More transparency needed on ‘ex gratia’ tax relief
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
$264 million in ex gratia tax relief was provided to hundreds of companies and individuals by former Treasurer Kevin Foley from 2002-2011, documents released under Freedom of Information reveal.
Even when relief provided under schemes such as Payroll Tax Trainee Wage Rebate, Payroll Tax Exporters Rebate and Drought Relief are excluded from the numbers, total ex gratia relief is still well in excess of $100 million.
The FOI documents show the following totals:
Ex-Gratia Tax Relief 2002-2011 Total
Conveyance on sale $91.09 million
Transfer of shares $10.45 million
Land Tax $10.06 million
Payroll Tax $4.47 million
Rental Duty $1.76 million
Shadow Finance Minister Rob Lucas said some companies received ex gratia tax relief of up to several million dollars.
“For example, on 19 February 2004 Mr Foley approved ex gratia tax relief of $6.1 million to an unnamed company for stamp duty on share transfers.
“On the same day, Mr Foley approved further relief of $1.4 million on another share transfer.
“A number of other companies and individuals received ex gratia tax relief of more than $100,000 each.”
Mr Lucas said he lodged the FOI applications, which were limited to ex-gratia tax relief of more than $1000, in January, and it was disappointing he did not receive the responses until August. Companies and individuals were not identified, with only aggregate figures provided.
The Liberal Party has now lodged further FOI applications seeking details of 47 ex gratia payments, each greater than $500,000, such as:
• The name of the company or individual
• The reason for the Treasurer providing ex gratia tax relief
• Whether the Commissioner of State Taxation at any stage raised concerns about, or recommended against, the payment of ex gratia tax relief by the Treasurer
“Given the significant extent of relief being provided it is clear much greater levels of transparency and accountability need to be provided,” Mr Lucas said.
“This is especially important in a political environment when political lobbyists are increasingly active and companies and individuals are making significant donations to political parties.
“At the very least some degree of annual reporting of aggregate ex gratia tax relief approved by the Treasurer should be reported publicly to the Parliament or to a parliamentary committee.
“Whilst confidentiality issues are acknowledged, there should at least be some discussion about the arguments for and against revealing the names of companies and individuals receiving significant amounts of ex gratia tax relief. It is acknowledged that this might require consideration of legislative change.
“It may well be that a more prominent role for the Auditor-General might need to be considered, where the Auditor-General reports annually on the extent of ex gratia tax relief provided by the Treasurer.”