Friday, 31 July 2015

We need your feedback

Every week we spend a lot of time poring over the beloved Member Feedback section of TaxVine. We all read it, but not everyone has the time to write in. Now more than ever your feedback is crucial.

The time is fast approaching for the Institute to again participate in the biannual hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Tax and Revenue's inquiry into the ATO. The hearing will take place on 9 September and submissions close on 14 August.

Our last submission to the parliamentary committee dated 16 March canvassed a range of issues including: the positive impact of personnel changes within the ATO, timing and guidance on changes to the Tax Agent Portal, and the tenor of ATO correspondence. The Committee has also made specific reference to our submission on Single Touch Payroll.

Please contact us at Tax Policy if there are any topics, or developments on the above issues, which you think we may have missed and would like us to raise at this hearing, based on your recent dealings with the ATO.

We are interested in what is working well and should not change from a tax practitioner perspective, as much as what needs to be resolved.

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.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Member profile: Juanita Sands

Member profile: Juanita Sands

Name: Juanita Sands

Employer: Deloitte Private Pty Ltd

Position: Senior Analyst

Throughout my education I always had a passion for maths and not much else besides reading. My high school teachers loved telling me I should do something like accounting when I grew up, but being a teenager who did the opposite of what teachers said there was no way I was going to become something boring like an accountant. After starting a maths, psych and law degree, I ultimately ended up at TAFE doing an office administration certificate and loved the accounting subjects and have not looked back since.

I have now been in accounting for over 15 years and am a single mum to a gorgeous and smart college student and have worked full time since she was in primary school and part time while studying before that. Work and life balance can be a juggle but is very rewarding being a mum, while working full time.

I am currently completing The Tax Institute’s Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law and enrolled in the Advanced Superannuation, with Corporate Tax next semester being my last subject. The Graduate Diploma has been good to cement the knowledge that I already have.

Describe your current role:

I am currently a senior analyst with Deloitte, having moved to Deloitte in January 2014 after spending 12 years at another local accounting firm.
My current role is very broad and diverse. I work in the areas of
  • business advisory services – working with small to medium
  • tax review of large corporate clients for our audit team, some of whom are listed
  • tax provisions for large and listed corporations
  • provide advice for and oversee half of our local office’s self-managed superannuation funds tax advice for our office on a range of areas. To name a few
    • Small business CGT concessions – this and super are on of the greatest tax advantages for small business’
    • Employee benefits - eligible termination payments, fringe benefits, employee allowances
    • Research & Development
    • Accessibility of grant income
    • Taxation of trust income
    • Deceased Estates
Describe your involvement in The Tax Institute’s committees or contribution to the Institute:
  • Member of the Victorian Tax Technical Committee
  • Young Tax Professionals – Northern Tasmania tax discussion group
What are your career highlights?
My first career highlight would be completing a set of trust financial statements, many years ago, that operated a business and then working out the best way to distribute the income. A couple of years after that I lodged a private ruling application with the ATO in regards to life insurance proceeds and the accessibility of them. After much deliberation by the ATO, who found it hard to determine the answer they advised us that the proceeds would be non-assessable and they thought they should produce a ruling on life insurance proceeds.
My most satisfying moments are helping others with tax questions, whether small or large questions and helping them to grow their knowledge. Having people say ‘but how do you know that’ or ‘where do you know to look for the answer’ then showing them how they can get that knowledge. The Tax Institute is one of my favourite search websites.
Why did you join The Tax Institute?
I had attended a few state conventions and then attended a national convention in 2010, as a result I was able to get reduced membership fees. The resources that the Tax Institute have on their website are great for any sort of tax research and their books offer a great hands on approach to working through complex areas of practice, membership provides me with access to these and discounts to the many training sessions they offer.
What advice can you give to graduates?
Ask questions, especially the ones you feel are stupid ones. The only stupid one is the one you never ask – lecturers love that saying.
Take notes when asking questions and keep the notes, even if you never go back to them, you are more likely to remember that something was discussed and it will trigger you where/who to go to for the answer.
Talk to everybody in your office to find out their skill set. Use this knowledge to get a mentor or two in your areas of interest.
Who or what inspires you?
My daughter inspires me every day.  When starting college this year she was really nervous and concerned about the challenges that she would face.  She accepted the challenge and came out of the first day smiling and ready to take on the world. This is the way she deals with all challenges in her life. She has just written a 3,500 word essay for English Literature, I never had her focus and determination at her age.
What do you do to unwind?
Run. I am fortunate enough that I can run before work plus run in my lunch breaks with a work colleague. Running is a good way to zone out as I can’t think or listen to music while running.  Coming back to work after a run is a great way to refocus on work especially when doing research on complex tax matters.
I also enjoy riding my bike and scrapbooking – putting photos and memories on a pretty piece of paper with fancy embellishments.
Favourite holiday destination?
Somewhere with family and preferably with a mountain in sight. the next step in your tax career with the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law 

The case to raise the GST

On Wednesday and Thursday this week, the Leaders Retreat was held in Sydney involving the State Premiers and the Prime Minister. One of the ‘hot button' issues on the agenda was the GST – including NSW Premier Mike Baird's proposal that the GST rate be lifted from 10% to 15% to fund the cost of public health. An alternate proposal was put forward by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczukto instead to raise the Medicare levy from 2% to 4%.

In The Tax Institute's view, the Government should undertake a comprehensive review of the current exemptions and special rules in the GST law to ensure they are still necessary and appropriate. Members can read more about our views in our Tax Discussion Paper submission.

The heart of the issue though is not about whether there should be a change to the GST or the Medicare levy. It's about where should the States and Territories source funding for the services they provide. Should this be from their own taxes they administer or sourced from Federal taxes such as the GST? Should it be from a combination of these taxes?

If so, what combination of these taxes is appropriate?

One thing is certain though - no change will be made to the GST unless all the States and Territories agree.

What do you think? Where do you sit on the “change the rate/change the base/no change" spectrum

Tell us your thoughts via Tax Policy.

Stephanie Caredes CTA 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.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Tax reform back in the spotlight

On Wednesday 15 July, the Treasurer, The Hon Joe Hockey MP, gave a speech putting the spotlight firmly back on tax reform. The speech was timely, ahead of next week's Leaders' Summit involving the Prime Minister, and the Premiers and Chief Ministers of the States and Territories, and our very own State Taxes Conference.

The Treasurer noted that a number of States have failed to abolish the inefficient state taxes they had agreed to when the GST was introduced. This point was made in the Institute's submission to the Tax Discussion Paper.

Bracket creep was also noted as an issue that needed to be addressed. This is consistent with the Institute's submission, which calls for a more transparent marginal tax rate system for individuals.
The Treasurer argued the case for continued differential tax treatment of capital versus income, presumably ruling out any changes to the CGT discount as a way of dealing with issues such as negative gearing.

On other significant matters such as broadening the GST, the Treasurer was not as strident. He also steered clear of multinational taxation in his speech, and argued for stability on superannuation.

None of the 800 submissions to the Tax Discussion Paper had argued for the status quo. There now appears to be a public consensus that our tax system needs to be reformed. We look forward to participating in the next step - the Options (Green) Paper process- which should address the how.

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.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Broadening the GST to digital products

This week, The Tax Institute lodged its submission in relation to the tax integrity measure that will extend the application of GST to digital products and other services imported by Australian consumers. This measure was announced in the 2015-16 Federal Budget and will apply from 1 July 2017.

While cast as an integrity measure, the effect of the new provisions will be to broaden the GST net to capture supplies (other than goods or real property) made to Australian consumers by non-residents, marking a significant change to a core concept (‘supplies connected with Australia') in the GST law. The Tax Institute has already engaged extensively with Treasury and the ATO to ensure that this new legislation properly achieves its policy intent. A copy of our submission is available on our website.

Also, this week, the ATO released its Corporate Plan for 2015-2019. This document sets out the ATO's ‘purpose, priorities and improved performance measures'. At the same time, the ATO has also issued its Every Year Counts products. These products are new and refer to specific taxpayer groups including individuals and small business taxpayers, and outline what's planned for 2015-16. There is a product specific to Tax and BAS agents members may wish to view.

Stephanie Caredes CTA 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.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

State's Taxation Conference speaker profile: Paul Ellis

Paul is the national leader of EY’s Employment Taxes group, a market leader in providing innovative solutions to enable employers to effectively manage their employer obligations. Paul has over 25 years of experience assisting public and private sector employers to reduce costs and develop risk strategies in relation to their remuneration related tax obligations. He advises a large range of Australian and foreign companies on domestic and international employment related tax issues including remuneration packaging, employment taxes and charges (FBT, payroll tax, workers compensation and superannuation), identification and assessment of contractor issues and the structuring and implementation of equity and other employee incentive plans. Paul was a member of the ATO’s former National Tax Liaison Group FBT sub-Committee and is a member of The Tax Institute’s FBT Committee.

How long have you been affiliated with The Tax Institute?

From the time I commenced working as a tax professional, so must be over 25 years by now.

What does the States Taxes Conference mean to you, and more broadly, to the tax industry?

The State Taxes Conference is a unique opportunity to both mix with senior state revenue office personnel and at the same time update my knowledge in a key technical area relevant to my practice.

What is the topic that you are presenting? And what can attendees expect to learn from your session?

I am co-presenting the topic “Employees, Contractor and Other – Is “wages to an employee” an out-dated concept. We will be looking at how contractors and employees are assessed for payroll tax and how this position has evolved over time.

In addition to dissecting current interpretations of the legislation, we will also be highlighting ways that output from existing tools isn’t necessarily reliable and what to look out for when engaging new workers.

How will attending your session help delegates help their clients?

By being aware of recent developments, delegates will be able to accurately assess their clients’ workers for payroll tax and be able to help with planning opportunities to minimise any compliance burdens.

Which other sessions at the conference are you most interested in attending?

The sessions that deal with Payroll Tax topics.

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

Play squash, watch sport, relax with a good book and a nice glass of red.

Join us in Canberra  for The Tax Institute's 15th Annual States Taxation ConferenceThe Annual States’ Taxation Conference remains the only national conference covering all state and territory taxes in one technical program.