Tax office denies rulings blockade

TheAustralian Taxation Office(ATO) has dismissed claims by agribusiness scheme providers that it is delaying the issue of product rulings for managed investment schemes, which is in turn threatening investments in the sector.

Assistant commissioner for small business Cheryl-Lee Field says the ATO has issued about the same number of rulings as last year based on the financial year. Promoters and researchers have claimed the numbers were down for this calendar year.

“We have been getting quicker in getting product rulings out and have put more resources into this area during the current financial year,” Field says.

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The ATO is on track to issue about 100 product rulings before the end of this financial year.

“Our aim is to get the product rulings out in three months from receipt. However, we have been averaging less than that figure, about 70 days from receipt to issuing the ruling.”

The ATO currently has about 30 applications for product rulings outstanding, although Field says some are for schemes to be launched in the 2004 financial year.

At the end of May, the ATO had issued 30 product rulings for agribusiness schemes. Last week, six product rulings were issued, which was the largest number issued at one time this year. Schemes gaining rulings last week included an olives project, a coffee scheme and some timber projects.

These recent rulings will mean very little selling time for promoters before June 30. A promoter is required to plant the crop before this date to claim the tax deduction and with the late issue of a ruling, many will miss out raising funds in this financial year. However, timber projects are excluded.

Field says promoters should not leave their product ruling applications until the last moment.

“Promoters need to carefully plan their application for a product ruling, as we get many incomplete applications. It is a complex exercise to ensure the project complies with tax rules.”

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