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Australian Treasury Promises More Info On Bank Levy

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Australian Treasury has said that it will compile a regulatory impact statement on the proposed new bank levy, following criticisms from the institutions affected.

The Secretary to the Treasury, John Fraser, made the announcement in a letter to the Australian Bankers' Association (ABA).

The ABA had criticized a lack of information from the Treasury on a number of issues, including: the basis on which the Treasury calculated its estimate that the levy would raise AUD6.2bn (USD4.6bn), how the tax would affect transactions between the five banks and the Reserve bank, and which of the banks' commercial activities will be captured by the tax. The banks have also urged the Treasury to publish a regulatory impact statement on the policy.

The six-basis point levy will apply to Australia's five largest banks with liabilities of more than AUD100bn. Treasurer Scott Morrison unveiled the policy at the Budget on May 9. The ABA said that the banks had been given until just May 15 to make submissions to the Treasury on the measure. The levy is slated to enter into force on July 1.

Fraser told the ABA: "As is usual practice we will be providing further relevant information, including a regulatory impact statement canvassing the broader economic impacts, compliance issues, and revenue estimates as part of the explanatory material accompanying the draft legislation when it is introduced into Parliament."

Fraser added that the inclusion of the levy in the Budget followed normal budget processes. He explained that "careful consideration was given to the design of the levy, the costings, and to its effect on the economy as well as the financial sector." He also noted that the Budget papers showed both the fiscal balance impact of the measure and the underlying cash balance impacts over the forward estimates period.

Fraser said that officers in his department are working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to prepare draft legislation "as swiftly as possible to provide to the major banks for their comment."

The ABA has since alleged that the Government has "forced senior executives of the five major banks to sign confidentiality agreements before releasing the draft major bank tax legislation for examination."

ABA Chief Executive Anna Bligh said: "The Government is going to extraordinary lengths to keep this tax hidden from the people who will be most affected by it and from the public. How can Australia's major banks determine the impacts of this legislation if their senior staff and analysts are in danger of being prosecuted if they speak to stakeholders, the public, or the media?"