“When you wish upon a [reform from the QRO, you’re likely to be disappointed].”

- Apologies to Walt Disney

A cartoon illustrating a heap of legislation being taken to parliament house

The Queensland State Budget 2023/2024 will be introduced into Parliament during the sittings of 13, 14, 15 and 16 June 2023.

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 is likely to be 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. This was reflected in the Explanatory Notes in the 2022 Bill. But who were they? Up to then, a wide public review of the Bill is not available because the Budget Bills and that other legislation are considered to be “Cabinet in Confidence”. Very convenient! And we saw what happened to the 2022 amendment of the Land Tax Act. That Act contained new provisions: “The Land Tax Act Debacle of 2022”. That happened because there was no consultation with (e.g.) New South Wales or stakeholders generally: see previous Issue of The Monthly Reporter. “Castle Siege” was well and truly rebuilt and in place!

The Rule of Law requires wide and proper consultation. This amendment expanded the tax base. But no. Secrecy is 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. 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 …