Opinion Number. 1611


Write-off of debts and stores
validity of practice of writing off IRRECOVERABLE amounts and stores which cannot be accounted for

Key Legislation

Audit Act 1901: Treasury Regulations 1927

The Acting Auditor-General

The Acting Auditor-General has forwarded the following memorandum to me for advice:

It has been the general practice of this office to accept the authority of the Treasurer for writing off amounts of Commonwealth Revenue which cannot be collected and/or values of stores which, for some reason or other, are deficient, destroyed, stolen or unaccounted for.

I shall be glad if you will kindly advise whether there is any authority under the Audit Act or Treasury Regulations giving the Treasurer power to write off irrecoverable revenue and/or values and, if not, whether it is necessary that such statutory authority should be provided.

I can find no express authority in the Audit Act 1901–1934 or the Treasury Regulations empowering the Treasurer to write off amounts of Commonwealth revenue which are not recoverable or the value of stores which are deficient.

The writing off under Treasurer’s approval of an amount due to the Commonwealth which has been found to be irrecoverable does not involve the extinguishing of the debt.

The approval of the writing off amounts to an authority by the Treasurer relieving those immediately concerned in the collection of the money from the obligation actively to pursue the matter and has the affect of avoiding further expense in continuing fruitless proceedings.

This appears to be a necessary incident of Treasury administration and I understand follows a practice which has been pursued since the inception of the Commonwealth.

While there is no express authority in the Act for this course there appears to be nothing therein which this action is in contravention.

In my view this matter is within the inherent discretion of the Treasurer and legislation is unnecessary.

[Vol. 30, p. 126]