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A SPECIALIST integrity unit has been formed inside the Department of Immigration to deal with widespread fraud in the working holiday visa program, on which industries such as fruit growing depend.

More than 200 internet advertisements have been found offering to buy or sell documents allowing backpackers to claim they had worked in rural jobs without them leaving Sydney, and thus extend their working holiday visas. The standard fee is $400. So far, 64 visas have been cancelled over the fraud and at least 19 more are being reviewed.

One man, an Irish national, has been convicted of fraud. ”There’s been more than 100 fraudulent claims identified this financial year,” a spokeswoman for the department said. ”The answer is we don’t know [the full extent of the fraud]. At this stage it’s too early to determine and we will be looking at it over the next six months.”

The working holiday visa (subclass 417) allows people to extend their stay in Australia by a year if they can prove they have worked in a rural area for three months. Applications are lodged online but have been abused by people selling Australian business numbers linked to farms so backpackers can falsely claim they worked on farms.

”Second year visas for sale,” one ad read. ”Will email completed 1263 form and add your details to my books so you can gain second year visa with ease.”

Another ad offering similar services, posted on the Gumtree website on Saturday, had received more than 2000 hits by last night. Unlike visa scams targeting international students, mainly Indians, this fraud is used mainly by European visitors.

One backpacker told the Herald he had been offered the false documentation as soon as be arrived in Australia, by people staying at the same hostel.

”People told me about buying the documents – getting the numbers to put in,” he said. ”When I arrived here people said you can go there [to a farm] or you can buy. Everyone knows about it. It’s easy. All the people who are here know about that.”

The federal Opposition spokeswoman on immigration, Sharman Stone, said the widespread fraud reflected under-resourcing of the department.

Source  :  www.smh.com.au
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STAMP duty on housing loans could be abolished after the Henry tax review, which is likely to recommend states be given a share of income tax to make up the difference.

The most likely path to do this would be for the Commonwealth to give the states the ability to impose their own surcharge on income tax, which would be collected for them by the Australian Tax Office.

 The Henry review has been inundated with submissions calling for the end of stamp duty.

Tax economists argue that the tax on moving house, although easy to collect, leads to poor use of the housing stock and poor labour mobility, The Australian reports.Having to pay stamp duty not only discourages elderly people from moving to more appropriate accommodation, it also deters people from moving house to a better jobs market. 

At a conference conducted by the Henry tax review at the Melbourne Institute last week, both international and Australian tax economists said stamp duty should go, with Melbourne University professor John Freebairn describing the tax as “a piece of garbage”.

The review panel is being influenced by state submissions arguing that replacing stamp duty by extending other state taxes, such as payroll tax or land tax, would be too difficult to implement nationally.

Tasmanian Treasury secretary Don Challen, who is close to the inquiry’s head, federal Treasury secretary Ken Henry, told last week’s conference that reform of state taxes would succeed only with leadership from the national government.                                                                                                                                                      stamp duty

“If you want to achieve a difficult reform, you’ve got to make it a national one,” Mr Challen said.

He said it would be too hard to win political consensus to extend land or payroll taxes.

“It requires eight lots of political commitment and eight lots of legislation and that path is doomed to failure,” he said.

However, he said he believed states would be willing to act on stamp duty if the commonwealth provided an avenue for alternative revenue.

The idea of giving states a cut of income tax was pressed two years ago by the OECD, which suggested the states “piggy-back” on income tax. The OECD also urged states to drop stamp duty.

One of the world’s leading experts on federal taxes, Canada’s Richard Bird, said the states were heading for a financial crisis because they did not have a sufficient tax base to support their burgeoning health and education costs, which were all rising much faster than the consumer price index.

One of the problems with stamp duty for the states is that it is vulnerable to the state of property markets.

Stamp duty usually raises about $14 billion a year for the states, but the recent state budgets showed big falls of more than $1bn each in NSW and Queensland, in 2008-09, for example.

“In Australia, it should certainly be feasible to permit states to impose a surcharge on the federal personal income tax base,” Professor Bird said.

He said that, ideally, Australia would follow the Scandinavian practice of allowing states to have a flat tax surcharge on income, rather than mirroring the commonwealth’s progressive taxation.

The states would be allowed to set their own level, making states more responsible for their own finances.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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In a welcome move, the Australian Government has said it will legislate to extend the validity period of subclass 410 Retirement visas to 10 years, and remove the working restriction on these visas.

Subclass 410 Retirement visas ceased to be available to new applicants at the end of June 2005, but there are nevertheless some 8,700 410 visaholders in Australia at the moment.

The 410 visa is a long term temporary residency visa, with an initial validity period of 4 years. Initially renewals of this visa were required every 2 years, and there was a no work condition attaching.

Work rights were relaxed in 2003, and relaxations to the health requirements upon renewal of 410 visas were announced later that year.

In 2005 the rollover period for 410 visas was extended from 2 years to 4 years.

Successive Immigration Ministers appear to be sympathetic to the position in which Retirement visaholders find themselves. Many 410 visaholders are now long standing members of Australian communities, and granting permanent residency is a natural next step – the present Minister appears willing to listen to representatives of the 410 cohort, and in extending the renewal period to 10 years is (we would submit) providing quasi-permanent residency to affected individuals.

Full access to Medicare appears to be the main issue with this visa category, together with an ongoing requirement to maintain private health insurance.Indeed, with temporary visaholders being able to structure their personal tax affairs such that overseas source income (including UK source pensions) are not subject to tax in Australia, some would contend that 410 visaholders are in a good place visa and tax wise.If you are a subclass 410 visaholder and would like to discuss your personal tax and financial position please contact us at our Perth or Geelong office. Go Matilda Accounting and Tax is one of the few firms of advisors that have consultants with knowledge across the UK and Australian jurisdictions, and are therefore ideally placed to assist with the preparation and lodgment of UK and Australian Tax Returns, and to provide strategic advice on personal tax planning.

We also recommend that Retirement visaholders visit the internet discussion group that lobbies for the interests of individuals holding subclass 410 visas – British Expat Retirees In Australia, or BERIA: see the weblink below.

  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BERIA/  Source : www.gomatilda.com 

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Article_perth-420x0This is turning out to be Perth’s driest start to autumn on record, taking at least 47 days to exceed just five millimetres of rain.   

Before this year, the longest it had taken to exceed five millimetres in autumn was 46 days and that was in 1994.

The rest of this week will be bone dry for southwest WA, much the same as the last three weeks. But rain is just around the corner.

The next rain will arrive in Perth early next week when a high finally moves east from the Bight and allows a front to make an impact on the southwest of the state. This will signal the turning of the season. Showers initially will be light but are likely to become more frequent and heavier as the week wears on as more fronts extend further inland.

Showers will even penetrate to inland areas which have been extremely dry recently. Lake Grace in the Great Southern has not had a drop of rain so far this autumn, the driest start to the season in 96 years of records.

www.watoday.com.au

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