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Supply of Information

22.68. Return forms. With return forms the Taxation Office supplies instruction sheets and other information designed to assist taxpayers in completing their returns. This material has been expanded in recent years: in relation to a salary or wage return (Form S), the 1974 Guide to Form S and the pamphlet explaining age concessions are proving particularly helpful.

22.69. There is a continuing need to expand and improve material available to taxpayers and their advisers in relation to the preparation of returns, and to this end many of the practices adopted in the United States and Canada might usefully be followed. In particular, the Committee recommends extending the provision by the Taxation Office of standard forms for attachment to the return where appropriate. Standard forms could be made available giving details of disposals of property, net rental income, motor-car expenses, and travelling and entertainment expenses—this list is clearly not exhaustive.

22.70. Information bulletins. From time to time the Commissioner has issued pamphlets, bulletins and the like setting out guidelines on the interpretation of the taxation laws and practices being adopted. The series of Income Tax Orders issued in the comparatively early years of Federal income tax and the Public Information Bulletins published after the 1964 amending income tax legislation are cases in point.

22.71. The publication by the Commissioner of rulings, guidelines and information on these lines is desirable and creates a better understanding of taxation laws and


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practices. Further, the dissemination of this information leads to fuller co-operation by taxpayers and their advisers in complying with the provisions of the law. Published information of this nature also helps to dispel the frequently-voiced criticism, when the operation of the taxation laws has an effect believed to be disadvantageous to the taxpayer, that the Taxation Office is endeavouring to assume the role of ‘rule-maker’.

22.72. The Committee is aware of the activities of overseas taxation administrations in issuing general rulings and information and is particularly impressed by what is being done in the United States and Canada. In issuing rulings and guidelines, the Taxation Office needs to make it clear that the published information is not binding upon the Commissioner in any proceedings before a Court or other tribunal.

22.73. Advance rulings. When requested by a taxpayer, the Taxation Office now gives advance rulings on the application of specific provisions of the law to a proposed transaction where full details of the contemplated transaction are supplied. The ruling is normally given on the understanding that it is not legally binding on the Commissioner. There is considerable merit in placing advance rulings by the Commissioner on a formalised basis binding him to the decision given. Rulings of this nature would clearly be of benefit to the taxpayer concerned and it is therefore reasonable that the cost of providing the service should be met by him rather than by the general body of taxpayers. In Canada an advance rulings service has been inaugurated for which there is a charge of $Can20 per hour, with a minimum of $Can 150 for any one ruling. The Committee recommends that a charge be made for giving advance rulings, based on the cost incurred by the Commissioner, subject to a minimum charge of, say, $200.

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