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ACT to 'name and shame' land tax dodgers

The government will publicly name properties in tax arrears before moving to repossess them.

The government will publicly name properties in tax arrears before moving to repossess them. Photo: Graham Tidy

The ACT's tax tsar is poised to "name and shame" tax dodgers unless they begin clearing their debts immediately.

The radical step will pave the way for even tougher action, allowing the government to sell properties owned by people who persistently fail to pay rates and land tax.

In many cases, the threat to publish property details and enforce a sale promotes the settlement of the debt. 

Revenue Commissioner Kim Salisbury

Revenue Commissioner Kim Salisbury said that, early next month, he would begin using his statutory power to publish the details of properties in arrears.

Shadow treasurer Brendan Smyth has urged caution.

Shadow treasurer Brendan Smyth has urged caution. Photo: Karleen Minney

He has never previously invoked the power, though former commissioner Graeme Dobell did so twice over the past decade, naming 10 houses and units in 2005 and 2008.

However, Mr Salisbury plans to name considerably more: 16 properties next month, followed by another 25 soon afterwards.

ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr backed the commissioner's campaign, but shadow treasurer Brendan Smyth urged Mr Salisbury to be "very cautious in his use of this power".

"It's a very, very big step to be taking," Mr Smyth said. "We certainly need people to pay their taxes and their fees and charges on time, but history would show that using this power judiciously is a good thing."

The Revenue Office is limiting its present campaign to property investors rather than owner-occupiers.

Mr Salisbury said his office tried to help people manage their tax debts, especially those in financial hardship, and reminded them regularly when they fell further into arrears.

But he had decided the threat of a forced sale was necessary in some cases.

ACT rates and land tax legislation allows the office to publicly identify housing and land for which taxes are more than a year in arrears.

If the owners still haven't cleared the debt a year after being named, the government can apply to take over and sell the property.

Mr Salisbury said: "The primary intention of this action is not to sell the properties but to recover the arrears where other debt-recovery actions have proven unsuccessful.

"In many cases, the threat to publish property details and enforce a sale promotes the settlement of the debt.

"However, from time to time, it is necessary to follow through by publishing property details and, on occasion, applying to the courts to have a property sold to recover the debt." The commissioner said selling property was a last resort but it was important that taxpayers met their obligations.

"Taxes form an important part of funding for important community services, such as education, health and safety," he said.

The Treasurer, Mr Barr, supported Mr Salisbury's plan, saying it was "appropriate that in some circumstances the commissioner needs to pursue this avenue in order to assist in recovering long-term debts".

All Canberra home owners pay rates though only investors who rent out a property pay land tax.

The amount of tax owed depends on a property's value; a typical ACT household was required to pay about $1500 to $2000 in rates this financial year, and more for land tax.

22 comments so far

  • Bitchy and spiteful just about sums up the Canberra council, doesn't it Mr Barr?

    Commenter
    Sharron
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 19, 2014, 12:02PM
    • Umm..... what? How is it bitchy and spiteful to require people who can AFFORD investment properties to pay the land tax that's owed on them? After all, the investment property is earning an income or reducing the owner's taxable income via negative gearing. If it's not financially beneficial to hold the property, sell it. Land tax, whether you agree with it or not, is a known factor when deciding to acquire an investment property. I don't recall seeing anywhere that it was optional.

      Commenter
      Davo
      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 12:10PM
    • You're right Davo,

      Investors earn INCOME - the ATO quite rightly taxes that - why should the local lot want to hit that same income again? Isn't that called double dipping?
      Furthermore, negative gearing - which you obviously don't like - is often brought into play by land tax, without which many investors would be positively geared.
      As an investor, I pay far more land tax - on a property in Curtin - that the rates on that same property..

      Commenter
      Saddington
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 12:23PM
    • I agree with Davo. But to put it more simply....... Get the bastards

      Commenter
      Deutsch
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 12:24PM
    • Davo "Umm..." is that the only way you know how to begin a sentence?

      Displaying the block and house numbers and the owners' names is nothing but bitchy and spiteful if you like it or not.

      Commenter
      Sharron
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 12:36PM
    • Sharon.... Clearly this action is not the first the local government have taken to try to recover the debt. If people opt to continue to ignore their obligations, then it's hard to have any sympathy for what comes next. Perhaps you'd prefer the alternative of significant fines, further increesing any finacial hardship, or jail time maybe?

      As you'll probably find, it's often the people who are most well off (those with a substantial portfolio of properties) and not the casual investors, who are the most likely to pay their bills until the last possible moment. If this is actually the case here, why should the rest of us shed a tear?

      I didn't realise the comments section was policed by ex English teachers. I'll try to refrain from incurring your wrath by incorrectly starting my sentences in future.

      Commenter
      Davo
      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 12:52PM
    • As any good communist party leader, Gallagher hates private ownership of property, land and modes of productions, as shown by her contempt for investing taxpayers. She'd rather everything was owned by government and each of us had the same assets, income and non-education. Rather than bludge on government housing or rentals, some people work hard, save and pay a mortgage to the big banks, whilst other live the high life, renting and spending their surplus income on nice restaurants, overseas holidays, expensive iPhones and foreign cars. The latter class of people will then be left with no assets on retirement, and bleed the taxpayers even more by drawing a pension.

      Gallagher loves this second category of people, hence why she hikes up land tax, rates and makes life as expensive as possible for the owning class. Gillard has the same socialist philisophy. At the end of the day, all taxpayer will suffer from this, the economy will dive and we all become reliant on government handouts- just the way Gallagher likes it. Worshipping the manifesto like a good Marxist. Roll on election time. By the way, the censoring of comments on this news site is so obvious it's not funny.

      Commenter
      Mary
      Date and time
      February 21, 2014, 12:19AM
  • I've always found it very strange how we're asked to pay tax to the government on something owned by that same government (we're only leasing it for up to 99 years).

    We've already paid as much - for the lease - as if we DID own it by the way.

    This was one of Rosemary Follett's brilliant ideas in the early nineties: 'let's copy the states and squeeze more money out of 'landowners'.

    In surrounding NSW, where they do own the land, the land tax rate is actually less than in the ACT, with a minimum threshhold as well.

    Sounds like a raw deal to me.

    Commenter
    Saddington
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 19, 2014, 12:08PM
    • The first time they do this, they are going to be sued so quickly for breach of privacy that they'll stop it immediately. That our civic leaders cannot extrapolate the legal dangers of this plan, demonstrates they should be sacked for being idiots.

      Commenter
      It's obvious really
      Location
      OZ
      Date and time
      February 19, 2014, 1:07PM
      • If they were sacked being idiots it would have been done about 100 decisions ago.

        Commenter
        WotTha?????
        Date and time
        February 19, 2014, 1:25PM

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