Sunday, December 24, 2017

‘Criminal sanctions are available for false statements’: ATO tools up for empty house crackdown

An attack on property rights. Pure Communism.  Why can I not leave my own property vacant if I want to?  Private housing is not collectively owned.  It is not public property. This whole thing is just green-eyed jealousy

WOULD you dob in your neighbour for leaving their home unoccupied? That’s the hope of federal and state governments as they prepare for a major crackdown on houses and apartments sitting empty around the country.

In November, federal Parliament passed legislation giving the Australian Taxation Office power to fine foreign investors up to $5500 a year if they leave their properties empty, plus up to $52,500 for failing to lodge their forms.

Meanwhile, the Victorian state government’s vacant residential land tax kicks in from January 1, with owners in 16 council areas facing potential fines equal to 1 per cent of the property’s value.

In 2016, 11.2 per cent of private dwellings were unoccupied on Census night, compared with 10.7 per cent five years earlier, totalling 1,089,165 dwellings. In Melbourne and Sydney, the number of empty properties increased by 19 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.

But according to UNSW professor Hal Pawson, those figures “substantially overstate” the true number because they include temporarily empty dwellings.

“Lack of reliable data on empty homes is a major problem in Australia,” Prof Pawson wrote in The Conversation. In 2014, an analysis of water usage data by Prosper Australia estimated that about 82,000 homes in Melbourne were vacant — about half the Census figure.

“Applying a similar ‘conversion factor’ to Sydney’s Census numbers would indicate around 68,000 speculative vacancies,” Prof Pawson wrote.

“Considering that thousands of people sleep rough — almost 7000 on Census night in 2011, more than 400 per night in Sydney in 2017 — and that hundreds of thousands face overcrowded homes or unaffordable rents, these seem like cruel and immoral revelations.

“Public awareness of unused homes has been growing in Australia and globally. In London, Vancouver and elsewhere — just as in Sydney and Melbourne — the night-time spectacle of dark spaces in newly built ‘luxury towers’ has triggered outrage.

“This has struck a chord with the public not only because of its connotations of obscene wealth inequality and waste, but also because of the contended link to foreign ownership.”

A spokeswoman for the ATO said foreign investors with Foreign Investment Review Board approval would be required to lodge an annual “vacancy fee return”, currently being designed, which will consist of an online declaration and payment system.

“If the fees and charges accumulate and remain unpaid, a hold can be placed over the property so that unpaid amounts are recouped when the property is sold,” she said.

“The Treasurer can also have a property sold to recoup unpaid fees if required. The ATO expects that the severity of the penalties for non-lodgement will encourage foreign investors to lodge the vacancy fee return.”

Shukri Barbara, principal adviser at the Property Tax Specialists, said it was unclear exactly how the policy would be enforced but that “the artificial intelligence capability of the ATO in data matching is absolutely sensational”.

“They’re able to match every field of tax return information with outside data, particularly as it relates to local government,” he said, adding international data sharing agreements between OECD countries would also play a role.

“In my experience, in our practice, it’s had an impact. The market has slowed down as far as prices are concerned.”

Mr Barbara added that, anecdotally, Chinese buyers — who would until recently have bought properties without even seeing them — had dried up. “That’s all gone now,” he said.

The spokeswoman said the ATO would establish the identity of foreign investors “through the FIRB application approval process, land titles information, community referrals, information from various state and federal agencies, and our existing data matching processes, which have a high detection rate”.

“A comprehensive communications strategy is in place to raise awareness and to assist foreign investors and their intermediaries understand the requirements of the vacancy fee including a suite of online products and web content,” she said.

“The ATO is also reminding foreign investors of their reporting requirements and the penalties for non-lodgement of the vacancy fee return through the FIRB application approval process, email notifications and a targeted communication campaign.

“Through our existing data matching capabilities together with increased community awareness the ATO is confident that the risk of non-identification of foreign investors subject to the vacancy fee is low.”

She added that if there were doubts about the validity of the vacancy fee return, the ATO would check the claim through “tax return data, immigration data and information from electricity and other utility providers”.

“If the foreign investor claims that they have rented the dwelling or made it available for rent then the ATO can check against the data detailed above as well as lease and real estate agent agreements, internet searches and records of rental tenancies authorities,” she said.

“If the foreign investor claims the dwelling is rented, but this is through short-term leases of less than 30 days, even if this totals over six months ... the foreign owner will still need to pay the vacancy fee as the law requires leases to be of a residential nature of at least 30 days duration.

“Criminal sanctions are available for false and misleading statements.”

The Victorian State Revenue Office simply said it “undertakes monitoring and compliance activities to ensure that vacant residences are being declared”. “Our compliance program includes comparing our data with that of other state and federal agencies, and conducting investigations,” the SRO said.

The issue of vacant houses with missing foreign owners has cropped up twice in recent months. In November, a top-floor unit in inner-city Darlinghurst was put up for sale after a protracted legal battle, and earlier this month a notorious squatter’s house in Redfern also went under the hammer.

Faiyaaz Shafiq, a strata law expert from JS Mueller & Co Lawyers, said at the time the problem would only get worse. “A lot of people are buying properties from overseas and leaving them,” he said. “So many owners are out there with units locked up, empty, and no one can find them.”


Call it for what it is: an Islamist terror attack

We have all been knocked off kilter by this terror attack in Melbourne, another cowardly, vicious and sickening attack using a car to mow down innocent civilians.

The police arrested an Afghan migrant who according to their own reports cited the treatment of Muslims as his grievance and his motivation.

Yet Victoria Police waited five hours before sharing any of the ­detailed information and even then denied any link to terrorism.

This denial is so worrying so ­ignorant and so dangerous, yet even the Prime Minister adopted this same ridiculous line.

They tell us a Muslim migrant from Afghanistan has mown down people and raved about the treatment of Muslims yet they say there is no link to terrorism.

How can the public feel safe if the authorities and politicians won’t even confront the very real enemy of Islamist extremism terrorism.

This is the evil whose name they dare not speak — they are in jihad denialism.

And this is not about demonising our Muslim Australians they understand this threat better than most. They don’t want their lives ruined or threatened by these extremists any more than you or I do.

Many political leaders, some security agencies and much of the media are too timid to even discuss the ideology that wishes us ill. They prefer to talk about methods or weapons. Hosting a global summit on the threat in 2015, Barack Obama talked about “countering violent extremism”. Don’t mention the religion. Avert your eyes from the inspiration.

When a Muslim extremist invoked Islamic State and took ­people hostage in a Sydney cafe, journalists and activists tried to redefine it as a mental health episode.

When a teenager walked from a Parramatta mosque and shot a stranger dead while yelling “Allahu akbar”, the police said, hours later, there was nothing to suggest terrorism.

Even ASIO head Duncan Lewis called on politicians to refrain from linking Islamism and terrorism.

It is difficult for most of us to comprehend this determination to deny or play down how Islamist extremism foments these attacks. Do people believe if we ignore the jihadists they will go away?


Turnbull defends Snowy Hydro's high price

Another burden imposed on us by the Warmist hoax

Malcolm Turnbull has defended the ballooning cost of upgrading the Snowy Hydro scheme, arguing the "vitally important" project is financially viable.

The plan to increase capacity of the iconic scheme by 50 per cent will make up to 2000 megawatts available to the national electricity market.

A feasibility study has found the project, while financially and technically viable, is likely to cost between $3.8 billion and $4.5 billion, far outweighing the initial estimate of $2 billion.

"Of course it is an expensive project, but any big infrastructure project has a price tag," the prime minister told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

Mr Turnbull said the total cost would only soar to $12 billion if the Commonwealth bought out Victoria and NSW's ownership of the scheme.

"We certainly would welcome that, but that's really two different transactions," Mr Turnbull said.

The study uncovered more complex geology than expected, pushing the cost estimate higher.

Mr Turnbull said the project would ensure reliable and affordable energy while helping Australia to meet emissions reduction obligations.  "The project is vitally important," he said.

"As we move to energy mix in which we have more and more intermittent sources of energy, you've got to have something to back it up when the sun isn't shining."

Labor have pounced on the higher price estimate, with energy spokesman Mark Butler saying the prime minister had painted an unrealistic picture of the project earlier in the year.

"This project only stacks up if it is put alongside an ambitious renewable energy program, like Labor's 50 per cent renewable energy target," Mr Butler told ABC radio.

While the opposition is supportive of the overall concept, it wants to see the modelling behind the feasibility study.

The project will link two major dams in the Snowy Mountains with 27kms of tunnels. If it goes ahead, it won't produce power until 2024.


Parents accuse high school of 'indoctrinating' their children after teachers gave them assignments on changing the Australian flag and criticising President Trump

A Brisbane high school has been accused of 'indoctrinating' students by asking them to complete assignments on changing the Australian flag and criticising US President Donald Trump.

Parents of students at Kenmore State High School in Brisbane, Queensland, have complained of overtly political homework assignments which they say have no place in the classroom.

One particular assignment asked students to argue 'persuasively' in favour of Australia having a new flag, Sky News reports.

'I was really incensed because all these reasons for changing the flag were very political,' said Marion Tomes, grandmother to a male student at Kenmore State High School.

The criteria of the assignment read as followed: 'Write a persuasive speech that explains and justifies the design of your new flag and how it represents contemporary Australia.'

Another 'politicised' assignment Ms Tomes objected to was her grandson's English homework which asked him to write about saving Antarctica from melting.

The woman's granddaughter also previously attended the high-school, but she has since left after Ms Tomes took issue with the curriculum. 

She claims the teacher threatened bad marks to anyone who had positive things to say about the US President. 'The teacher did say that anyone who says a good word about Donald Trump won't get a good mark,' Ms Tomes added.

Author and former teacher Mark Lopez echoes Ms Tomes' concerns and said is it not uncommon for Australian students be taught with a fierce political bias.

'Absolutely typical of what goes on in the Australian education system... one side only. Politically correct left-wing view,' Mr Lopez told Sky News.

However the Queensland Department of Education and Training said in a statement that the examples of study are 'aligned to the intent of the Australian curriculum'.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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