A Farrer woman has been hit for land tax on what she says is her mother’s house.
Monica Brunner said yesterday her mother, Hilda Beran, bought the house in Mawson in 1973 after the death of her husband. She put it in her daughter’s (Mrs Brunner’s) name because she thought she would ultimately be inheriting the house anyway. Mrs Beran is 88.
“”Morally, the house belongs to my mother,” Mrs Brunner said. “”She paid for it and lives in it. Yet I have to pay land tax.”
The ACT Revenue Office told Mrs Brunner last week that her appeal against the tax had failed. She had to pay $428 for last year (including interest) and $540 for this year. She could appeal to the Administrative Appeal Tribunal, but it would cost $240.
The office said Mrs Brunner was legal owner of the house and she did not occupy it as her principal residence. (Mrs Brunner lives in Farrer).
The office said, “”It is only possible to maintain one principal place of residence for the purpose of the Rates and Land Tax in the ACT” with limited exceptions such as employment, illness, subdivision and primary production.
Mrs Brunner said her mother is 90 per cent bed-ridden. She gets no social welfare. She thinks the tax is unfair.
Other people (who for practical purposes are living in their own home) have also been caught by the land tax. Many people who put their house in a company or a trust name for family or tax purposes now find they have to pay the tax.
The director of Landlord Advisory Service, Peter Jansen, said yesterday that it was outrageous that the ACT Revenue Office had failed to send an explanatory brochure out with land-tax and rates assessments.
Last year the brochure explained objection and appeal rights. He had cases of people assessed for land tax who were not liable for it because they were living in their house on July 1.
The office was asserting it was owed the money when it was not, and to pay by August 15 or get a bill for interest. It was the sort of thing the Government’s consumer-affairs branch would criticise strongly.
Further, no notice went out with rates notices explaining who was liable for land tax. Some people were not aware they were liable and could be caught with back payments later on. The Government was probably missing out on revenue.
“”It is inept and inefficient for the Government not to explain the tax and expect owners to comply,” he said. “”The legislation is quite complex and the Government is duty bound to explain it.”
A spokesman for the office, however, said that every property-owner in the ACT had been given an explanatory brochure when the tax was introduced last year. They had been asked to make a declaration about whether the property was their principal residence or not.
Since then, all people newly acquiring property had also been sent the explanatory brochure and asked to make a declaration. These usually went out within three week of the office being told of the transfer. People transferring property were required to notify the Revenue Office, but even if they didn’t, the transfer would be picked up through the Land Titles office.
It was up to property-holders to notify the office if they changed the use of the property from principal residence.
The office saw no need to repeat information on land tax already sent out. This could obscure information about rates, such as payments help and appeal rights against valuations.