see, for example, s. 12 of the Duties Act 2001 (Q):
  • Get the matrimonial exceptions updated and properly interrelated with the Family Law Act exemptions;
  • Define what a partner’s interest is, especially in the context of Chapter 10, Part 1, taking notice of the High Court case of Commissioner of State Revenue v Rojoda Pty Ltd [2020] HCA 7;
  • Undertake a complete review of the Public Rulings, many of which are wrong and others unclear or out of date;
  • Redraft s. 70 to take away the contortions of language in section 70 (1) (c) for What is a widely held unit trust;
  • Establish an “Ex-gratia Register” and an “Administrative Arrangements Register” (and publish those Registers on the QRO website) so all taxpayers can get the benefit of any exemptions or concessions granted to others; this practice is contrary to the Rule of Law;
  • Publish the legislation program;
  • Publish the Public Rulings program;

… and on and on …

Over to you. Mr. Commissioner!! Best of luck!!

A cartoon in which the new Queensland commissioner pulls along a heavy load of reforms in a box

Mr. Nobody, who was consulted over the Revenue Legislation Bill

Who Was Consulted? Mr. Nobody?

Who Was Consulted?
Mr. Nobody?

Mr. Nobody, who was consulted over the Revenue Legislation Bill

In the June/July 2023 Issue No. 21, the Tax Reformer stated:

“In most years [for Queensland], there is a “Revenue Legislation Bill”, or a “Revenue and Other Legislation Bill” (or some such) introduced at the same time [as the Budget]. As has happened in previous years, there was no prior general public review before the Budget Appropriation Acts are introduced. Sometimes, select stakeholders see the Bill and Explanatory Notes before the public does.”

No way for the Revenue Legislation Amendment Act 2023 (RLAA) amendments! On page 15 of the Explanatory Notes under “Consultation”, you get this bizarre statement:

“Community consultation was not undertaken in relation to the amendments in the Bill as they are being implemented as part of the 2023-24 Budget or are technical amendments necessary to ensure the revenue legislation operates as intended or to support tax and royalty administration.”

So, in 2022, there was limited consultation but this year 2023 there was none!

The Queensland Hansard for 13 June 2023, page 1804, records that the RLAA was declared urgent and cognate with the Appropriation Bills. It was not even seen by the Economics and Governance Committee: see page 1804 of Hansard. The RLAA went through the House like Superman – faster than a speeding bullet – and had passed all stages on 16 June 2023: see page 2157 of Hansard. So much for consultation, so much for democracy!

The Explanatory Notes make some reference to the Legislative Standards Act 1992 (LSA) but the Revenue Legislation Amendment Act makes a mockery of the thrust of the intention expressed in section 4 of the LSA.

That intention is clearly stated in section 4 (1):

“For the purposes of this Act, fundamental legislative principles are the principles relating to legislation that underlie a parliamentary democracy based on the rule of law.”

And section 4 (2) then goes on to state:

“The principles [stated in section 4 (1)] include requiring that legislation has sufficient regard to—

(a) rights and liberties of individuals; and
(b) the institution of Parliament.”

And then section 4 (3) (a) states:

“Whether legislation has sufficient regard to rights and liberties of individuals depends on whether, for example, the legislation— …

And then section 4(3) (g) and (k) state:

“(g) does not adversely affect rights and liberties, or impose obligations, retrospectively;
(k) is unambiguous and drafted in a sufficiently clear and precise way.”

So, let’s look at those provisions, bearing in mind also that a fundamental of the ‘rule of law’ requires that the law applies to everyone, regardless of their position or status. To make sure everyone knows the law and their rights, laws should be easy to understand, findable and enforced.

Well, surprise, surprise! The RLAA breaches several of those tenets. For example:

  • laws should be easy to understand, findable and enforced. Several times in the RLAA reference is made to “the revenue legislation operates as intended”. Where can a taxpayer see this intention and whose intention is it? Surely not the hoary old “Parliament’s intention”! Perhaps it’s the QRO’s intention!
  • how does a taxpayer find the law as amended by the RLAA? No education program is promised or, as always, not even foreshadowed. And are any information sheets to be sent out, which you would expect will happen at the least to self-assessors;
  • in several provisions, an obligation is imposed on a taxpayer but, again, how on earth is a taxpayer supposed to know about them. A fair system doesn’t simply state we are all presumed to know the law. That is not fair where education can take place with the large body of self-assessors. They have statutory obligations to get it right. The refund provisions are a good example of this. An informed taxpayer is a compliant taxpayer.
  • section 245L is a great piece of drafting – not. It says “This section applies if the commissioner is satisfied the owner of land has entered into an arrangement…” How is that to work when the Act contains “Chapter 11 Avoidance schemes”? Why confuse taxpayers by introducing that section?
  • section 245I (2) enables a taxpayer to get a ruling which appears to be a welcome policy shift by the QRO, which it has always been reluctant to do, to say the least. Section 245L provides the Commissioner with clawback powers. The provisions are vague. Remember the vague provisions of Public Ruling DA000.1.3, which states that the Commissioner will give a ruling if the word “satisfied” or its cognates are used in a section. That would not apply where there is a statutory provision for a ruling. But how does section 245L (1) work with section 245M?

The Tax Reformer calls for the Queensland Revenue Office (QRO) to get wide public feedback now on the provisions of the RLAA and not to override deficiencies in the RLAA by simply issuing a ruling reflecting the QRO’s “intent”. If a ruling has to be issued, then it shows that the RLAA was hurried through Parliament to the detriment of the requirements of the LSA section 4 (3) (k).

Don’t hold your breath. Castle Siege has been rebuilt!

A satirical cartoon depicting the Queensland Revenue Officer

When? Oh! When?

When? Oh! When?

What do we want? Reform now!

TTR said in the May Issue that “When you wish upon a [reform from the QRO, you’re likely to be disappointed].”

Well, TTR is disappointed, to say the least!!

The Queensland State Budget 2023/2024 was introduced into Parliament on 13 June 2023 and assented to on 23 June 2023. So far as the Duties Act (DA) is concerned, that Bill only amended the DA to introduce “… additional foreign acquirer duty concessions in relation to eligible build to rent developments that include affordable housing at a discounted rent, …”

That’s right – no reform of any of the provisions of the Act crying out for attention.

In most years, there is a “Revenue Legislation Bill”, or a “Revenue and Other Legislation Bill” (or some such) introduced at the same time. As has happened in previous years, there was no prior general public review before the Budget Appropriation Acts are introduced. Sometimes, select stakeholders see the Bill and Explanatory Notes before the public does.

No way for these amendments! All you get is under the heading “Consultation” is a bizarre statement : “ Community consultation was not undertaken in relation to the amendments in the Bill as they are being implemented as part of the 2023-24 Budget or are technical amendments necessary to ensure the revenue legislation operates as intended or to support tax and royalty administration.”

What on earth does that mean?

So, last year there was limited consultation but this year there is none!

“Castle Siege” must have been well and truly rebuilt and in place!

The Rule of Law requires wide and proper consultation. Secrecy is not all important!!

So, off the top of the head, what would The Tax Reformer wish for? It’s easy to set out a long list as was done in the May Issue. Just a few then can be referred to:

Evidence that adherence to the Rule of Law is paramount as required by section 4 (4) (c) of the Legislative Standards Act 1992;
Root and branch review of the operations of each State and Territories revenue office compared with the structure and operations of the ATO;
Root and branch review of the operations of the State and Territories revenue office within a federal system and the extent that that has on costs of commerce and business;
Adopt the ATO protocol for the introduction of new legislation to achieve more accountability in the revenue offices around the jurisdictions;
Install an equivalent of the ATO Inspector General of Tax in all jurisdictions;
Make the revenue offices accountable to the equivalent of a Board of Directors;
Redraft sections of Acts which are simply low grade (see, for example, s. 12 of the Duties Act 2001 (Q):
Get the matrimonial exceptions updated and properly interrelated with the Family Law Act exemptions;
Define what a partner’s interest is, especially in the context of Chapter 10, Part 1, taking notice of the High Court case of Commissioner of State Revenue v Rojoda Pty Ltd [2020] HCA 7;
Undertake a complete review of the Public Rulings, many of which are wrong and others unclear or out of date;
Redraft s. 70 to take away the contortions of language in section 70 (1) (c) for What is a widely held unit trust;
Establish an “Ex-gratia Register” and an “Administrative Arrangements Register” (and publish those Registers on the QRO website) so all taxpayers can get the benefit of any exemptions or concessions granted to others; this practice is contrary to the Rule of Law;
Publish the legislation program;
Publish the Public Rulings program;

… and on and on …

A satirical cartoon highlighting the failures of the Queensland government's tax policy

Cartoon of wolves circling around a Rule of Law turret

Special Issue - Warning on Ignoring the Rule of Law

Special Issue

Warning on ignoring the Rule of Law - May 2023

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Congratulations to Janet Albrechtsen and Stephen Rice for this warning!

The problem in Australia concerning the Rule of Law is that hardly anyone has ever heard about it, let alone to speak out for it. Give credit to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for often quoting the necessity for it to be upheld. This is not some sort of “nice behaviour.” It is fundamental to our democracy.  And tell me, where do even law students learn about it? Surely it must be part of the LL.B. year 1.0. Universities don’t do any good for their students or society if the Rule of Law is not a fundamental course in that year, failure for which would see any student who failed being told to do it again!

Remember that the principles of the Rule of Law are part of Queensland legislative standards: see Legislative Standards Act 1992, section 4.

Universities and other institutions, community groups can get the assistance of the Rule of Law Education Centre:

“The Rule of Law Education Program encourages active participation by teaching Australian students about the rule of law.

A society that supports the rule of law is not one composed of uncritical and obedient citizens; rather it is one whose citizens understand and respect just laws, are aware of their function and know how to engage with them constructively and how to challenge them as needed, within the appropriate mechanisms and institutions.

– United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime”

(See https://www.ruleoflaw.org.au/education/)

Cartoon of wolves circling around a Rule of Law turret