|The Victorian Budget 2019-2020 was released on 27 May 2019 which includes proposed amendments to the Valuation of Land Act 1960 to remove existing legislation relevant to heritage registered properties and properties of heritage significance.
The proposal also introduces the ability to retrospectively backdate the proposed legislative amendments to the 1 January 2018 valuation date. This would mean any objections, reviews and appeals to the 1 January 2018 Site Value for heritage properties will be considered in light of the proposed amendments, if passed by Parliament.
The intent of the proposed amendments is to gain a greater land tax take from heritage properties, suggesting that some other result than that previously derived under the existing legislation would be achieved. As there has been no public consultation, no briefing paper or explanation as to the basis and reasoning for the proposed legislative change, it is difficult for any stakeholders to develop an informed view.
The amendments also go further to override the power of VCAT or Court in respect of any outstanding or pending appeals in relation to the Site Value for heritage properties. The amendment requires that no account is to be taken by VCAT or the Court of the existing legislation even for existing appeals backdated to the 1 January 2018 relevant date of valuation.
There is no consideration in the proposal of the impact to heritage properties. A larger land tax impost, of some unknown quantum, will negatively impact investment in heritage properties and the ongoing maintenance and restoration of heritage properties. In an environment where many local Council’s have been undertaking heritage studies and enforcing greater heritage controls throughout their municipalities, the intention to impose greater land tax charges on owners of heritage properties will conflict significantly with Council’s intent of greater restoration, preservation and investment in the heritage of the State.
A further potential unfortunate outcome of what appears to be a rushed legislative change is the prospect of greater uncertainty for heritage properties and further unnecessary legal disputation. The current legislation as drafted appears ambiguous, open to wide interpretation and largely unhelpful in creating certainty for property owners or Government in achieving their revenue aspirations.
No doubt the Heritage Council, National Trust and local Council’s will have significant concern with the proposal and the potential impact on heritage property. An informed and wider consultation with key stakeholders is required to ensure all interests associated with heritage property are properly considered rather than just the revenue aspirations of Treasury.