Thursday, 11 December 2008

G-G's tax waiver 'an insult to public'

Taxpayers Australia: "There are many people in this situation and I don't think anyone else is getting an extra amount paid because they weren't aware."

An Australian taxpayers lobby group says the Federal Government has insulted the public by waiving a $190,000 superannuation tax bill owed by former governor-general Michael Jeffery.

The Government waived the tax obligations for Major-General Jeffery after the superannuation surcharge for high-income earners, which he had been required to pay, was abolished in 2005.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner says the decision was taken to make sure that Major-General Jeffery paid exactly the same tax as any other Australian with the same superannuation entitlements.

Taxpayers Australia says the decision is unlikely to be applied to members of the general public.

The lobby group's superannuation tax expert Heather Schache says the move is extremely unusual.

"It seems entirely inequitable to the average taxpayer as far as I am concerned," she [said].

"The ex-governor-general's comment was that he said in 2003 he wasn't aware that the surcharge existed.

"My response to that is well, you are like any other person in that situation. You have an obligation when you enter into any employment contract to find out what your obligations are going to be. So the fact that someone turns around and says 'well I wasn't aware of that back in 2003' doesn't really seem to be a response that ... should mean that taxpayers are having to fund an extra amount that wasn't anticipated.

"I don't think anyone else would be in the same situation and the surcharge assessments, even though they actually stopped from July 1, 2005, are so behind, that there are still people getting surcharge assessments now.

"There are many people in this situation and I don't think anyone else is getting an extra amount paid because they weren't aware."

'Not good enough'

The Federal Opposition is arguing that Major-General Jeffery was given special treatment under the law.

"Lindsay Tanner has to explain in detail to the Australian people why he was prepared to give the governor-general a tax break that so many other Australians don't enjoy," Opposition finance spokesman Joe Hockey said.

"He has to explain to the Australian people why the superannuation levy was waived for the governor-general when the governor-general has been on the same tax footing as every other Australian for a number of years now.

"I don't think it is good enough to have private agreements like this to waive a debt of such a substantial amount of money when the governor-general may well be being treated differently to other Australians.

"If there was an anomaly involving the remuneration or a disagreement about the terms of the remuneration for the governor-general then it should have been transparent in the same way that the governor-general's remuneration is transparent."

Charmaine Crowe from the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association also hit out at the decision.

"For someone who has had the role of a governor-general it seems a little bit bizarre that there's some rule for an individual in that position and quite another for the rest of the population. And given the economic crisis that everyone is experiencing it is a little bit difficult to follow for the rest of the population that this tax bill is waived."

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