Bringing our revenue legislation up to date

Abigail spoke on the Revenue, Fines and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, emphasising the importance of disclosures and penalties for mega-corporations failing to pay tax.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (15:09): As the treasury and finance spokesperson for The Greens, I support the Revenue, Fines and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. The bill introduces a number of amendments to 12 separate pieces of revenue and related legislation, as has been stated already during this debate. Of note are the proposed increases in maximum penalties for various offences under the Taxation Administration Act, which, we note, take New South Wales from being a relatively low-penalty jurisdiction in this area, in comparison with other Australian jurisdictions, to being by far the highest-penalty jurisdiction. Penalties under the Taxation Administration Act, including for knowingly giving false information to a tax officer, will increase from $11,000 to $27,500 for most offences without a mens rea element, and $55,000 for those with a mens rea element.

[Members interjected.]

I would just note that the continual discussion about someone's husband is perhaps inappropriate in this context.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (The Hon. Dr Sarah Kaine): The member will be heard in silence.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: There is a significant and notable increase to penalties. It will be interesting to see if the other jurisdictions follow suit. The bill will also introduce the new offence of deliberate tax evasion, an offence applying only in Victoria previously, which will have the maximum penalty of $55,000 or two years' imprisonment or both, and will introduce the new offence for knowingly or recklessly disclosing or using confidential information, or knowingly concealing or attempting to conceal the unlawful disclosure or use of confidential tax information. As has been reported, the maximum penalty for both offences is $1,109,900 for the individual, or $5,549,500 for a non-individual. Of course, this headline new offence for unlawful disclosure or use of confidential information has been announced as a response to the PwC scandal that we have all been following closely and that kicked off the recent inquiries into consulting firms in the Senate, and the proposed maximum penalty is sufficiently punitive to act as a real discouragement of similar situations happening in the future, we hope, although it does not deliver adequate consequences for any misuse of confidential information previously and prior to this amendment.

For members' interest, between February and April 2023, which is the last three months of available data, consultancy expenditure for taxation services by the New South Wales Government with PwC was approximately $71,000. Between July 2018 and April 2023, a $1.6 million engagement type 7—under taxation—was spent compared with $138 million on other business advisory service engagement types. So what we are looking at here, over this reporting period, is expenditure by the New South Wales Government for taxation services representing approximately 1.2 per cent of overall business advisory services spend with PwC. I think that is really relevant here, because, while it is great that we have some response from the New South Wales Government to what is unravelling about the PwC tax disclosure, just to note again, that is only 1.2 per cent, on average, of our total overall spend with PwC on business advisory services. Given the nature of what is unravelling, I would hope that we can perhaps strengthen our response slightly. But this is a good start.

The bill also amends the Payroll Tax Act 2007 to enhance the ability of Revenue NSW to recover tax debts from phoenix operators, as has been said, which is a good start. I thank the Minister, her office and the Revenue NSW team for talking through a variety of scenarios to get us comfortable that this is effectively allowing the sharing of information between police and Revenue NSW more efficiently, rather than creating whole new powers. Finally, the bill seeks to create an offence for people who offer or agree to be falsely nominated for driving and traffic offences—that is, those people who are offering to fraudulently take a demerit hit for another driver, with a penalty of $5,500 for an individual and roughly double that for another person. Again, we have had the benefit of a detailed briefing on exactly how that would apply to ensure that we are not capturing people unfairly. We will talk about our response not just to the amendments of the Government and the Opposition, but will also be putting our own amendment about payroll tax during the Committee of the Whole. But, for now, I note that we will support the legislation.

 

Read the full debate here in Hansard.

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