Tax, Human Rights Commission on Assembly agenda

Dominic Giannini 7 May 2020
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay

ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay says hundreds of jobs have been saved in Canberra because of the government’s stimulatory measures. Photo: Region Media.

Changes to payroll tax and expanded powers for the ACT Human Rights Commission are among a suite of 36 pieces of legislation that will be put through the ACT Legislative Assembly today (Thursday, 7 May).

Federal government subsidies, including the $750-a-week JobKeeper payment which subsidies workers who have lost their job because of COVID-19, will be exempt from payroll tax in the ACT. However, any wage or salary that is paid by the employer on top of this subsidy will continue to be counted towards total taxable wages.

Only 10 per cent of businesses in the ACT pay payroll tax, calculable where taxable wages exceed the $2 million threshold.

New provisions to provide rebates, exemptions and deferrals on rates and taxes will also form part of the legislation to create a more consistent set of powers across different tax types, an ACT Government spokesperson said.

ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the announcement, and subsequent legislation, of the measures in the government’s fiscal stimulus packages have been integral to the economic survival of the territory.

“Already the government has created and saved hundreds of jobs by swiftly implementing targeted economic stimulus packages which have been supported by sensible regulatory reforms,” he said.

“Our second emergency bill includes changes to payroll tax to exempt wages from the commonwealth JobKeeper program to support local businesses hard hit by the pandemic.

“We will continue to take swift action to support jobs, local businesses and our Canberra community throughout this period.”

The bill will also move to allow people to sign and witness certain legal documents electronically instead of requiring physical signatures. Electronic meetings and proxy voting will further allow people and corporations to conduct certain legal aspects of their business without risking exposure to other people.

“We are also ensuring businesses are able to conduct meetings electronically – where previously face-to-face meetings were required – to ensure they remain flexible during this time,” said Mr Ramsay.

The jurisdiction of the ACT Human Rights Commission, and its Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs, would be expanded to be able to hear and conciliate complaints about the treatment of a vulnerable person.

Most amendments will take place immediately upon passing the Assembly, while others will only commence if a relevant minister chooses to activate them on an ad hoc basis.

Many of the proposed changes deal with areas that require yearly review.

The Assembly is sitting on a reduced schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic, sitting once a week during regular sitting weeks.


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