The Federal coffer will be $47 million lighter this financial year after the Howard Government bowed to public pressure, granting GST concessions to retirement village residents receiving nursing and basic living care.
Local senior battler Wally Stubbings, speaking on behalf of Cleveland Gardens Retirement Village residents, commended Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Mal Brough, for bringing the conflict over the GST slug to a resolution with last week’s passing of the Tax Laws Amendment (Retirement Villages) Bill 2004.
The Bill confirms that serviced apartment residents receiving daily living or nursing care at retirement villages like Cleveland Gardens are entitled to receive a range of accommodation and certain services GST free.
An explanatory memorandum to the Bill said the cost to government in the 2004/05 financial year is estimated to reach $47 million in GST refunds to retirement village operators who have effectively overpaid the tax, with an additional $36 million over the following three financial years.
During debate in Senate, Andrew Murray, Senator for Western Australia, gave government a “big tick for retrospectively compensating people”, but urged the Australian Taxation Office “to provide these funds as soon as practicable”.
Mr Stubbings echoed his view, saying he was “fearful” the ATO might instigate “obstacles” to delay refunds. The issue would not be considered finalised until refunds were forthcoming, he warned.
Residents at Cleveland Gardens united to fight the imposition of GST on essential basic services, with Mr Stubbings himself personally delivering a letter to Prime Minister John Howard during the Australian leader’s brief visit to the Redlands in July.
The veteran athlete criticised the ATO’s “arbitrary” decision to remove the GST-free status of nursing care and basic services delivered to frail aged living in serviced apartments as “unfair”.
The Amendment Bill’s passage through Senate was not without drama.
Mr Brough was annoyed at what he described as “an 11th hour attempt by the Labor Party to make amendments which would have undermined the intention of the Bill, and caused greater uncertainty and delay”.
Jan McLucas, Senator for Queensland, said she had a “problem” with the Bill empowering the Minister for Ageing to specify the level of care needed to qualify for GST-free services as the benchmark could be set “so high that it would be too onerous for an operator to provide”.
The House of Representatives rejected Labor’s amendments. Redland Bayside Bulletin