The Senate unanimously agreed on Thursday to discharge the Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill 2019 that had been touted to tackle black economy behaviour and tax evasion by banning businesses from making large transactions in cash.
The measure had originally proposed to make cash payments above $10,000 a criminal offence by introducing penalties of up to two years of imprisonment and a $25,200 fine.
It was meant to come into effect from 1 January this year after the Senate economics legislation committee recommended that the bill be passed.
However, it remained stuck in the Senate until One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts moved that the bill be discharged on Thursday.
Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar gave no indication on whether the bill would be revived in the future, but he said the government had recognised the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses and the broader economy.
“As we progress through to the recovery stage, we recognise now is not the time to impose an additional burden on small business,” Mr Sukkar said.
“The government is implementing a number of measures to tackle serious organised crime, as well as increasing the resources of the serious and organised crime program, a cross-agency program of work comprising the ATO, Commonwealth, state and territory policing, and other law enforcement agencies, working to disrupt serious organised crime in Australia.”
The accounting profession had been divided over the bill, with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand believing that the measure should be extended to all payments, not just payments made to or by businesses.
CPA Australia, strong opponents of the bill, had criticised its intention to criminalise the use of legal tender and called it an “extreme response”.
Welcoming today’s development, CPA Australia tax policy adviser Elinor Kasapidis said the news would be a relief for businesses who were still grappling with the economic repercussions of the pandemic.
“We’re very pleased,” Ms Kasapidis told Accountants Daily. “It was a very harsh and draconian response to try and criminalise people who were using legal tender.
“We commend the government for looking at the small-business sector and ensuring they don’t impose more restrictions or regulations on them at this time.
“It should be about lightening the burden, removing restrictions and letting business recover and get back to what they were doing pre-COVID.”
Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance policy director Emilie Dye said the bill would have hurt small businesses and called for it to remain permanently discarded.
“The cash ban was a clear example of government overreach, deciding what kind of legal tender Australians could use,” Ms Dye said.
“The way to stop crime is not to treat ordinary Australians like criminals. The cash ban reduces hard-working Australians to juveniles. This piece of legislation should remain resigned to the ash heap of history.”
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.