Friday, 22 May 2015

Uber and the GST implications

In a number of recent speeches (including at our National Convention in March), Treasurer Joe Hockey has told the story of ruminating the tax implications while waving goodbye to a friend from the United States who was headed to the airport in an Uber car. He queried the income tax implications for the driver, the GST implications for the driver and his friend, and how that compares to the situation of a taxi driver. These questions have now been answered by the ATO.

On Wednesday 20 May, the ATO issued a media release and guidance on its website indicating that the tax consequences for Uber drivers were analogous to those for a taxi driver. The ATO guidance also covers a range of other services supplied in the sharing economy and posits that the tax implications vary depending on the type of service provided. The implications of providing a room for rent on Airbnb are stated to be quite different to offering an Uber service because of special rules and carve-outs in the GST Act.

This is an example of our existing tax system playing catch-up with the new economy, and attempting to catch the innovators. As sure as the global economy continues to rapidly evolve and new business models emerge to challenge the traditional, we can expect the ATO to use the tools at their disposal to attempt to catch the innovators. The ATO has done what it can to shed some light on these issues. The broader question of whether the inconsistent treatments that arise for different services under the existing system are desirable as a matter of tax policy remains unanswered.

Thilini Wickramasuriya FTI is a Tax Counsel of The Tax Institute.

The Tax Institute is Australia’s leading professional association in tax. Its 13,000 members include tax agents, accountants and lawyers as well as tax practitioners in corporations, government and academia.

Reviewing the ATO’s consultation framework

In 2013, with new leader Commissioner Chris Jordan at the helm, the ATO took on the enormous task of reviewing its consultation framework. The former framework involved an extensive network of 68 committees and working groups, all with the mandate to consult.

A comprehensive review was undertaken and input was sought from relevant stakeholders. The Tax Institute provided constructive feedback to the review to ensure that the new structure following the review would promote open and collaborative consultation.

The result of the restructure is the current framework, consisting of eight main stewardship and liaison groups and a number of other forums geared for consultation on specific areas. The ATO also established the “Hub”, a new portal through which the broader community could raise issues of strategic importance for consultation, and a register of stakeholders with expertise in certain areas of tax law and administration — a highly useful resource for the ATO to draw on for expertise.

This structure is much simpler than the former, and provides greater flexibility for consultation on areas affecting the stewardship of our tax and superannuation systems.

The Tax Institute welcomed a refreshed consultation framework and has ensured that our members are represented in the relevant peak forums (the National Tax Liaison Group, the ATO Tax Practitioners Advisory Group and the Consultation Steering Group) and other important working groups.

With any new initiative, there are always creases to be ironed out and The Tax Institute has sought to provide constructive feedback to ensure that the new framework works as intended.

It is now well over 18 months since the framework was officially implemented on 1 July 2013 and it has been in full swing for some time — long enough for us to have a good sense of what is working well and what creases still need to be ironed out. So it is timely that a formal post-implementation review is being undertaken by the ATO to ensure that the framework holds us all, the ATO and stakeholders alike, in good stead for open and robust consultation in the future.

We have drawn on our members’ experiences with the new framework to feed into the review. While some experiences have been more positive than others, this is not unexpected, given the radical structural changes the ATO has made to its framework to which all stakeholders needed to adjust. We anticipate the outcome of the review later this month or in June, but we are encouraged by the consultative process of assessment being undertaken.

Stephen Healey CTA is President of the National Council at The Tax Institute.

The Tax Institute is Australia’s leading professional association in tax. Its 13,000 members include tax agents, accountants and lawyers as well as tax practitioners in corporations, government and academia.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

New Corporate Tax subject launched

Anticipating the future education needs of the tax profession — and in light of the government’s topical tax discussion paper — we are proud to introduce a new Corporate Tax subject to our education program. This subject provides detailed knowledge and understanding of the tax rules and practical problems involved in the taxation of consolidated corporate groups, and has been designed by tax practitioners at the forefront of this highly specialised area to deliver practical learning with academic rigor. Enrolments close on 1 July 2015 so find out more at

Study period 2 open for enrolments

The Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law, including the new Corporate Tax subject, is now open for enrolments. Subjects commence on 6 July 2015. The CTA1 Foundations, CTA2A Advanced and CTA2B Advanced subjects are again offered as stand-alone for anyone who is looking to meet the Australian taxation law component of the education requirements of the Tax Practitioners Board. To find out more, and to enrol, go to

2015 events

As we’re now almost half-way through the year, we’ve enjoyed seeing so many of our members, along with many new faces, at the Financial Services Taxation Conference, our National Convention on the Gold Coast, and at numerous other events across the country. We’ve still got a very full schedule of events coming up in the latter half of 2015, including:
  • National Infrastructure Conference: covering the many issues that are relevant to the industry, including capital/income distinction in an infrastructure context, key tax issues on privatisations, financing stapled structures, structuring capital contributions tax effectively, and MIT rules in an infrastructure context. Join us in Melbourne on 28 to 29 May;
  • Private Business Tax Retreat: this event continues to be a unique opportunity for advisers of private business to interact in an environment that allows them to drill down on coalface issues in a manner that ensures they can continue to deliver the high-level advice that clients’ rightfully expect. Join us on the Gold Coast on 11 to 12 June for this not-to-be-missed event; and
  • Annual State Taxation Conference: this year’s conference will be held in Canberra on 23 to 24 July and is the only national conference covering all state and territory taxes in one technical program. This year’s program includes the Revenue Commissioners’ reassessment and refund powers, the current state of the law affecting charities, and much more. Visit our website to find out more about these events and the many others taking place throughout the remainder of 2015.

Noel Rowland
Noel Rowland is Chief Executive Officer of The Tax Institute.

The Tax Institute is Australia’s leading professional association in tax. Its 13,000 members include tax agents, accountants and lawyers as well as tax practitioners in corporations, government and academia.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Landing that graduate position

So you’re hunting for that elusive graduate position, wondering what employers in the tax industry want and how can you impress them. Here are three pieces of advice, plus some career words of wisdom straight from the horse’s mouth.

1. Having a good personality matters

If you’ve managed to graduate with your degree firmly in hand, you’re probably more than up to the technical side of the job. What employers will be keen to establish is whether you’ll be a good cultural fit. Try to establish a good rapport with them and let your personality shine through.

2. Don’t place too much emphasis on your tax education

Trust us, your employer understands you only completed one or two tax courses and have largely forgotten what you learnt. There’s no need to talk up your skill set given they’ll be enrolling you in taxation education if they decide to hire you.

3. Exaggeration is acceptable – lying isn’t

Interviewers expect you to talk yourself up – it demonstrates you’re keen to get the position – but they won’t appreciate being seriously misled. Make sure you don’t cross the line by pretending to have a Master of Taxation when you actually don’t.

Here’s what two respected tax professionals look for in their job applicants.

Daleen Van der Merwe, HR manager at DKM

“When employing graduates, we pay more attention to whether their attitudes and personality are such that they will fit into our existing team, rather than focusing just on their academic record. They need to be the type of person who is prepared to ask questions and be ready to learn. They also need to be comfortable with starting at the bottom and have realistic expectations.
“We’ve found that those who’ve done extra study, such as a Master of Taxation, straight after their undergraduate degree are overqualified and inexperienced. We prefer that people come to us and then do the CTA1 Foundations program while working here.”

Martin Booth, partner at Moore Stephens

“I used to focus heavily on the academic side, but then found that I also had to give thought to cultural fit – is the person going to have the ability to get along with other staff? Are you going to be confident putting them in front of clients? That said, you still need to have a fairly good CV behind you.
“If someone took the initiative and did the CTA1 Foundations at their own expense before applying for a job here, that would certainly be to their advantage. The issue many employers have with Gen Y is not so much a lack of skills as an attitude of entitlement. So someone who is going to invest their own time in broadening their skill set, either before or after being employed here, would always be looked favourably upon.”

Take the next step in your tax career with the CTA1 Foundations.

Find out more.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Dux interview: Natalie Moore, CTA1 Foundations

Why did you choose to study with The Tax Institute?

The CTA program and the Tax Institute was recommended to me by a colleague.

Why did you choose to study?

I thought that the CTA program would give me the best qualification going forward. I also used the introductory unit as a refresher prior to re-starting in the workforce after time off having a family.

What was the most important outcome of studying?

The CTA1 and CTA2 units gave me excellent information and learning in order to prepare for my return to public practice. I returned to work early this year after completing them in 2014 armed with up-to-date knowledge and information in the taxation field.

In your opinion, what separates The Tax Institute’s education programs from other providers?

The Tax Institute program is flexible and features industry-specific information relative to the needs of accountants and tax professionals.

How has your study with The Tax Institute benefited your career objectives?

I have found the CTA1 and CTA2 courses invaluable in providing me up-to-date information in the taxation field. I often refer to the texts and course materials in the course of my daily work routine.

How did your study fit in with, and support, your career?

At the time I undertook the study last year, I was not working, however I was running a busy household with 3 children under 6. The flexible online delivery and webinar format was fantastic in allowing me to complete my studies in my own hours and timeframes.

Take the next step in your tax career with the CTA1 Foundations.

Find out more.