Determined retiree fights tax office over $100K bill
Retiree Greig Sisely's dogged fight to claw back more than $100,000 in tax has consumed eight years of what should have been a golden period of his life.
The 74-year-old's battle with the Australian Taxation Office has been long and complicated since he paid a $106,461.75 bill in October 2012.
Mr Sisely has maintained the bill, which arose from superannuation contributions, was incorrectly issued.
He said an administration error regarding his age, acknowledged by the tax department in August 2013, should have resulted in an immediate refund.
But that result is still nowhere in sight.
Mr Sisely spent the last 16 years of his working life mowing lawns and doing garden maintenance on the Sunshine Coast, having moved to the region in 1988.
"There wasn't a lot of work up here at the time," Mr Sisely said.
The Pelican Waters resident said he was fortunate to have invested in some properties which allowed him to be self-funded in his retirement when he sold his business in 2004.
His argument against an excess super contribution notice of assessment received in September 2012 is multifaceted, but at its core is his feeling he had no choice but to pay without knowing the full details of the bill.
"When it (the assessment) says if you don't pay it we are going to take it out of your super, what does that tell you," Mr Sisely said.
He later learned the tax office thought he was 65 when he made his superannuation contributions, which triggered the bill.
But the tax office had his age wrong and he was 64, which he said entitled him to make the payment without the penalty.
The error has not proven the smoking gun for which he had hoped, having unsuccessfully had his case heard in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, given evidence at a 2014 Senate Committee on tax and revenue and sought the advocacy of successive Fisher MPs Peter Slipper, Mal Brough and Andrew Wallace.
That was on top of extensive communication with the tax office, including a meeting with its top complaints resolution expert.
"The day that letter was issued in August 2013 (acknowledging the incorrect age) I should have got a refund immediately," Mr Sisely said.
He said the battle had been very stressful and time consuming.
But he said he was lucky to be at a stage of life when he could dedicate his time to pursuing the issue.
"A lot of people don't have the time and the patience to fight them," he said.
Mr Sisely said Mr Wallace had met with him about his issue and advised him to get legal advice.
He said taking his fight to the Federal Court to appeal the tribunal's decision would be too costly.
Mr Sisley said he wanted his local member to push his case with the assistant treasurer.
Mr Wallace said his first contact with Mr Sisely over the matter was in September 2016, shortly after being elected.
He said he advised Mr Sisely a month later to seek legal advice but had further meetings with him February 2017.
"He then had a right to appeal the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to the Federal Court," Mr Wallace said.
"He did not do that."
He said he understood why going through the court was not an appealing option but he could not intervene in the matter due to the separation of powers between the parliament and the courts.
"I certainly gave him a lot of time," Mr Wallace said.
"I tried to help him but Mr Sisely will not take no for an answer.
"That is a matter for him."
Mr Wallace said he also wrote in May 2017 to finance minister Mathias Cormann on Mr Sisely's behalf.
He said a response six weeks later confirmed the minister could not intervene.
Mr Wallace said he had further correspondence from Mr Sisely in November 2018, January 2019 and twice in December last year.
But he said there was nothing he could do for Mr Sisely as the matter had been before a court.
"The trick is to engage your federal member before it turns legal," Mr Wallace said.
"Once you bring an application in a court or tribunal there is nothing I can do."
A tax office spokeswoman said the office could not comment due to confidentiality obligations.