Mining industry let off stamp duty payments in New South Wales

EXCLUSIVE

Legal changes to ensure stamp duty is paid when mining companies and property developers sell rights they have over land have been scrapped by the NSW government after almost a year to allow "further consultation with industry and professional bodies".

A bill containing the changes was introduced on behalf of then treasurer Mike Baird in May last year by the Dubbo MP Troy Grant, who was then parliamentary secretary for natural resources.

"For stamp duties purposes, mining tenements have historically been regarded as interests in the land over which they are granted," Mr Grant told the Parliament.

However, recent developments in the law have resolved that mining tenements are not interests in land but statutory licences.

"The bill, therefore, provides that the rights under all mining tenements are interests in land for duties purposes," he said.

The move was believed to be in response to a successful Supreme Court challenge by a property developer against payment of stamp duty on the sale of options over land associated with the Chatswood Transport Interchange.

The change would have ensured that the NSW government continued to receive stamp duty payments potentially worth tens of millions of dollars each year when exploration licences or development options are sold.

But in March this year the government amended its own bill to remove the provisions that would ensure stamp duty is payable.

Then finance minister Andrew Constance, who introduced the amendments, said they would "allow for further consultation with industry and professional bodies".

During debate on the amendments last May, shadow treasurer Michael Daley said he been lobbied heavily over the changes by the Property Council of Australia, which represents developers.

The opposition did not oppose the bill, which passed the lower house and is due to be considered by the upper house as early as this week.

Mr Baird's first chief of staff when he was treasurer was Stephen Galilee, who left in late 2011 to become chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council.

However, a spokesman for Mr Baird, who has since become premier, said: "The Premier, as treasurer, received no representations on the bill, and spoke to no organisations concerning the bill."

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham accused the government of "gutting" the bill under pressure from mining and property interests.

"The government has not put forward a case as to why it has suddenly decided to forgo millions in revenue by keeping open this loophole," he said.

Mr Buckingham said the Greens would move to restore the provisions when the bill is debated in the upper house.

Mr Constance, who is now treasurer, said the government had ''determined further consultation was necessary to ensure there were no unintended consequences before proceeding with changes to the dutiability of mining entities".

"This is still open for consideration and will be guided by the consultations," he said.

The story Mining industry let off stamp duty payments in New South Wales first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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