Monday, 29 September 2014

VIC 2nd Annual Tax Forum Presenter Q&A with Andrew Mills

Andrew Mills, CTA (Life)
Andrew Mills, CTA (Life), from the Australian Taxation Office will be presenting Session 8 at the VIC 2nd Annual Tax Forum which will be held on 9-10 October at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne. 

Andrew has over 30 years’ experience in the commerce and tax profession and is currently the Second Commissioner at the ATO. He is responsible for the ATO’s law practice, including law interpretation, dispute resolution and the ATO’s role in Law Design and Practice. Prior to joining the ATO, Andrew was a Director of the specialist national tax firm, Greenwoods & Freehills for over 20 years and Managing Director of the firm from 2006 to 2011. He has advised clients from large multinational businesses, small and medium enterprises, as well as superannuation funds, charities and individuals.

How long have you been affiliated with The Tax Institute?

I joined The Tax Institute in 1986 and was a member of the NSW Technical Committee in the early 1980’s. I was the President of The Tax Institute in 2006/07. I am a Certified Taxation Adviser (Life) member.

What does the VIC 2nd Annual Tax Forum mean to you, and more broadly, to the tax industry?

This forum is a great opportunity for people in the tax industry to get together and listen to thought leaders on important issues, both formally and informally. The forum is also great networking opportunity.

What is the topic that you are presenting at the VIC 2nd Annual Tax Forum?

The topic I will be presenting includes my experience since re-joining the ATO as Second Commissioner, Law Design and Practice and comparing that to being an adviser and on the taxpayer side of the fence (‘I’ve looked at tax from both sides now’). I will also be discussing the current work program and priorities for the ATO and the Law Design and Practice group.

The presentation is on Day Two of the Forum in Session 8 at 8:30 - 9:25 am

What can attendees expect to take away from your session? 

An understanding of the current direction, key strategic issues and how best to engage with ATO, ‘it’s a two way street’.

Which other sessions at the VIC 2nd Annual Tax Forum are you most interested in attending? 

Those that know me well would agree when I say I am particularly interested in all sessions listed as part of the technical program. However, given my limited time I will be spending a just a few hours at the forum following my key note on day two. 

What do you like to do when you’re not knee-deep in tax?

I try to get a bike ride in at least once a week, play the piano, read and catching up with family and friends.


The VIC 2nd Annual Tax Forum is The Tax Institute’s leading annual get-together for Victorian tax practitioners.

Download the full VIC 2nd Annual Tax Forum program or register here.


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Meet a member: Julian Feiner, Allens



Name
Julian Feiner

Company

State
Victoria

Member since
2009

Areas of specialty
Corporate and international taxation, with a particular focus on audits and disputes involving transfer pricing and anti-avoidance issues, as well as transactions involving mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, withholding tax and GST issues.

Why are you a member of The Tax Institute?
It is the best way to engage with the professional tax community in Australia, learn from other tax practitioners, and gain experience by presenting at conventions and seminars. I recently joined The Tax Institute’s Victorian Education Committee and look forward to contributing to the program of Victorian events in the future.

How is your membership beneficial to your practice and clients?
A particular benefit of the membership is that it provides access to The Tax Institute’s extensive online resources, which draw together conference papers and opinions from leading tax practitioners across a broad range of topical issues. Reading these materials makes the task of keeping up-to-date a lot easier.

How did you end up in tax?
I started at Allens as an articled clerk in the mergers and acquisitions group and worked closely with our tax team on a major transaction. It was a natural progression for me to move into the tax group, continue working on that matter, and gain exposure to audit and litigation work. I studied tax at university and knew the basics, but it was a steep learning curve for the first couple of years! Much of the work we do involves finding simple, practical solutions to seemingly intractable problems. It is never easy, but I am lucky to work with talented, collaborative and good-humoured colleagues and clients who make the work a lot more fun than it might seem.

What are the challenges for tax practitioners this year?
Obtaining certainty is the perennial challenge for taxpayers because the tax laws are constantly evolving as political and economic circumstances change. This year in particular, we are advising on the new transfer pricing and Pt IVA anti-avoidance rules, and seeing many risk reviews and audits in these areas. The good news for taxpayers is that opportunities to resolve audits and obtain certainty during the audit process appear to be increasing, through the ATO’s independent review process and alternative dispute resolution procedures.

Most memorable career moment to date
My first time instructing counsel at the Federal Court was a memorable and exciting time because, for our team, it was the culmination of many months of preparation and anticipation and, for me personally, it was the vindication of about 18 years of schooling and tertiary education. My next experience in Federal Court proceedings was less eventful, but more satisfying, because we managed to settle the matter before the trial in our client’s favour based on the strength of our evidence.

How do you relax?
We spend a lot of time indoors during the week so I like to get out on the weekends as much as possible, exploring Melbourne’s suburbs, going to galleries and events, and playing sport. I play hockey in the state league and it’s a great way to keep fit and stay in touch with old school friends. After hockey, it’s time to put the feet up and have a rest, usually with some war stories to tell and a couple of ice packs handy.

Advice to those entering the profession
Working in tax is challenging and stimulating because it brings you into contact with all aspects of your client’s business and all areas of law and practice. Tax is seen as a specialist area but in fact you need to be an all-rounder. A good tax lawyer can adapt to all environments, whether it be general corporate, litigation, banking and finance, intellectual property or constitutional law. Gaining broad experience, persevering and finding supportive mentors is essential.



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, 22 September 2014

Recap of ATO’s National Tax Liaison Group session

On 18 September Tax Institute President, Michael Flynn CTA, and Vice-President, Stephen Healey CTA, joined me at the ATO’s quarterly National Tax Liaison Group meeting. 

The NTLG is the ATO’s peak consultative group on tax matters. Noting the importance of an efficient, well-designed and administered tax system, the NTLG drives improvements to: 
  • tax law interpretation, administration, design and policy; 
  • confidence in and compliance with the tax system; and 
  • ATO service delivery. 
At this meeting we discussed many issues with the ATO and Treasury, including:
  • progress of announced tax measures;
  • Australia's 2014 G20 Presidency and OECD BEPS latest;
  • planning for the future of the tax practitioner/ATO relationship re tax system modernisation;
  • managing impact of changes in ATO and Treasury operations due to redundancies;
  • progress of Project DO IT;
  • tax Transparency (public disclosure of tax information of large companies);
  • capacity for increased use of safe harbours to decrease compliance costs;
  • ATO-wide activities in relation to red-tape reduction;
  • review of public advice and guidance products; and
  • use of Taxpayer Alerts.
The minutes from this meeting will be published on the ATO website in the coming weeks. I would be pleased to discuss any of the above with interested members; please be in touch via taxpolicy@taxinstitute.com.au 

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.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Furthering excellence in the tax profession through higher education

We are excited to announce that The Tax Institute has been granted higher education provider status. This is a significant milestone for the tax profession and for your professional association. This means that the Institute will now be able to provide postgraduate courses to the tax profession.

Anticipating tomorrow’s needs

This important step has been taken in anticipation of the changing needs of the profession. Over the next decade and beyond, the complexity of the tax environment will intensify, with shifts right across the taxation system. As a result, tax professionals will need to equip themselves with the skills and capabilities to provide higher-order professional tax advice.

What postgraduate courses will the Institute provide?

The Tax Institute will soon launch the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law. This postgraduate program adds to our existing and well-respected subjects to provide a graduate diploma qualification. It will be taught and delivered in our usual practical and applied way to ensure immediate application in the workplace.

More information

We will soon unveil all the details of the new Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law and how it will benefit the tax profession. Meanwhile, please visit our website for further information on the program. 

Download our new app 

Our brand new app brings you each month’s issue of Taxation in Australia on your iPad or Android tablet, alongside a host of great content from The Tax Institute. iPad users, you’ll also find each week’s TaxVine in the app, along with your free paper of the month. Android users, we’re working on a solution to make these features available on your device soon. Download the app from iTunes or Google Play and start discovering what’s new for yourself. Existing iPad app users — make sure to tap “update” when prompted on your iPad to update to our new app.



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, 16 September 2014

Nominations open for the 2nd Annual Tax Adviser of the Year Awards

Nominations are open for The Tax Institute’s 2015 Tax Adviser of the Year Awards

Designed to recognise the profession’s highest achievers, the awards continue the Institute’s commitment to honouring the best and brightest professionals in the tax profession.

If you believe these awards resonate with you, or a colleague or employer of yours, this is your chance to be recognised by the industry’s leading tax luminaries.

Nominations close 09 December 2014

Nominate yourself, a colleague or industry peer in one of four award categories:

Emerging Tax Star Award
Tax Adviser of the Year – SME
Tax Adviser of the Year – Corporate
Chartered Tax Adviser of the Year

The awards will be judged by senior tax practitioners according to a set of criteria for each category and will be presented at an official awards ceremony at our National Convention on the Gold Coast in March 2015.


To learn more about the Tax Adviser of the Year awards, find out how to nominate, view previous winner’s profiles or learn about the categories, please visit our website.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Talking financial planners and tax advice with Alan Jones

Financial planners giving tax advice

The ongoing saga continues with respect to that portion of the financial planning community without appropriate qualifications being allowed to give wide-ranging tax advice with their financial advice.  

The Federal Government has now tabled regulations that allow financial planners who join a financial planning association to give this tax advice without having completed courses in tax and commercial law.

This is even more surprising given the recent Parliamentary investigations into a number of rogue financial advisers. For example, a recent Senate Committee found the activities of some advisers were ‘unethical, dishonest, well below professional standards and a grievous breach of their duties’.

Given that the Committee then recommended minimum education, experience and continuing professional development requirements for the financial planning industry at large, it is illogical that the Government is bypassing some of these conditions for the provision of tax advice.

The problem for those in the industry who are qualified in tax and commercial law, is that the bad apples in the financial planning industry are damaging the reputation of the rest.

The Tax Institute continues to speak with the Opposition and balance of power stakeholders with regards to the important consumer protection risk inherent in these regulations.

I also spoke on with Alan Jones on his radio program and the Richo + Jones show on Sky News. You can listen to these interviews via the following links: 


Tax measures related to the mining tax 

With the repeal of the mining tax legislation last week this has led to the wind-back of tax measures that were to be funded by the revenue from the mining tax.  It is extremely disappointing that the Federal Government waited an entire week before providing some certainty to taxpayers and tax professionals with respect to the effective repeal dates for these measures. 

The measures include: 
  • The instant asset write-off amount of $6,500 for small businesses, which has been reduced to $1,000 from 1 January 2014;
  • The accelerated depreciation for motor vehicles for small businesses, which has been removed from 1 January 2014; and
  • The loss carry-back measure, which has been abolished with effect from 1 July 2013.

Companies who have claimed the loss carry-back offset and are now no longer eligible will be contacted by the ATO, who will amend the affected assessments and taxpayers will not be subject to penalties and interest if payment is made within a reasonable time. 
With regard to the repeal of the provisions allowing small businesses asset write-off concessions, those taxpayers who have lodged their 2013/14 income year return under the previous law should now seek amendments to reduce their depreciation claim. The ATO will not apply penalties or shortfall interest if taxpayers request to amend their assessments within a reasonable period of time.

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.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Pride in our achievements

Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Accreditation Granted

In August, the Institute was granted higher education provider status, and secured accreditation for the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law. This has been a long process, which required significant investments of time and energy by volunteer members of the Education Examinations and Quality Assurance Board, particularly the Chair, Professor Dale Pinto, CTA, the Education Advisory Board, chaired by Wayne Healy, CTA, and by the General Manager Education, Ruth Ferraro. I would like to congratulate them on this achievement. Registration is critical for a number of reasons, including to ensure that the CTA program continues to be recognised by other professional bodies (such as the Chartered Accountants ANZ).

The accreditation of the course also recognises the high quality of our CTA program. We believe that completion of the CTA program will soon become an essential step in the career of all who aspire to join the tax profession. Accreditation is an important step in achieving this goal.

States Taxation Conference

On 24 and 25 July, I attended the annual States Taxation Conference in Hobart. This conference is unique in that it is organised by The Tax Institute in conjunction with the State Revenue Offices of each state and territory (eight altogether). The papers were of a very high quality and a highlight is the opportunity to mix with senior staff from the State Revenue Officers, including the Commissioners themselves.

It was pleasing that the State Commissioners agreed to co-organise next year’s conference 
with the Institute, with the venue to be announced in the near future.

Financial planners

Last month, I indicated that The Tax Institute is continuing to press the government to require financial planners to meet appropriate tax education and experience requirements. It is starting to look inevitable that financial planners will be subject to significantly more stringent financial advising educational requirements. This week, AMP announced that it would require all of its financial planners to meet higher educational requirements. Within hours of AMP’s announcement, Westpac said that it would meet the same benchmark. It can only be a matter of time before the other banks follow suit. Time should therefore vindicate the Institute’s stance on this issue.



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.

Inside the House of Reps Tax and Revenue Committee Inquiry

Last week, Niv Tadmore (Co-chair of the Institute’s Dispute Resolution Committee), Thilini Wickramasuriya (one of the Institute’s tax counsel) and I appeared to give evidence before the House of Representatives Tax and Revenue Committee in relation to its inquiry into tax disputes. (Robert Jeremenko refers to the genesis and the activities of this committee in his column this month.) One of the key issues that the Committee is inquiring into is whether a separate agency should be created to review and determine objections to tax assessments.

As might be expected, the ATO strongly opposes the establishment of a separate agency. Our position is that a separate agency is unnecessary, but it would be worthwhile for the Commissioner to re-establish a separate review and appeals area, which operates independently from the rest of the ATO. The Institute had previously provided the Committee with a detailed written submission into the ATO’s handling of tax disputes, so our appearance before the Committee was mainly for the purpose of responding to any questions that the Committee may have had. The transcript of our evidence is available on the Committee’s website. 

The Committee is willing to hear from anyone who has a submission to make about the way the ATO handles disputes, so a number of people have made submissions in their personal capacities. One of the witnesses on the morning we gave evidence was a businesswoman who had been hit with superannuation excess contributions tax. It was apparent that she (like so many who have been subject to this tax) was extremely frustrated and dissatisfied by her dealings with the ATO. It was obvious that she welcomed the opportunity to explain her position to someone in authority outside the ATO. The Committee listened carefully to her submissions. I hope that experiences like this one educate the Committee members about how unfairly the law can operate. The best solution to problems like this one is not reform of the ATO — it is reform of the law, which is in its hands.


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.


Monday, 8 September 2014

Professional Practice Structures & Parliamentary Committee


Professional Practice Structures

This week the ATO released draft guidelines on the tax risks flowing from the use of partnerships of discretionary trusts and similar structures. You may read more detail about the ATO guidelines here.

The Tax Institute acknowledges the ATO’s need to risk-assess professional practices, but this work should not taint legitimate business structures.

Unfortunately, the guidelines are a blunt instrument based on effective tax rates rather than legislation and case law. The ATO must consult widely and publicly before finalising these guidelines to ensure that they are based on an understanding of how professional practices function in today’s economy.

Listen to my chat with Alan Jones from the 2GB breakfast show for more information on the implications of the proposed changes on consumer protection. 

Parliamentary Committee for Tax and Revenue 

Further to our appearance at the Committee last week, the Hansard containing the evidence of both The Tax Institute and the ATO is now available

The Committee hearing provided another opportunity for us to raise issues of concern to members, including the portal and the lodgement program.



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.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Tax Adviser of the Year Awards are back in 2015

I am pleased to announce that nominations are now open for the 2nd Annual Tax Adviser of the Year Awards. These awards were launched last year to identify those individuals who are making their mark in the industry and to reward them with a valuable opportunity to highlight their excellence in tax before their peers.

Our 2014 winners were:


The awards will once again be judged by an expert panel that will include industry figures and esteemed members of the profession, and all finalists will be celebrated at our awards ceremony in March.

Entries opened on 1 September and will remain open until 9 December 2014. The full criteria for each category, as well as further information on how to apply or nominate a peer, and information on the 2014 panel and finalists, can be found on our website.

Why not enter the awards or nominate an industry peer? This could be your chance to be recognised by the industry’s leading tax luminaries.

There will be four categories in 2014-15, including:

  • Emerging Tax Star Award;
  • Tax Adviser of the Year — SME;
  • Tax Adviser of the Year — Corporate; and
  • Chartered Tax Adviser of the Year.

Visit here for full category details.  

Download our new app 

Our brand new app brings you each month’s issue of Taxation in Australia on your iPad or Android tablet, alongside a host of great content from The Tax Institute. iPad users, you’ll also find each week’s TaxVine in the app, along with your free paper of the month. Android users, we’re working on a solution to make these features available on your device soon. Download the app from iTunes or Google Play and start discovering what’s new for yourself. Existing iPad app users — make sure to tap “update” when prompted on your iPad to update to our new app.

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.