Following is the speech by the Secretary for the Treasury, Miss Denise Yue, in moving the second reading debate of the Revenue Bill 1999 in the Legislative Council today (Wednesday):
I move that the Revenue Bill 1999 be read the second time.
The Revenue Bill 1999 covers the revenue proposals in the 1999-2000 Budget which need to be effected through legislative amendments. This year we have adopted a new approach of including all such proposals in one omnibus Revenue Bill. The approach allows Honourable Members to consider all the revenue proposals as one complete package, and facilitates Members' evaluation of their fiscal effect in overall terms. It underlines the importance of dealing with revenue proposals in the Budget in their entirety, and not selectively.
Specifically, the Bill aims at implementing the following revenue concessions :
* to extend the reduction in diesel duty from $2.89 per litre to $2 until March 31, 2000;
* to defer the payment of stamp duty on residential property transactions until the execution of the assignment;
* to reduce the declaration charge for re-exports from 0.05% of the value of goods declared to 0.025%;
* to exempt life insurance proceeds from estate duty irrespective of where they are paid;
* to exempt same-day transit passengers from the payment of air passenger departure tax;
* to issue three-year business registration certificates;
* to reduce significantly the maximum levels of shipping registration fees and annual tonnage charges; and
* to introduce specific tax concessions to promote the development of local debt and securities markets.
The Bill also includes the following revenue-raising measures :
* to increase the stamp duty rates on property transactions for properties costing over $3 million;
* to increase the betting duty on Mark Six lotteries from 20% to 25% and to increase the duty on exotic bets on horse races from 18% to 19%. The increases would be off-set by corresponding reductions in the respective prize money pools;
* to abolish the Cross-Harbour Tunnel passage tax and to increase the Cross Harbour Tunnel tolls for private cars and motorcycles to $20 and $8 respectively while maintaining the overall toll levels for other vehicles;
* to increase the Lion Rock Tunnel toll from $6 to $8;
* to increase the maximum on-street parking meter charge from $2 to $4 for every 15 minutes; and
* to increase the fixed penalties for traffic-related offences in line with inflation.
I wish to stress that these revenue-raising proposals are made on a highly selective basis. They are very modest in magnitude. They have minimal impact on the community. They are necessary in order to enable the Government to restore its finances to a healthier state in the medium term. Given the need to raise additional revenue, whatever choices the Government makes must necessarily mean that some people will have to bear a heavier burden. The other option of raising revenue by widening the tax base would affect many more people and much more severely. I strongly urge Members of this Council to bear this point in mind when considering the Bill.
On March 30, 1999, the Chief Executive made the Public Revenue Protection (Revenue) Order 1999 to cover the entire Revenue Bill 1999. This Council has already set up a sub-committee to study the Order and various issues relating to it. The Order gives legal effect to the provisions in the Revenue Bill 1999 before the Bill is passed by this Council.
With these remarks, I commend the Bill to Members.
End/Wednesday, April 21, 1999