Following is the speech by the Secretary for the Treasury, Miss Denise Yue, in moving the second reading of the Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill 1999 in the Legislative Council today (Wednesday):
I move that the Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill 1999 be read the second time.
The Bill covers two main proposals. First, to charge a full cost recovery fee in respect of the voluntary adjudication service and abolish the fee charged for mandatory adjudication. And second, to transfer regulation-making powers under the Ordinance from the Chief Executive in Council to the Financial Secretary.
Let me first deal with the fee in respect of adjudication services. Adjudication is a process whereby the Collector of Stamp Duty gives an opinion on whether a certain document is chargeable to stamp duty and assesses the amount of stamp duty, if any, chargeable on the instrument. There are two categories of adjudication. Mandatory adjudication is conducted on certain types of instruments for revenue protection purposes while voluntary adjudication is one which is requested by an applicant of his own volition. At present, a nominal fee of $20 is charged by the Inland Revenue Department on an adjudication service, regardless of whether it is a mandatory or voluntary one.
The Director of Audit completed an audit review of the adjudication services in early 1995 and recommended that the adjudication fee should be charged on a full cost recovery basis. Having reviewed the matter, we concluded that a distinction should be drawn between mandatory and voluntary adjudication, and that mandatory adjudication, which is conducted primarily for revenue protection purposes, should be provided free of charge while a full cost fee should be charged only for the provision of voluntary adjudication service. Our approach was endorsed by the Public Accounts Committee in 1995. We therefore propose to amend the Ordinance to abolish the fee charged for mandatory adjudication, and to revise the fee for voluntary adjudication to the full cost recovery level of $50 at 1998-99 price levels.
The opportunity is also taken in this amendment exercise to transfer from the Chief Executive in Council specific regulation-making powers in the Ordinance which relate to matters not involving major policy considerations to the Financial Secretary as part of an ongoing exercise to lessen the volume of work of the Chief Executive in Council. I wish to stress that any regulations so made would still be subject to the negative vetting procedure of this Council in the usual way.
Madam President, with these remarks, I commend the Bill to Members.
End/Wednesday, October 13, 1999