Friday, 28 November 2014

Your representative at the Committee for Tax and Revenue

The House of Representatives Parliamentary Committee for Tax and Revenue has tabled its latest bi-annual inquiry report into the overall operations of the Tax Office.

The Tax Institute appeared before the Committee to give evidence in relation to members’ experiences with the Tax Office; we also detailed these in a written submission. Below are some extracts from the Committee’s report with respect to a selection of key areas of concern to members.

Tax Agent Portal

The Tax Institute outlined the impact of unplanned system outages on the productivity of tax agents:

“The analogy that we like to use internally is that… the portal is almost like a dinosaur that is trying to deal with the 21st century. …tax practitioners are continually being pushed more and more towards an electronic way of interacting. The amount of reliance they currently place on the portal means that outages, whether they be planned or - more problematically - unplanned, really do have a huge effect on practitioners’ ability to function.”

In their submission the Tax Institute also claimed that ‘unscheduled disruptions to the portal are arising in periods of peak usage’ and expressed concern that the information available via the portal is updated in batches, rather than in real time, limiting agents access to up-to-date information.

Lodgement Program

At the public hearing the Tax Institute and the Inspector-General of Taxation both reported significant sector concern in relation to the operation of the Lodgement Program and the fairness of its outcomes.

The Committee heard that the Tax Institute’s members are apprehensive because, despite their best efforts to meet lodgement due dates, late lodging or recalcitrant clients may harm their reputation with the ATO:

“Although a 15 per cent margin has been allowed to accommodate the above circumstances, members affected remain greatly concerned about the impact of these requirements on their business and the stress they cause as a result.”

The full suite of concerns raised with the Committee can be read in our submission.

We look forward to again engaging with the Tax and Revenue Committee on future hearings into other important issues affecting members.


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, 26 November 2014

Upcoming events and CPD

Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law – get started in 2014!

Enrolments for the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law subjects for study period 1 in 2015 are now open.

However, if you want to get started in 2014, the subjects CTA1 Foundations and CTA2A Advanced are currently open for enrolments for study period 3 2014.
These two subjects are the initial steps in our Chartered Tax Adviser Program that produces tax advisers with the professional tax skills and acute commercial skills to join our growing international network of Chartered Tax Advisers.

To find out more, and enrol, go to taxinstitute.com.au/education.

Upcoming events

Financial Services Taxation Conference

The 2015 Financial Services Taxation Conference has just been launched. Taking place on 18 to 20 February at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa on the Gold Coast, the conference will cover numerous tax issues of relevance to our industry, including infrastructure, TOFA, nominees and custodians, Pt IVA, transfer pricing and thin capitalisation, among others.

Visit taxinstitute.com.au to find out more or to register.

30th National Convention

Recognised as Australia’s premier taxation conference, the National Convention is being held at the RACV Royal Pines Resort, Benowa, in Queensland on 18 to 20 March 2015. The National Convention will celebrate its 30th anniversary, so much is planned for this milestone.

Why not come along and be part of the tax profession’s key annual event. Details are at taxinstitute.com.au.

Summer Sale starts soon

Our summer sale includes some great offers on a wide range of books, DVDs and more. Save up to 50% and pick up one of our CPD on DVD boxsets, back by popular demand. Visit our website for more information.

Have you downloaded our new app?

Our 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. You’ll also find each week’s TaxVine in the app, along with your free paper of the month. Download the app from iTunes or Google Play and start discovering what’s new for yourself.

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, 24 November 2014

State convention locations and the ruling on Bitcoins

Residential vs CBD locations for state conventions

One issue that state councils and education committees consider every year is whether to hold their state convention in, or away from, their capital city. The advantage of holding conferences in the country are that participants are more likely to attend all of the technical sessions and the social functions, and generally mix with each other far more than if the conference were held in the city. But the outstanding success of the NSW Tax Forum has provided a powerful example to other states of the benefits of holding conferences in the CBD. The main advantages are that attendances are higher, there are better opportunities for more junior people to attend, and the conference can provide participants with more alternative sessions and flexibility to attend the sessions that interest them.

Without wanting to pre-empt them, I think the Queensland State Council will need to closely consider whether to hold its state convention in Brisbane next year.

In states that adopt the “Tax Forum” format in the CBD, it is important that those members who prefer residential events do not feel disenfranchised. One option for the Institute is to promote residential events in other states to members in states that hold CBD-based tax forums. For example, if it was marketed to them, many Victorian members would be happy to travel to Tasmania to attend the Tasmanian State Convention.

It will be interesting to see how the mix between residential and CBD-based conferences evolves in the future.

Bitcoin ruling

As president, I sign most of the submissions that the Institute provides to the ATO and to government. In October, I approved three submissions (to be provided in conjunction with other professional bodies) dealing with bitcoins.

The ATO has issued:
  • a document termed a guidance paper entitled Tax treatment of crypto-currencies in Australia — specifically Bitcoin;
  • three draft taxation determinations in relation to some income tax interactions (trading stock, capital gains tax and foreign currency rules);
  • TD 2014/D14 (which considers some FBT issues); and
  • GSTR 2014/D3.
Essentially, the ATO is maintaining in all of these documents that bitcoins are not a form of currency but, rather, should be treated as a means of facilitating barter transactions.

It is a sign of how rapidly technology is evolving that a number of ATMs are being installed that will issue bitcoins. It is difficult to see how the ATO will be able to maintain its position in light of these rapidly changing circumstances.



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.
 
 

Friday, 21 November 2014

Outcomes of the G20 Summit

With the completion of the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane, koalas and other cuddly fauna can rest easy once more.

But what were the meeting outcomes? For the keen beans, you can read the entire communiqué here.

With respect to tax, the leaders committed that profits should be taxed where economic activities deriving the profits are performed and where value is created. They also committed to finalising work on the OECD BEPS Action Plan in 2015, including transparency of taxpayer-specific rulings found to constitute harmful tax practices. Finally, there was broad endorsement of the global Common Reporting Standard for the automatic exchange of tax information.

There is clearly much more work to be done next year and beyond. Australia must continue to work closely with other G20 nations and the OECD on the BEPS action items to ensure that our tax laws are keeping pace with global business practices.

The OECD's work, once completed and depending on the exact nature of what is incorporated into Australia's domestic law and treaty networks, has the potential to impact on corporations of any size. Tax practitioners advising inbound and outbound clients are no doubt keeping a close watch on these developments.


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, 20 November 2014

President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation visits The Tax Institute

Anne Fairpo, President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (UK), joins Sydney based UK CTA’s at a function at The Tax Institute in Sydney.


Left to right: David Williams CTA, Anne Fairpo CTA, Tracy Rens CTA, Prof Gordon Cooper CTA.


The Tax InstituteThe 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.

A credential with professional credibility

In the wake of recent revelations of widespread cheating at Australian universities and headlines listing widespread sharing of answers to financial services exams there is sure to be an increased focus on the bona fides of taxation education.

The recent revelation that thousands of university students have been paying ghostwriters to complete their assignments highlights a disturbing phenomenon – one that whistleblower academics have been expressing increasing concern about for years: the watering down of academic standards.

Where a close connection exists between education and the profession it supports, the qualification needed to obtain work and an established regulatory registration system it is important that standards are met and the credentials are not weakened through poor assessment practices.

Exposing the MyMaster scandal means the credentials of all university graduates are now questionable in the eyes of potential employers. After all, how can they be sure a graduate completed the assignments set for their taxation course, or even wrote the thesis required for the Master of Taxation themselves?

Fortunately, the tax education subjects offered by The Tax Institute remain widely respected throughout the taxation industry because of the high stakes examinations that are set and invigilated. Examiners have high-profile ‘day jobs’ in the profession and adhere to the secure assessment environment established by the Education and Quality Assurance Board.

As Ruth Ferraro, General Manager of Education and Professional Standards at The Tax Institute, points out: “A predominant assessment method of the new Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law is by way of independently supervised exams. This gives the employer and community seeking the professional skills of the graduate the assurance that the high standard required of tax advisers has been met by the individual.”

All the taxation education credentials offered by The Tax Institute, including the CTA1 Foundations, CTA2A Advanced, CTA2B Advanced,(the core subjects of the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law) and CTA3 Advisory and other elective subjects in the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law, are similarly designed to ensure every candidate meets the high standard and has acquired the skill sets employers expect them to have – before they gain the qualification and designation – and that puts them a cut above the rest.


Ruth Ferraro is General Manager Education & Professional Standards 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, 17 November 2014

Tax Adviser of the Year Awards 2015

Launch of the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law

To meet the changing needs of tax professionals, on 14 October 2014, The Tax Institute launched a new postgraduate qualification, the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law.

It is the firm belief of the Institute and the profession that the knowledge and skills of tax professionals should be at least at a postgraduate level. The Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law is a high-quality offering which will meet this need while maintaining its practical and applied focus — hallmarks of all Tax Institute programs.

The Tax Institute’s approach for this program was two-fold. First, it ensured compliance with the Tax Practitioners Board’s content requirements for courses in Australian taxation law and commercial law, and second, it aligned with the Australian qualifications framework (AQF) for graduate diploma level programs.

To add further validation, the program was benchmarked against other providers of such programs.

For more information on the launch and why this program was developed go to taxinstitute.com.au/grad-dip.

Information sessions

Enrolments for this program are now open. We are holding a number of information sessions around the country to provide more detailed information, including the structure, exemptions provided, and how to enrol. Why not attend one of the sessions and find out more (register online at taxinstitute.com.au).

Tax Adviser of the Year Awards 2015

Don’t miss out — time is slipping away to get your nomination in for the 2nd annual Tax Adviser of the Year Awards.

Here is your chance to be recognised by the profession’s leading tax luminaries.

This year, we’ve introduced two new categories: the SME Tax Adviser of the Year and the Corporate Tax Adviser of the Year.

Nominate yourself, a colleague or an industry peer in one of four award categories:
• Emerging Tax Star;
• SME Tax Adviser of the Year;
• Corporate Tax Adviser of the Year; and
• Chartered Tax Adviser of the Year.

Three finalists selected in each category will be flown to the Gold Coast to attend the 30th National Convention and the Tax Adviser of the Year Awards gala dinner where the winners will be announced.

Entries close on 9 December 2014.

Download your entry kit and application forms at taxinstitute.com.au/taxawards and start working on your nomination now.

We look forward to receiving your nominations.


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.

Friday, 14 November 2014

G20 Summit

This weekend Brisbane will host the Group of Twenty (G20) Leaders’ Summit.

The G20 comprises 19 countries plus the European Union and this year Australia is President of the grouping. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is calling this weekend ‘the most important meeting ever held in Australia’; certainly a bold claim, but in the tax space, the meeting is expected to endorse the current work on multinational tax issues and BEPS.

Will there be any unexpected tax announcements? We have urged the Government not to make decisions that would put Australia at a competitive disadvantage in relation to the global business community, by moving out of step on BEPS. We must continue to work closely with other G20 nations and the OECD on the BEPS action items to ensure that our tax laws are keeping pace with global business practices.

Who’s Who

Experiencing the Brisbane hospitality will be Presidents/PMs including: Obama; Xi Jinping (China), David Cameron (UK), Joko Widodo (Indonesia), Francois Hollande (France), Angela Merkel (Germany), Narendra Modi (India) and Vladimir Putin.

Commencing today and continuing into next week in Canberra, the leaders of Britain, China and India will separately address joint sittings of the Australian Parliament.

The Australian Government’s attention is expected to turn back to matters domestic, including the release of the issues paper to kick off the tax white paper process, in the coming weeks.


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, 13 November 2014

Launch of the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law

At the event, which was streamed live to boardrooms around the country, Michael Flynn, CTA, President, The Tax Institute announced that: “With the impending changes in the landscape of the profession, we need to ensure that the tax professionals of today, and those of the future, are prepared and ready to meet these changes and be equipped to handle them and continue to succeed.

As noted by many, Australia’s competitive and comparative advantage is based on our ability to teach thinking and applied skills and this advantage will only be secured with education programs that deliver on this promise where it matters — in the workplace.

The Institute’s programs have been built on this philosophy, acquiring skills for tomorrow through explicit teaching which encourages higher order thinking today.”

Professor Dale Pinto, CTA, Professor of Taxation Law, from Curtin Law School, said: “Today is a watershed moment in the proud history of the Institute and for me it has truly been a privilege to be involved in the development of this exciting initiative and to attend today’s launch. I am of the firm belief that this course will provide candidates with the higher order analytical and practical skills needed to meet the challenges ahead. I very much look forward to being part of that journey.”

Noel Rowland, Chief Executive of The Tax Institute, said: “Together, we are on a journey. And this is the next leg of our journey.

As your professional association, it is our responsibility to ensure that we adjust and evolve to equip the thousands of tax professionals with the education, training and resources they need to continue to succeed. We have an obligation to anticipate challenges and to open up opportunities both domestically and internationally for all members.

Our tagline, ‘the mark of expertise’, reinforces the principles and values of The Tax Institute — developing and encouraging the very highest standards on tax knowledge, information and education.

It is for this reason, among other initiatives, that we introduced the internationally recognised Chartered Tax Adviser designation to Australia in 2012 and now the Graduate Diploma.

These form part of our strategy to enhance the Institute’s position but, most importantly, to enhance the expertise and skills of members and to give members more status and recognition as the leading tax advisers to business, individuals, students and government.”


Enrolments for the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law subjects for Study Period 1 in 2015 are now open.However, if you want to get started in 2014 the subjects CTA1 Foundations, and CTA2A Advanced are currently open for enrolments for Study Period 3 2014. 

Find out more, and enrol, at taxinstitute.com.au/education.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Event highlights from October

Though the calendar year is drawing to a close, the level of activity at the Institute certainly is not. October is one of our busiest months for significant conferences and events, and ones in which I hope many members had a chance to participate.

Launch of the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax law

The official launch of the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law occurred on 14 October 2014, and it was only made possible by the Institute achieving the status of a “higher education provider”. This is by far the most significant achievement of the Institute in education to date and one for which a number of individuals, including Professor Dale Pinto and the Institute’s General Manager Education and Professional Standards, Ruth Ferraro, deserve recognition.

There are evermore pressures on experienced tax professionals to keep up-to-date, and for new entrants to the profession to find a high-quality pathway to recognition of their professional status. The Graduate Diploma offers candidates a direct pathway to becoming a highly-skilled leader in tax.

For members interested in finding out more about the Graduate Diploma, refer to the “Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law” page on the Institute’s website.

2nd Annual Tax Forum in Victoria

The 2nd Annual Tax Forum, which was held in the Melbourne CBD, was a huge success for our Victorian members. I think that, while this event continues to grow in popularity, the Institute is unlikely go back to holding residential format conventions in Victoria away from the city. I say more about this below.

The keynote speaker, Second Commissioner Andrew Mills, CTA (Life), talked of tax from both sides — the profession and the administrator. He provided members with some interesting insights into these two different perspectives of tax. For interested members, Second Commissioner Mills’ speech is available on the ATO website.

Delegates also had the opportunity to gain insights from the Chair of the Board of Taxation, Teresa Dyson, CTA, in particular concerning current reviews that the Board is undertaking on two issues of significant interest to our members — the review of tax impediments facing small business and the Div 7A review. We look forward to hearing the results of these reviews.

Tasmanian State Convention

Closely following on the heels of the 2nd Annual Tax Forum in Victoria was the 2014 Tasmanian State Convention, which I also attended. The Tasmanian State Convention was at the Country Club in Launceston this year, which is a relaxing location.
The Tassie convention is always a great opportunity for our Tasmanian-based members to come together, but over the past two years, a number of Victorians have also ventured across Bass Strait to attend.


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.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Your representation at the Federal Treasury’s Revenue Group

This week I was pleased to represent Tax Institute members at Federal Treasury’s Revenue Group stakeholder consultation meeting in Canberra.

This regular consultation aims to engage the taxpaying community in a wider conversation about strategic tax policy issues. It supplements Treasury consultations on specific tax measures, with which the Tax Institute is actively involved. The meeting includes representatives from the tax and superannuation professions, business and community groups.

We discussed a variety of issues at the meeting, including:
  • Tax White Paper process;
  • Status of announced tax measures: 
    • Superannuation, personal tax;
    • Small business tax;
    • Corporate and international tax;
    • Legislation forward work program;
  • Progress of reviews: 
    • Financial System Inquiry;
    • Review of income streams;
    • Board of Tax Reviews;
    • House of Representatives Tax and Revenue Committee: Inquiry into tax disputes; and
  • G20 Finance Minister’s meeting and BEPS.

I would be pleased to discuss any of the above in further detail; 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.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Tax reform anyone?

Last week we saw the Federal Government spark a national conversation about the need for nationwide tax reform, including the tax and spending mix at the State government level.

The Tax Institute strongly supports this debate and congratulates the Prime Minister for calling for a mature debate on the future of Australia’s tax system.

On a daily basis, tax professionals interact with a complex and unwieldy tax system that is under increasing pressure to raise sufficient revenue to meet spending commitments. True reform can only be achieved by a national conversation on the role of all taxes in our system, including the GST.

Australia deserves a mature tax reform debate focussing on the country’s tax mix at both the state and federal levels that is ideally free of cheap, political scaremongering.

Multinational taxation

Last week, The Tax Institute attended an invitation-only roundtable on multinational tax issues, which was held by the Federal Opposition. The Hon Bill Shorten MP, the Hon Chris Bowen MP and other MPs were present for parts of the roundtable that was chaired by the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP. Our participation in this event was part of our ongoing contribution to the national debate on tax issues of concern.

With a high level of political and media interest in the taxation of multinationals this roundtable was an ideal opportunity to directly contribute to an informed discussion about the issues.



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.