By Alfa · Oct 28, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    A CONVICTED heroin dealer will be allowed to claim a $220,000 tax
    deduction for money lost during a drug deal after the Australian
    Taxation Office (ATO) lost a bid to appeal against a full Federal
    Court ruling in his favour.

    The commissioner of taxation had been seeking leave in the High Court
    to appeal against the Federal Court's decision that Perth man
    Francesco Dominico La Rosa could write the money off as lost income.

    The ATO had been trying to make La Rosa . who served a 12-year jail
    term for dealing heroin and amphetamines . pay tax on his 1994-95
    assessable income, which it estimated amounted to $446,954.

    But La Rosa insisted his taxable income should be reduced for that
    year because it wrongly included a sum of $224,793.

    The money had been buried in La Rosa's backyard and was dug up for use
    in an intended drug deal in May 1995, but was stolen during the
    transaction by unknown people.

    In 2001, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal held that the money was
    lost during activities directly connected with La Rosa's illicit
    drug-dealing business and was lost during operations to acquire
    trading stock.

    On the basis of those findings, the tribunal concluded that while the
    income had been properly included in La Rosa's income as part of the
    default assessment process . enacted when he failed to lodge tax
    returns for seven years . it was properly allowable as a deduction.

    The ATO appealed to the Federal Court, arguing there was no evidence
    the money had been stolen and it was against public policy to allow
    stolen money as a tax deduction.

    But the Federal Court upheld the tribunal's decision.

    The ATO subsequently appealed to the full court of the Federal Court
    and that appeal was dismissed in June 2003.

    Today, in a Perth sitting of the High Court, the ATO's application for
    special leave to appeal was also refused.

    The ruling means the ATO has now exhausted all avenues of

    However, Prime Minister John Howard said last December that if the
    High Court action failed, the law would be changed.

    "If the appeal is unsuccessful, we will take steps to amend the law,"
    he told parliament at the time.

    A spokeswoman for Treasurer Peter Costello today said the government
    would now pursue the necessary amendments.

    "The government is disappointed that the High Court refused the
    commissioner of taxation leave to appeal," the spokeswoman said.

    "The proceeds of crime are tax
    able and the tax commissioner has been
    arguing in the courts that deductions for losses incurred in deriving
    illegal income should not be allowed.

    "Since the courts have not ruled this way, the government will now
    seek to amend the legislation to prevent such losses being allowed as

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