Talking tax in Cairns
Tax academics from across Australia and New Zealand will meet in Cairns today (26 September) for a one-day tax research symposium.
Among the topics up for discussion is the intersection of Australian tax legislation and Queensland’s new Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Act.
“Despite existing tax law providing an immediate tax deduction to mining companies for expenditure incurred in rehabilitating their mine sites, many sites remain unrehabilitated and pose an environmental risk,” University of New South Wales researcher Dr Sally Joseph said.
“Mining companies have been able to evade those responsibilities by declaring insolvency. Many large mining companies are now also offloading their mines for a mere $1. Shifting the responsibility for environmental rehabilitation by selling to companies with fewer resources greatly increases the risk that taxpayers will ultimately have to pay the costs of rehabilitating abandoned mine sites,” Dr Joseph said.
Earlier this year the Queensland government enacted legislation to ensure that responsibility for mine site rehabilitation could default to other companies, entities and individuals connected to the mining operations.
In Queensland’s first exercise of these new powers, former Linc Energy chief executive Peter Bond was issued with an Environmental Protection Order in May of this year, requiring him to take steps to decommission dams and rehabilitate contaminated soils at the company’s Darling Downs site.
“This creates an interesting question for tax lawyers,” Dr Joseph said. “Previously Mr Bond would have been relieved of those responsibilities via Linc Energy’s liquidation, and his resignation. If Queensland law now declares those responsibilities to be his, does he qualify for the same tax break to which Linc Energy would have been entitled, had it completed the clean-up?”
Conference convenor and James Cook University Associate Professor Justin Dabner says the meeting is a timely one.
“At a time when the Government is struggling to implement effective tax reform, this symposium will bring together leading tax academics to discuss topics including how to deal with the threat of tax avoidance, international tax issues, tax and insolvency, and fighting tax disputes. It’s an opportunity to tease out what could and won’t work,” he said.
Former Federal Commissioner of Taxation Michael D’Ascenzo will present the symposium’s keynote address.
“Our keynote speaker presided over the Australian Tax Office for seven years, during a period of considerable change and often controversy. He will be sharing his reflections on those years, including some thoughts on what he might have done had he been Treasurer at the time,” Associate Professor Dabner said.
Fourteen technical papers will be presented by tax experts from across Australia and New Zealand.
The symposium is hosted by James Cook University and is a joint project with the University of New South Wales, Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University.
It is sponsored by the leading publishing companies Oxford University Press and Thomson Reuters.
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