Friday, 30 May 2014

Volunteering: How to get involved in our committees

One thing that sets The Tax Institute apart from other professional associations is that we rely very heavily on volunteers to organise our professional education programs and for speakers. To outsiders, it might seem strange that individuals would volunteer to provide their time and efforts for free, but volunteering — whether it be to assist in organising a conference or seminar, to deliver a paper, or to join one of The Tax Institute’s standing committees — is very rewarding.

I thought it might be worth explaining how you could become involved in one of the standing committees, if you think it might interest you. The starting point for most volunteers is to join one of the state education committees or technical committees. The education committees are responsible for organising CPD events in each state. If you contact your local state manager, she can put your name forward to the local education committee. The technical committees are being revamped but there are a number of technical committees devoted to specialist areas (such as GST, FBT and large business), which correspond to the stewardship consultative committees that the ATO has established. In addition, there is a technical resource committee, which covers SME issues and any issues not covered by the specialist committees, and which has members in each state who meet regularly. If you wish to join one of the technical committees, please contact Robert Jeremenko or one of his team.

In addition to the education and technical committees, some states have a membership committee which is designed to promote the Institute to members and organise social events.

Each state also has a State Council which oversees the standing committees, represents the Institute in its home state, and nominates members to sit on National Council. National Council is the board of directors of the Institute and has the ultimate responsibility for governing all of the Institute’s activities.

Tasmania differs from the other states in that it does not have any standing committees except State Council, which also organises its education events.

The gateway to State Council is involvement in the education, technical or membership committees, so if you are interested in stepping up your involvement, contact your local state manager or someone you know who is already on a Tax Institute committee and let them know that you are interested in becoming involved.

If you would prefer not to join a standing committee, there are still opportunities to become involved on a one-off basis, for example, by helping to organise a seminar or conference on a topic that interests you. I encourage you to contact one of the members on your local education committee or your state manager if you would like to become involved in this way.

Michael Flynn 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, 28 May 2014

April’s free member tax presentations

Here’s a selection of presentations from our leading events series.

Members of The Tax Institute can access these presentations for free by clicking the links below (make sure you’re logged in to our website first). Non-members can purchase the presentations for only $12 each.


Many presentations have a related technical paper, which can also be found on the presentation’s page. Don’t forget, a Tax Knowledge eXchange subscription gives you unlimited access to these papers, presentations, articles from our journals, and much more.


Tax Knowledge eXchange
The Tax Institute runs over 300 CPD seminars a year, and all papers and PowerPoint presentations provided by the speakers from our seminars are available through the website individually or through a Tax Knowledge eXchange subscription.

Monday, 26 May 2014

What now for the Tax Reform White Paper?

Given the negative public reaction to Treasury Joe Hockey’s first Budget, are there implications for the proposed Tax Reform White Paper?

The Government sees itself as being strong and responsible and prepared to take tough decisions now to get the country back on track. A noble cause, no doubt, but the key to public acceptance of the Budget and its measures is a clear narrative and a well-argued and relentless sales pitch.

The previous Coalition Government learnt this with the A New Tax System reform package that included the GST. John Howard and Peter Costello were able to convince voters of the overall merit of the ANTS package by being across every detail and being relentless in constantly communicating the need for the changes, whilst acknowledging the effect on the voters.

So with the promise of a Tax Reform White Paper, is the current Government starting to rethink the merits of embarking on the journey of this much needed public debate about reforming our tax system?

Whilst there is no evidence of any rethink, I am certainly urging them not to blink in the face of the fallout from the Budget. This is especially so given that the Budget mainly tackled expenditure, without committing to a clear timeline in which to address the other crucial half of the equation: revenue.

The Government could do worse than taking a leaf out of the Howard/Costello playbook on tax reform.

Robert Jeremenko
Robert
Jeremenko
Robert Jeremenko CTA is Senior 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.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Last chance for earning CPD hours

Not sure how many structured CPD hours you've completed this year? Check your Tax Institute CPD record online. Simply login to our website, click on your name in the purple box in the top right-hand corner, and select “My CPD record” from the drop-down menu.

Remember — with membership renewals due by 30 June 2014, now is your last chance to make sure you've earned enough structured CPD hours to retain your current membership level for another year.

Study period 2 open for enrolments

The Course in Australian Taxation Law program (including CTA1 Foundations and CTA2 Advanced courses) is ideal for anyone who is looking to meet the Australian taxation law component of the education requirements of the Tax Practitioners Board.

Need to meet the commercial law education requirements? We can help you with that too with our Course in Commercial Law program.

Save 20% on our online books.

Our membership renewals period is the ideal time to subscribe to our online books. You’ll not only ensure you've got access to practical guidance for the coming year, but also save 20% on seven of our online guides and handbooks.

Noel Rowland
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.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Meet a member: Vita Gustafson, CTA

“Always remember when dealing with clients — never be complacent with your smaller clients.”

Vita Gustafson, CTA 
Name 

Vita Gustafson, CTA

Company 

Vita Gustafson & Associates

State 

Northern Territory

Member since 

1986

Areas of specialty 

General taxation and SMSF advice to individuals, small and medium enterprises.

Why are you a member of The Tax Institute? 

I am a member of The Tax Institute to keep abreast of the latest ATO developments and legislation. We also get an enormous amount of support in Darwin, particularly from Institute staff in South Australia, who regularly provide seminars and offer incentives for us to travel interstate to attend conferences etc.

How is your membership beneficial to your practice and clients? 

Being aligned with such a premier institution instils confidence in our clients. We can demonstrate to our client base that we are part of a dynamic and proactive association, and they in turn feel confident when they know that we have access to the highest level of taxation resources to reinforce our advice to them.

How did you end up in tax? 

I was running our family-owned tourist resort here in Darwin, and found that I needed to know more and more about the legalities surrounding our tax situation. The more I learned, the more interested I became. When Cyclone Tracy wiped out our business, I decided to study taxation which, after working for some major Darwin firms, eventually led to me opening my own practice. I believe that I opened the first female-owned accounting firm in the Northern Territory, and the first accounting firm in Palmerston.

What are the challenges for tax practitioners this year? 

Keeping up with the changing income tax legislation always presents a huge challenge. For those of us who advise in the SMSF sector, I feel that the impact of the future of financial advice reforms and licencing requirements are going to be particularly challenging.

Most memorable career moment to date 

Growing my business to the thriving successful practice it has become today. I am fortunate to have found two partners who share my goals and ethics. Together, we have proved to be a very dynamic team.

How do you relax? 

Travel, travel and more travel! Planning the next travel adventure gives me an incentive to work harder to reap the rewards of my toil. When I’m at home, I enjoy the ballet (on the few occasions we get to see it up here), catching up with friends, and tending to my “balcony garden”.

Advice to those entering the profession 

Always remember when dealing with clients — never be complacent with your smaller clients. It has been proven to me over and over again that “big can become little, and little can become big”!

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.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Reforming the excess superannuation contribution

As members may have read in my special Budget Night post earlier this week, we describe the Federal Budget as leaving Australia waiting for a long-term tax reform plan that is vital to ensure that the country is well positioned for the challenges of the decades ahead. The Government has attempted to tackle half of our Budget problem: expenditure, without committing to a timeline in which to address the other crucial half of the equation: revenue.

The Budget did, however, contain a positive announcement with regards to excess superannuation contributions tax. For any excess superannuation contributions made after 1 July 2013 that breach the non-concessional cap, the Government will now allow people to withdraw those excess contributions and associated earnings. This will mean no excess contributions tax will be payable and any related earnings will be taxed at the individual's marginal tax rate.

The Tax Institute has been a strong advocate for reforming the excess superannuation contribution laws so that inadvertent breaches of the caps are not unfairly penalised. The previous government went some way to addressing the problems, and now this week’s Budget announcement addresses the issues with the non-concessional contributions cap as well.

As always, the devil will be in the detail and we look forward to consulting with the Government on the exact nature of the legislative changes.

Robert Jeremenko
Robert
Jeremenko
Robert Jeremenko CTA is Senior 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.

Friday, 16 May 2014

“Hot off the press” from National Convention

In March, I had the pleasure of presenting the inaugural Tax Adviser of the Year Awards at the National Convention. There were three categories of award: the Emerging Tax Star, the Tax Adviser of the Year, and the Chartered Tax Adviser of the year. The winners, Matthew Andruchowycz, Wayne Plummer and David Russell, were visibly moved by the ceremony. Following on from their successful launch, I can see these awards growing in stature in the years to come.

National Convention 

The National Convention was well attended and, judging from the formal and informal feedback, it was a great success. I congratulate the volunteers on the program committee for assembling a program that was relevant to a diverse range of practitioners. Although virtually all attendees were tax practitioners, they came from very different practices and geographical locations. I can think of no other event that sees sole practitioners from country and regional Australia rubbing shoulders with partners from large law and accounting firms and the Commissioner of Taxation and his deputies. The National Convention is unique in this respect.

Two developments that were “hot off the press” were the Board of Taxation’s papers on the Post Implementation Review of Division 7A of Part III of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and the Review of the Debt and Equity Tax Rules. Division 7A has been a bugbear of advisers and their clients since its inception. In my experience, many accountants assume that it does not apply if funds are lent for income-producing purposes or to a trust rather than to an individual. Both assumptions might seem reasonable, but they are wrong. Ron Jorgensen did a fabulous job of getting on top of the material in the short time allowed to him. I am hoping that this paper will be a catalyst for significant reforms to Div 7A.

Chapter 5 of the discussion paper on the debt and equity tax rules deals with the integrity provision in s 974-80. Section 974-80 has been a major source of concern to advisers of corporate taxpayers for many years. Hopefully, this paper will trigger some action by the government to reform or do away with s 974-80.

Leaving behind the serious business of tax education, attendees enjoyed the conference dinner and entertainment on Thursday night. Many also took the opportunity to do some relaxing and sightseeing in Tasmania.

Michael Flynn 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, 14 May 2014

Federal Budget 2014-15

The Federal Budget leaves Australia waiting for a long-term tax reform plan that is vital to ensure that the country is well positioned for the challenges of the decades ahead.

The Government has attempted to tackle half of our Budget problem: expenditure, without committing to a timeline in which to address the other crucial half of the equation: revenue.

The 2% income tax ‘levy’ is the wrong direction to be taking Australia’s tax system. It would place an even greater reliance on income tax revenue, when the Government should be relying less on income tax revenue and instead moving more towards relying on revenue from consumption taxes like the GST.

This highlights the need for structural reform of our tax system, because it shows that the current system is not raising sufficient revenue to meet the spending decisions of Government.

The promised Tax Reform White Paper process is the appropriate way to address the tax system's shortcomings rather than relying on the quick 'sugar hit' of an income tax levy. The Government has missed an opportunity to set a timeline for this process in the Budget.

The Tax Reform White Paper and closely-related Commonwealth-State Relations Paper on the Federation are crucial levers in generating a community-wide public debate.

The Tax Institute has been a strong advocate for reforming the excess superannuation contribution laws so that inadvertent breaches of the caps are not unfairly penalised.

The Government is to be congratulated for taking further action to permit correction of inadvertent breaches of the non-concessional contributions cap.

The Government’s commitment to reduce the company tax rate is a positive step in relying less on company tax revenues.

Cutting the company tax rate will reduce taxes on investment, driving an increase in savings and capital as well as innovation and entrepreneurship. It will also reduce the incentive for profit shifting out of Australia, allowing us to retain a greater share of the profits generated here in Australia.

The Government’s decision to index fuel excise was recommended by the Henry Tax Review, and will ensure its value is not eroded by inflation.

The Government’s decision to move the tax complaints function from the Office of the Ombudsman to the Inspector-General of Taxation is a sensible move that should assist in addressing tax administration issues.

The Inspector-General of Taxation plays an extremely important role in holding the Tax Office to account in improving the administration of the tax laws for the benefit of all taxpayers.

Robert Jeremenko
Robert
Jeremenko
Robert Jeremenko CTA is Senior 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.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Getting ready for budget lock-up

This week brings the release of the Federal Budget, which is the first for Treasurer Joe Hockey. The Deputy Chair of The Tax Institute’s National Technical Committee, Tim Neilson CTA, will join me in the Budget 'lock-up' commencing Tuesday afternoon. This allows The Tax Institute access to all of the Budget papers and announcements ahead of their public release on Tuesday evening.

Members will receive our initial comments on the Budget and a summary of the key measures by way of a special Budget edition of TaxVine that will be sent shortly after the Treasurer delivers his Budget speech at 7.30pm.

The Government will detail its response to the Commission of Audit report in the Budget, which is widely reported to contain new revenue raising measures to assist in addressing the deficit. Will we see an income tax levy and an increase in fuel excise? All will be revealed on Tuesday.

The Tax Institute’s priorities for the Budget are contained in our submission to the Treasurer earlier this year. The full submission can be accessed here. We continue to advocate for a sustained commitment to tax reform for the benefit of all Australians. This requires a measured and structured approach to reform, including a timeline and a process for advancing priority issues.

The Budget submission also outlines a number of priority areas of the tax law that are in need of reform.

Robert Jeremenko
Robert
Jeremenko
Robert Jeremenko CTA is Senior 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.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Last chance for earning CPD hours

AGM notice

In April, you will have received notification of The Tax Institute’s Annual General Meeting taking place later this month. The Seventy-first Annual General Meeting of The Tax Institute will be held at 4.00pm on Wednesday 21 May 2014 at the offices of The Tax Institute situated on Level 10, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000. You can download notice of meeting documents and a proxy form online.

Annual Report

The 2013 Annual Report is now available to download online.

Renew your 2014/15 membership online and win

Membership renewals are now due. All online renewals made before 13 June 2014 go into the draw to win one of five iPad minis preloaded with Tax Institute eBooks (valued at $1,000!), including the new The Tax Adviser’s Guide to Part IVA.

TaxWise News federal Budget edition

Following months of media speculation, we’re finally about to see what the 2014/15 federal Budget features. TaxWise News subscribers, make sure to keep an eye on your inbox for our special Budget edition which will cover what the announcements mean for you and your clients. If you’re not a subscriber, visit our website to find out more about this service.

Following the Budget announcement, we’ll have expert analysis of the key issues from the Budget that you need to be across.

Noel Rowland
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.

Monday, 5 May 2014

A look at the Commission of Audit report

Last week the Federal Government released the five volumes of its Commission of Audit report.

The Commission was established by the Government as an independent body to review and report on the Government’s performance, functions and roles.

The report contains more than 80 recommendations for wide-ranging and substantial reductions in government spending, including suggested changes to the size and operations of government departments and agencies.

There are also some radical recommendations, including that the States be encouraged to levy income tax and that the Commonwealth reduce the income tax rates by an equivalent amount.

This would be accompanied by the States assuming more responsibility for areas of spending. The Government’s response to the Audit report will be detailed in the May Budget, which is widely reported to contain new revenue raising measures to assist in addressing the deficit.

The mooted income tax 'debt levy' would place an even greater reliance on income tax revenues for the Government. This is the wrong direction to be taking our tax system. Government should be relying less on income tax revenues and moving more towards relying on consumption taxes such as the GST.

The Government’s proposed debt levy also highlights the need for structural reform of our tax system, because the current system is not raising sufficient revenue to meet the spending decisions of Government. The promised tax reform white paper process is the appropriate way to address the tax system's shortcoming rather than relying on the quick 'sugar hit' of an income tax levy.

Robert Jeremenko
Robert
Jeremenko
Robert Jeremenko CTA is Senior 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.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Q&A The Tax Adviser's Guide to Part IVA [Video]


In this Q&A author Greg Travers, CTA and Robert Jeremenko, CTA, discuss The Tax Institute's new title, The Tax Adviser's Guide to Part IVA and look at:

  • the lack of consensus on whether 2013's amendments will serve their intended purpose or merely create even greater uncertainty
  • the key concepts in Part IVA causing practitioners the most headaches
  • the fact that SMEs are targeted far more often than large corporates by the ATO, some key SME cases and some of the takeaways 
  • what led to the writing of The Tax Adviser's Guide to Part IVA and the process in its development, and how the book fits into a practitioners workday.

The Tax Adviser's Guide to Part IVA
All tax advisers should have an understanding of Pt IVA. In this practical and readable guide, author Greg Travers, CTA, helps you navigate these rules to determine whether Pt IVA may apply to an arrangement that your client has entered into, or is considering entering into.

Find out more about The Tax Adviser's Guide to Part IVA.