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Property owner's 'shocking' $326,000 tax bill

Landowner loses land tax assessment appeal. (Image for representation only.)

Sharan Kaur Jassal had sought a review of her land tax, but the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, upheld the State Revenue Commissioner's assessment, making her liable to pay over 326,000 in outstanding tax bill and penalties.

Melbourne woman Sharan Kaur Jassal has failed to get a tax reprieve on her property in the city’s eastern suburb, reinstating her liability to pay the outstanding tax bill amounting to $305,207 and penalties worth $21,088.

Ms Jassal had sought a review of the State Revenue Commissioner’s assessment of her land tax in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, claiming the property was her principal place of residence, therefore making her exempt from land tax.

VCAT, however, upheld the commissioner’s assessment on grounds that Ms Jassal failed to prove that she maintained the property as her main residence across taxable years under review, as per the case documents.

   

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'Tax cases are fact cases,' says Tax Lawyer Joel Benjamin.
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What is the principal place of residence exemption?

According to this provision, property owners are liable to pay tax on all the land they own, except for land they own and occupy as their home.

This means that to get the exemption, the property must have a dwelling on it and the owner must have lived in it.  Owners are not entitled to get an exemption for a vacant block.

While the particular provision is applicable across Australia, Tax Lawyer Joel Benjamin warns that there are some variations between states.

“Land tax is a state-based tax. While the basic principle of this exemption applies to most states, but precise conditions and wordings do vary so it’s important to obtain professional advice,” Mr Benjamin told SBS Punjabi.

Process of lodging an objection:

In cases where the property owner is not satisfied with the revenue office’s assessment, taxpayers can lodge an objection within 60 days from being issued a notice of assessment.

Once the objection is filed, the relevant municipal council determines if the tax assessment needs to be reassessed, which can lead to valuations being reinstated, reduced, or even increased upon review.

Mr Benjamin said dissatisfied owners can also take legal recourse, as in Ms Jassal’s case, but they ought to remember that tax cases are ‘fact cases’ where taxpayers bear the onus of proving the exemption they’re claiming.

“In such cases, much of it comes down to documentation and evidence that they can admit to supporting their argument because they bear the onus of proof.”

In line with Mr Benjamin’s comments, Tax Law expert and Lawyer Tania Waterhouse said if the property owner fails to provide evidence for the exemption, it makes them liable to pay the outstanding bill plus the penalties by default, or in some cases, as ordered by the Tribunal.

“If you fail to provide proper proof, and the Tribunal confirms the state revenue commissioner’s assessment of your land tax, the taxpayer is liable to pay the outstanding tax and interest accrued,” said Ms Waterhouse.

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