The New Business Tax System: Stage 2 Response

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Interview with Philip Clark, 2BL: Republic
November 5, 1999
November 12, 1999
Interview with Philip Clark, 2BL: Republic
November 5, 1999
November 12, 1999

The New Business Tax System: Stage 2 Response



I am announcing today the second stage of the Government’s response to the

recommendations of the Ralph Review of Business Taxation. These measures, along with those

already announced, will provide Australia with a modern, competitive and fair business tax

system. These measures overall raise additional revenue and will balance off tax

reductions previously announced in stage one.

Integrity measures

The Government will adopt measures recommended by the Review to contribute to the

fairness and equity of the tax system. These include:

  • Limiting the extent to which non-commercial losses can be used to reduce the tax paid on other income. Non-commercial losses arise where taxpayers incur expenditures that are

    constructed as business related and therefore deductible, even though they are unlikely to make a profit and the expenditures do not have a significant commercial purpose. A series

    of criteria will be introduced to help ensure that only losses arising from commercial

    activities are deducted from other income. This measure will commence from 1 July

    2000 (Attachment A).

  • Restricting the ability of individuals to reduce tax by diverting the income they earn

    from their personal services to an entity (a company, trust or partnership). Known as the

    ‘alienation of personal services income’, this undermines the income tax base

    and raises significant equity issues. The proposed approach will treat the income of an

    entity that is earned through the provision of personal services as the income of that

    individual for tax purposes. The provisions will not apply where the services are provided

    in the manner of a personal services business. This measure will commence from 1 July 2000

    (Attachment B).

  • Requiring that prepayments in respect of ‘tax shelter’ arrangements be

    deductible over the period during which the services are provided rather than being

    immediately deductible. This measure will help address the problem of tax avoidance

    through participation in ‘tax shelter’ arrangements. It will apply as from the

    time of announcement, although it will exclude prepayments where the taxpayer is

    irrevocably committed under a contractual obligation entered into prior to the time of

    announcement (Attachment C).

In addition other measures will be introduced to improve the integrity of the tax

system. The general anti-avoidance rule in the income tax legislation (Part IVA) will be

improved and its operation streamlined. The changes will result in more effective

anti-avoidance measures and will commence from the time of announcement (Attachment D).

A measure to deny for tax purposes losses on certain interposed companies will also apply

with immediate effect (Attachment E).

Measures will also be introduced to make the dividend streaming and franking credit

trading rules more appropriate by reducing the holding period and raising the exemption

for small transactions from $2000 to $5000 (Attachment F).

Responding to globalisation

Steps will be taken to ensure that Australia receives a fairer share of tax paid by

multinational enterprises. In addition, measures will be introduced so that Australian

businesses are not hindered from expanding overseas and that Australia becomes a more

attractive investment destination. Some of the measures include:

  • Strengthening the thin capitalisation rules to prevent multinationals (both foreign and

    Australian based) from reducing their Australian tax by allocating a disproportionate

    share of debt to their Australian operations.

  • Reforming the taxation arrangements of foreign expatriates to prevent double taxation on

    foreign investments but to ensure that tax on Australian income is collected.

  • Improving Australia’s double taxation agreements so as to improve the

    competitiveness of Australian businesses offshore.

  • Providing imputation credits for foreign dividend withholding tax so as to assist

    Australian firms that are expanding overseas.

  • Strengthening the rules for foreign trusts in order to counter tax avoidance.
  • Removing the ability of non-residents to avoid Australian capital gains tax by disposing

    of interposed entities.

Consistent with the Ralph Review recommendations, a number of important international

tax issues will be subject to further review, including a comprehensive review of the

foreign source income rules, and the redrafting and redesign of the international tax

legislation (Attachments G, H and I).

Implementing the unified entity regime

As outlined in the Government’s 21 September announcement on business tax

reform, the consistent tax treatment of trusts and companies will commence from 1 July

2001. The commencement of entity taxation was deferred in recognition of the current

demand on business associated with the need to address Y2K compliance needs and the

introduction of the GST. The following measures will be introduced to assist with the

introduction of entity taxation:

  • Simplified and consistent ongoing relief will be provided for rollovers of assets, or

    the transfer of an entire business, from an individual, partnership or joint venture of

    individuals to a company or fixed trust where underlying economic interests in the assets

    or business remain the same.

  • Transitional relief will be available for rollovers of all assets from a fixed trust to

    a company provided that all assets are transferred on the same date and the fixed trust

    ceases to exist after the transfer is complete, and similar provisions will apply for

    rollovers from a company to a unit trust that will be taxed under the CIV regime, where

    underlying economic interests in the assets or business remain unchanged.

  • Consultations will be held with the States and Territories with the objective of

    removing any tax obstacles to entity restructuring.

Attachments J and K provide more details.

Improving the operation of the tax system

I am also announcing two measures to improve the operation of the tax system.

  • The Government has decided to implement, from 1 July 2001, the uniform capital allowance

    provisions recommended by the Review. The new provisions are well developed and have been

    released in exposure draft form. Reforming the capital allowance provisions will simplify

    the tax law and unify the taxation treatment across the range of depreciating investment

    assets, including capital expenditures incurred by the mining and resource sectors that

    are currently subject to allowable capital expenditure provisions. The new legislative

    framework will address blackhole expenditures and remove many anomalies – for example under the existing law deductions can be denied to

    taxpayers incurring the expenditure where for technical reasons they do not legally own

    the asset (Attachment L).

  • With immediate effect, the Government has decided to provide capital gains or balancing

    charge rollover relief where a taxpayer disposes of property in circumstances where a

    private acquirer has statutory recourse to compulsorily acquire an asset. This measure

    will address a long-running inequity in the tax system. It will apply, for example, where

    land may be subject to a mining lease or a private utility has recourse to a statutory

    power to acquire and the vendor has little choice but to sell (Attachment M).

The Government will undertake consultation with interested parties to finalise the

detail of the Government’s decisions outlined above.

High Level Reform and ongoing consultation

A major recommendation of the Ralph Review was high level reform of the concepts

underlying business taxation – commonly referred to as Option 2. The Review recommended

that the existing law based on legal definitions of income, which is complex and

inconsistent, be replaced with a new approach to calculating taxable income based on

cashflow/tax value.

The Government sees considerable merit in the high level reforms proposed by the Review

and has given in principle support to their introduction. However it recognises the

importance of developing a workable system that can be implemented with minimum


The Government also supports in principle other recommendations, including those

related to the taxation of buildings and structures, financial arrangements and leasing

and rights.

The Government will be consulting on the development of the recommendations which have

been supported in principle. To this end, a working group involving representatives of the

business community and officials will be established to develop the cashflow/tax value

approach. Mr Dick Warburton, Chairman of the Business Coalition for Tax reform,

will lead the business representation in these consultations. The objective would be to

progress the practical implementation of this approach such that it could be ready by 1

July 2001 (Attachment N).

Board of Taxation

As indicated on 21 September, the Government has accepted the Review’s

recommendation for a more integrated and consultative approach to business tax. In

particular, the Government will be establishing a non-statutory Board of Taxation and

appointments will be announced shortly.

Fiscal impact of the measures

The revenue raised by the measures announced today is such that the overall impact of

business tax reform will be revenue neutral. The revenue impact of the measures is

attached and, compared with the previous figuring on business tax reform, incorporates

additional revenue from the integrity measure affecting tax shelters (Attachment O).

11 November 1999

Attachments RTF
  All attachments 82KB Zip 142KB Zip
A Treatment of losses from non-commercial activities 8KB 38KB
B Alienation 8KB 48KB
C Tax shelter prepayments 13KB 50KB
D Anti-avoidance provisions 7KB 40KB
E Losses on entity interests in loss companies 7KB 52KB
F Dividend streaming and franking credit trading rules 5KB 126KB
G Allocating income between countries 9KB 56KB
H Australians investing offshore 9KB 45KB
I Foreign investment in Australia 8KB 43KB
J Unified entity regime – other issues 7KB 128KB
K Rollover provisions for entities 8KB 130KB
L Comprehensive capital allowance system 11KB 38KB
M Extending the scope of involuntary disposals 7KB 43KB
N High level reforms and ongoing consultation 7KB 44KB
O Revenue tables Stage 1 6KB 247KB (XLS)
    Stage 2 6KB