Friday, 30 October 2015

Innovation and tax, an unlikely pairing?

Innovation and tax. Do these two things go together or are they a little like oil and water?
Sometime in the next few weeks, the Government will be releasing its statement on innovation. There are clear indications circling that the tax system will have a role to play in influencing, or perhaps even encouraging, innovation in Australia. As we await this statement, no doubt the tax-related content will permeate the broader tax reform discussion.

On Monday this week, Deloitte Access Economics released its second ‘myth busting' report entitled Myth busting tax reform #2: Superannuation, negative gearing and the discount on capital gains, providing insights on the tax issues associated with ‘savings'. For members who are interested, Chris Richardson from Deloitte Access Economics will be speaking at our 2016 Financial Services Taxation Conference on why the Australian economy needs tax reform. You may wish to join us there.

In other news, the Australian Taxation Office has released their 2014-15 Annual Report. Here is a link to the report for your information.

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. 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

2015 Corporate Tax Adviser of the Year winner: Minh Dao CTA

I am a tax adviser specialising in infrastructure projects (eg PPP, privatisations and M&A). I have worked with KPMG for over 15 years on some of Australia’s largest infrastructure projects and have undertaken secondments locally and to the UK.

I strive to create a working environment where my staff can perform to the best of their abilities and can be proud to say they work in my team.

How long have you been affiliated with The Tax Institute?

Over 14 years (includes two maternity leave of absence).

What does the Tax Awards mean to you, and more broadly, to the tax profession?

The Tax Award has meant a lot to me. To be publically recognised for the contribution I make to the profession was an honour. Being recognised by the Tax Institute has also broadened by personal profile within the tax community.

What are 5 main tips/tricks that you used for preparing your application?
  • Communicate with senior leaders in your organisation to ensure they support your nomination.
  • Obtain client references. Don’t be shy.
  • Set aside ample time to prepare the application.
  • Ask a colleague to critique your application.
  • Show a wide range of your experience in the application form.

What was it like to be named a finalists/winner in your category?

I was delighted to be named as a finalist and was utterly surprised when I was announced as the winner on the night. As so much of my work is confidential, it is very special to be recognised by members of my profession publically for my contribution.

What are 4 main reasons for applying for the Tax Awards?
  • Receive recognition for your achievements
  • Cement your personal brand in the market
  • Contribute to the continuing success of the Tax Institute
  • Celebrate your achievements to date.

What do you believe put your application above the others?

The depth of my experience on large scale infrastructure projects and working closely with the ATO to resolve tax technical matters for the tax profession.

How has applying for the Tax Awards benefitted you?

My personal profile in the market has significantly improved, which has meant exposure to new clients and engagements.

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

Playing with my children, until they tire me out.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Mulitnational anti-avoidance Bill progresses

On 19 October, the multinational anti-avoidance ‘law' (the MAAL) passed the House of Representatives. The MAAL is ‘law' because, given the political pressure applied, it is difficult to see any substantive changes being made to the measure.

The Bill containing the MAAL, country-by-country reporting and stronger penalties for significant global entities, is now being considered by the Senate Economics Legislation Committee and our recent submission to that Committee can be found here. Despite the Senate inquiry being on foot, the major political parties appear to have agreed to the passage of the Bill.

The Institute has long called for a multilateral approach on international tax issues. Others have argued that a multilateral approach is too slow. This ‘slowness' is due to the painstaking negotiations between sovereign states that underlie our treaty network. Such discussions are essential to tackling multinational tax avoidance without alienating our major trading partners.

The need for swift unilateral action is also questionable given that the gain to revenue from the MAAL is unquantified. The real revenue winner from this measure might be transfer pricing specialists.

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.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

2015 Emerging Tax Star of the Year finalist: Jack Wang

I am a senior consultant in the Indirect Taxes Team at Pitcher Partners Melbourne. I am a Chartered Accountant and a graduate of the University of Melbourne, where I received my Masters degree in Accounting.

After graduating from the University of Melbourne, I started my career with Pitcher Partners where I gained an in depth understanding of GST, Stamp Duty and Fuel Tax Credits.

I specialise in providing high quality tax compliance and advisory services that meet the needs of my clients. Examples of the services I provide include preparation and review of Business Activity Statements, GST reviews and preparation of advices and objections in areas such as GST, Land Tax, Stamp Duty and Fuel Tax Credits. I also deal with the Australian Taxation Office and State Revenue Offices in relation to various client matters on a regular basis.

How long have you been affiliated with The Tax Institute?

I have been an affiliate with The Tax Institute since I joined Pitcher Partners Melbourne in 2008.

What does the Tax Awards mean to you, and more broadly, to the tax profession?

The Tax Adviser of the Year Awards celebrates not only technical excellence but also the contributions that a tax professional makes to the tax community as a whole. Through the Tax Awards, the tax community are made aware of the initiatives and positive changes being made to the tax community. Further, by recognising these achievements, hopefully more tax professionals would be inspired to think about new initiatives that would benefit themselves in their practice and to the tax community.

What are 5 main tips/tricks that you used for preparing your application?

  • Have 5 seconds of courage to start the application (or talk to your supervisor that you wish to submit an application).
  • Take time to review the work you have completed and list them down on a piece of paper.
  • Speak to your supervisor or colleagues and find out if there is a particular thing about you that left a positive impression on them.
  • Prepare a draft application and have someone read it for you and ask them for feedback.
  • Allow sufficient time to prepare your application and set out a plan as to what you want to include, who you will need to speak to and what examples you will use to support your application.

What was it like to be named a finalists/winner in your category?

I was extremely honoured to be named as a finalist in my category and I was also very excited that I got to fly to the Gold Coast to attend the National Convention. Since the announcement I also had a lot of people visiting my LinkedIn profile and sending me messages. The exposure was fantastic!

What are 4 main reasons for applying for the Tax Awards?

  • To be recognised for the initiatives or positive changes that one brings into his or her work;
  • To inspire others to start thinking about their current practice and how they may improve the way they do or think about things;
  • To meet and to learn from other tax practitioners at the annual convention;
  • To consolidate and review what one has done and to use this opportunity to think about what other improvements can be done.

What do you believe put your application above the others?

In preparing for my application, I tried to provide sufficient support/evidence to each initiative or example included in the application. I also asked others to review my application and gave me feedback as to how I can make my application more successful.

How has applying for the Tax Awards benefitted you?

Through the discussions I had with others during my preparation process, I was able to identify my areas of strength and areas of weakness that I need to improve on. I was quite fortunate to receive honest feedback from the people I spoke to and I believe these conversations improved the relationship between myself and the people that have provided their assistance in my application.

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

When I am not knee-deep in tax, I enjoy spending time with my family and taking photos of my son and my wife as I am very passionate about photography.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

How to build your resume while you study

These days, achieving a high-distinction average or mastering your taxation law units aren’t enough to land the job of your dreams. Recruiters and hiring managers are increasingly looking for candidates who combine academic rigour and industry passion with focus, drive and initiative. If you’re still studying for your degree, there are countless ways to prove to your potential employer that your contribution to their business will go well beyond balancing the books.

Here are four strategies for building your resume while you study – because it's never too early to start making a mark on your career.

Volunteer at a not-for-profit

If you’re a third-year accounting student, you could be a valuable asset to a business that couldn’t otherwise pay for your skills. From under-resourced charities that grapple with financial administration to not-for-profits that could benefit from simple bookkeeping, offering pro-bono services can seriously bolster your resume. It can also show employers that your social conscience matches your commercial instincts.

Start a side project

Extracurricular passions aren’t a distraction from your career – they can make you more attractive in an employer’s eyes. Companies are seeking out well-rounded individuals with a range of interests and passions, rather than workers who live for the daily grind. Whether you’ve always dreamt of designing a mobile app, starting a fundraising initiative to help disadvantaged students or planting a community garden, a side project can show your future boss that you’re equipped to put plans into action.

Land an internship

Yes, it may be the obvious, well-trodden avenue, but for good reason. Finding an internship with a company in your industry can accelerate your path to employment and help your resume land at the top of the pile. By working with professionals in your sector, you don’t just gain valuable industry experience and a network of contacts – you’re also better placed to pursue a path that interests you once it’s time to start applying for jobs.

Learn something new

Although future tax professionals are often meticulous and numbers oriented, this doesn’t mean you can’t explore the other side of your brain. Learning a new language, taking a writing class or enrolling in a professional communication course can make you valuable for employers looking for candidates that can connect with their clients – while proving that you’re committed to your personal growth. Alternatively, it’s just as useful to train yourself in an up-and-coming accounting program, take advanced Excel tutorials or brush up on a much-hyped piece of software that businesses are planning to adopt.

From taking a short course to launching a side project, there’s no shortage of steps you can take to build a sparkling CV. What steps did you take to make your resume stand out? the next step in your tax career with the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law 

Find out more

Monday, 12 October 2015

Which area of tax is right for you?

A career in tax can be dynamic, versatile and open up rewarding opportunities both locally and abroad. A multifaceted profession, there are many areas in the industry you can choose to specialise in when you've finished your further tax education.
 But how do you know which is the perfect fit for your natural abilities? Here are four areas you can focus your tax training in, the skills and experience you’ll need to get there and the type of personalities primed to excel in them.

1. SMEs

With the growing number of small-medium businesses in Australia, a business tax specialist will always be in high demand.

As a business tax specialist, you’ll need to be abreast of capital gains implications, the latest GST changes and depreciation schedules, as well as the special exemptions and deductions relevant to each business structure and industry.

Many tax specialists find this work rewarding, as it helps local businesses grow and remain sustainable. Keeping up with the constant federal regulatory changes impacting SMEs also means working in an area that is dynamic and always evolving.

2. SMSFs

An increasing number of people are choosing a self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) to provide their retirement benefits because it offers more control over investments. Consequently, this has opened up a complex new arena for tax agents to specialise in, providing superannuation advice.

SMSFs are a legal tax structure regulated by the ATO and with strict reporting and compliance obligations. So as a superannuation specialist, you’ll need to stay abreast of any new developments in order to provide your clients with timely advice on the right structure and planning.

With severe penalties for non-compliance, an SMSF tax specialist has considerable responsibility and therefore needs to have good attention to detail and outstanding communication skills, along with a comprehensive understanding of superannuation law and practice.

3. Property investment

A property tax specialist provides advice for investors about asset protection while minimising tax liabilities. You will need to consider issues such as various tax structures, capital gains implications, deciding between holding and selling, renting, cash flow issues, renovations, transferring property and international tax implications as well as tax minimisation.

Property tax can be a highly complex area and laws and regulations can vary widely from state to state. One of the rewarding challenges of providing specialist property tax advice is helping clients find viable and sustainable solutions to maximise their opportunities and return on their investment. Specialists in this area will enjoy liaising with people who are interested in asset and wealth creation, including high-net-worth individuals and wealth-creation institutions.

4. Corporate advice

The corporate tax path may be well trodden, but for good reason – there are many rewarding specialisations in the larger corporate arena, including audit, compliance, consultancy and advisory work, which can open up exciting opportunities for specialists working in this sector.

If you’re one to thrive when given the opportunity to share ideas and collaborate with your colleagues, large-scale corporate advisory work will often have you working cohesively in a team environment, often across multinational channels.

You’ll need an understanding of international corporate tax implications, as well as great time management and effective communication skills, as you’ll be communicating across different time zones with your firm’s offices around the globe. But be warned: late nights and early mornings may be required!

Stand out from the crowd

Tax is a dynamic profession and in order to provide great specialist advice, practitioners must remain up to date with the changing landscape. As a member of The Tax Institute you will be equipped to provide the timeliest practical and sound advice in the area of specialisation of your choice.

Led by tax experts to benefit tax experts, The Tax Institute is the only body in Australia devoted exclusively to tax, and when you join its 13,000-strong community of the most knowledgeable practitioners, you’ll gain access to powerful resources, progressive education and influential networks. the next step in your tax career with the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law 

Find out more

Friday, 9 October 2015

OECD releases final BEPS report

There is nothing like coming back to work after a long weekend and being hit with reams of OECD analysis on BEPS. Released right on schedule in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the BEPS package is comprehensive and historic. This body of work will make a significant contribution to the equity and coherence of our international tax rules and it is important that Australia remains in step with these measures.

There are a great number of recommendations in the package, some of which can now be considered at a domestic level. For example, the OECD's recommendations on Controlled Foreign Company rules have now been released, meaning that reform of these rules at home, which has been on the cards for some time, may now warrant further attention.

The OECD's recommendation on the definition of permanent establishment is not entirely consistent with the approach taken in the Bill that is currently before our parliament. In our view it is vital that this domestic measure is consistent with the OECD measure and that a multilateral approach is taken.

We strongly support the OECD's comment that one of the measures of success of the BEPS project will be if businesses do not have to comply with many different disclosure requirements or anti-avoidance measures, thereby reducing compliance costs. The measures currently on the table domestically are not consistent with this objective and in fact will likely contribute to an increase in compliance costs. Our submission to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, which is due to be lodged next week, will say as much.

The BEPS package is being presented to the G20 Finance Ministers in Lima, Peru today. We understand that Australia is being represented at these discussions by brand new Assistant Treasurer, The Hon Kelly O'Dwyer MP. The package will then be presented to the G20 leaders in Antalya, Turkey on the 15 and 16 November.

Let's hope the BEPS package receives the endorsement it deserves, and that all our papers jams on Tuesday morning were not in vain.

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.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

23rd National Tax Intensive Retreat speaker profile: Stephanie Caredes

Stephanie Caredes is Tax Counsel at The Tax Institute. Prior to joining The Tax Institute, Stephanie gained extensive experience in private practice advising on a wide range of federal and state taxation issues. Stephanie holds a Masters level degree in Law from the University of Sydney and is admitted as a Solicitor and Barrister in both the Supreme Court of New South Wales and High Court of Australia. She has also published a variety of articles and commentary in relation to taxation issues.

What is the topic you are presenting at the 23rd Annual Tax Intensive Retreat?

Tax Counsel Update with my colleague Thilini Wickramasuriya, FTI

What can attendees expect to learn from your session?

Attendees will hear all about the policy and advocacy the work gets involved in.

How will attending your sessions help delegates help their clients?

Delegates will be able to get an appreciation of all the tax changes constantly happening in tax law.

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

Spend quality time with family and friends.

Monday, 5 October 2015

2015 Tax Adviser of the Year Award judge: Arlene Macdonald CTA (Life)

I started my legal career in a small general legal practice in Adelaide’s CBD and then worked at the ATO in Adelaide for about 2 years including the old Appeals section.  I was promoted to Sydney as a Senior Investigation Officer at the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office (dealing with complaints against the ATO) and 8 years at the Australian Government Solicitor’s Office in the tax section, finally as Principal Solicitor.  I went to the Independent Bar in South Australia in 1996 specialising in tax and acting for both Commissioner and taxpayers in tax disputes and dealing with a wide range of other tax issues. I retired in 2013.

How long have you been affiliated with The Tax Institute?

I joined the Tax Institute in 1994

What does the Tax Awards mean to you, and more broadly, to the tax profession?

Tax law is often very difficult to understand and apply.  It is important to be committed to achieving and maintaining excellence in both knowledge and application and in being able to apply the law ethically and to explain clearly the relevant issues to clients, the ATO, peers and in some cases, AAT members or judges.  It is also vital that those with passion and ability share their tax knowledge generously with the profession.  The Tax Awards identify and recognise such excellence and professionalism and in so doing, highlight their importance and provide encouragement.

What are 5 main tips/tricks that you looked for in the application?
  • By far the most important aspect is that the applicant actually provides what is sought in the application form.   So for example, where the requirement is “to provide evidence” then it is important to do that and not merely make assertions.  One example is unlikely to be sufficient. It is often helpful to see very carefully edited advices (to fully protect privacy of clients).
  • Where the applicant (especially if still relatively junior) is relying on work done with others it is vital to explain the extent of the contribution by the applicant.  This may be done best by a supporting letter from the lead/main author.
  • Supporting letters from supervisor/manager/partner or others should be specific and as far as possible address the criteria in some detail.  It might be helpful for them to read the application so they are aware of the claims.  Usually they would also have something extra such as strength or an example (ie not in the application) to add.
  • The judge might be an accountant or lawyer.  The applicant should not assume the judge knows about their particular workplace (eg a Big 4 firm), for example whether promotions have been rapid or the type or level of work done at their position.

What do you look for in an application?
  • Satisfying the range of criteria including excellence in tax work appropriate to experience including ongoing tax training (and/or handing on knowledge if senior/skilful enough), leadership qualities shown in practice and unselfishness in voluntary tax professional involvement such as committee membership and/or presenting papers for Tax Institute.  This needs to go beyond simply furthering career or doing what might be expected by firm.
  • Clear evidence to support claims
  • Passion for tax
What are 4 main reasons to apply for the Tax Awards?
  • To further your reputation amongst clients and peers and senior staff if you are a finalist or winner of an award.
  • To step back for a short while from the normal hectic workload and think seriously about the factors that go towards being (or becoming) an excellent tax professional.
  • To show leadership in the profession.
  • To show you are serious about being (or becoming) an excellent tax professional.

Friday, 2 October 2015

OECD's package to reform international tax system

By the time you read this, we will have heard at least some of the outcomes from the snap ‘reform summit' the Prime Minister hosted yesterday in Canberra, from which we hope there is a clear indication of where the tax reform debate may next head.

For the latest, we have Roger Brake from the Treasury delivering the ‘inside perspective' on the Tax White Paper at our VIC 3rd Annual Tax Forum on 8 and 9 October. The Forum will be rounded out by a panel featuring the new Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Small Business, the Hon Kelly O'Dwyer MP, together with the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP. We encourage members interested in the tax reform debate and a broad range of CPD options to come along – just register here.

This coming Monday, the OECD will release the ‘BEPS package' to reform the international tax system to tackle tax avoidance. What is key here is how Australia responds to the package of recommendations, that is, which recommendations we will adopt into our own international tax system. The Tax Institute has consistently urged the Government to wait for these outcomes and then consider which of the recommendations to bring into our system. The release of the recommendations next week will mean Australia can now move on any international tax reforms that have stagnated pending the release of the OECD's BEPS package.

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.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

2015 Tasmanian State Convention speaker profile: Thilini Wickramasuriya

Thilini is a Tax Counsel with the Tax Institute.

What does 2015 Tasmanian State Convention mean to you, and more broadly, to the tax industry?

I attended the Tasmanian State Convention last year for the first time and it is a wonderful event not just because it brings together the tax practitioner community in Tasmania but also gives the opportunity for speakers from around Australia to visit Tasmania and contribute to the tax expertise of those practitioners.

What can attendees expect to take away from your session?

An update of the key tax reform issues on the horizon and what TTI is doing about them.

Which other sessions at the 2015 Tasmanian State Convention are you most interested in attending?

Panel discussion on the changing nature of the tax profession.

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

Watch arty films and eat yummy food.

Join us in Hobart for The Tax Institute's 2015 Tasmanian State ConventionIt is Tasmania's premier annual taxation event with an outstanding line up of speakers that are sure to educate and stimulate