Specialist teams

Our specialist teams are integrated across the business where they can best apply their expert skills to significant projects of major legislative and operational reform. Each plays a major role in upholding our commitment to deliver benefits for all Victorians.

Litigation

Each year we assess and process hundreds of thousands of transactions, including applications for exemptions and grants.

The vast majority of these decisions are undisputed, however, a small percentage is objected to by customers who question whether a particular situation attracts a tax liability or dispute their eligibility for a concession/exemption.

In these circumstances where we are unable to reach an internal resolution, customers may seek to have their matter determined by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) or the Supreme Court. In 2014-15, we received 122 requests seeking referral of their matter to VCAT or the courts (including appeals by either party).

Our legal specialists resolved two-thirds of cases without the need for litigation. However, where the remaining matters could only be resolved by substantive hearing (including matters on appeal), the Commissioner’s original decisions/assessments were upheld in 83 per cent of cases.

For 2014-2015, charges were laid by the Commissioner against 12 people and 100 per cent of these matters were resolved with a finding of guilt.

Policy and legislation

The multitude of functions we undertake each year requires that robust policies be developed to support them. Our specialists accomplish this, and undertake significant effort to liaise with key industry stakeholders and experts, such as the State Taxes Consultative Council.

This team’s highly respected knowledge and experience is also essential to the Department of Treasury and Finance, and the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, when our specialists often assist in the development of the legislation we administer.

During 2014-15, their notable legislative work included the introduction of:

  • The Back to Work Act 2015, which:
    • Established the Back to Work Scheme introduced by the Government as an election commitment.
    • Provides relief to employers in respect of the costs associated with hiring certain unemployed or retrenched workers and commenced on 1 July 2015.
  • The State Taxation Acts Amendment Act 2015, which included:
    • Budget measures to introduce a 3 per cent duty surcharge on the transfer of residential property to a foreign purchaser from 1 July 2015; and a 0.5 per cent land tax surcharge on land owned by an absentee owner from the 2016 tax year.
    • Clarifications around certain definitions in the landholder provisions.
    • An extension to the circumstances in which the SRO can offset tax refunds against other revenue liabilities.

Private rulings and objections

Our specialists in this multi-functional team issue private rulings and determine objections for all revenue lines that we administer.

Private rulings may be issued in response to customer requests for an exemption or refund, requests for advice on the application of legislative provisions or in the context of ensuring that payroll tax outcomes are harmonised across jurisdictions. Objections are determined to assessments, decisions on tax liabilities and First Home Owner Grant applications. This team also assists in the administering of hardship relief applications for land tax.

In 2014-15, this team provided 943 private rulings (83 per cent completed within 90 days) and determined 1129 objections to 2818 assessments (86 per cent completed within 90 days).

Compliance

Detecting cases where uncollected revenue exists relies largely on accurate and timely records accessed from a variety of information sources and databases.

Our experts use sophisticated data-matching and Business Intelligence (BI) technology to collect and cross-match information, which helps to promptly identify and inform taxpayers of their obligations so that they can comply with the law. This approach is both effective and efficient, with 87 per cent of these cases revealing liabilities in the past year.

Overall, in 2014-15 our specialists uncovered about $338.9 million in revenue from almost 11,000 cases and investigations. This includes:

  • Payroll tax $50.3 million,
  • Land tax $69.3 million,
  • Landholder duty $143.11 million,
  • Land rich duty $8.73 million,
  • Leases $14.72 million
  • Duties $19.5 million,
  • FHOG applications $4.3 million, and
  • Miscellaneous $4.8 million

In cases of serious dishonesty, after significant efforts and thorough research by our investigators, we launched 12 prosecutions and achieved a 100 per cent success rate. This included two successful prosecutions for tax evasion which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

Landholder acquisitions

Customers who acquire substantial land holdings in Victoria, or carry out certain leasing arrangements, may encounter obligations under the Duties Act 2000.

We provide dedicated services to customers and practitioners on transactions involving the application of the former land rich and current landholder and lease provisions.

In the 2014-15, this team processed 149 acquisition statements, determined six trust registration applications, issued 230 private rulings, completed 57 investigations and assessed $166.6 million in revenue associated with these transactions.

Technology

The SRO has avoided the costly and risky approach of a total redevelopment of its core revenue management system by continuing to invest in this system to ensure it is technologically up to date. The alternative of building a new IT system would cost more than $110 million and take years. Our approach has seen the current system continue to be successful despite being originally developed in 2002.

In addition to regular work to refresh and maintain core systems, our experts are always heavily involved in delivering projects to improve the customer experience, enhance productivity and implement legislative changes.

In 2014-15 this included new software applications to enable the automation and volume scaling of investigations of land tax principal place of residence (PPR) cases, integration with the national electronic conveyancing system (PEXA), and further enhancements to our Duties Online system. Systems changes were particularly challenging but were successfully delivered for the Back to Work Scheme, amongst others.

This team was also involved in the development of our new website, and completed a number of systems upgrades to keep the infrastructure and applications that are critical to our business up to date. Our substantial core revenue management systems have continued to be supported by the award-winning Sustainable Revenue Management System Program, which is progressively delivering a long-term sustainable architecture and renovating key business processes. Overall, it represents a solid platform on which to continue our digital transformation for years to come.

Finance

The management of our discretionary output budget to within a 0.06 per cent variance in 2014-15 points to consistently strong year-on-year administration by our corporate support specialists. This area focuses on ensuring that we spend taxpayers’ money wisely by delivering on our vision. This requires us to use all of our resources as efficiently as possible and to identify and eliminate waste.