The 2017 great debate

Stephanie Caredes
written by Stephanie Caredes CTA *


On 16 August 2017, The Tax Institute held the 2017 great debate on the Australian tax system. This was a joint initiative of The Tax Institute and the Australian Tax Research Foundation.

The thought leader behind the debate was Senior Tax Counsel, Robert Deutsch. He selected key issues in our tax system and gathered tax professionals who are experts in their field to debate the merits of the following:
  • whether the current list of CGT events should be removed and replaced with a more coherent, conceptually based system
  • what the new rules could look like if all work-related deductions were abolished and provision was made for a one-off $1,000 annual deduction
  • what a simplified set of residency rules could look like for individuals and companies if the current rules were removed
  • what new rules could replace the CGT discount and negative gearing
  • changing the imputation system for a different model
  • whether the tax advantages for stapled securities should be ended
  • which categories of GST-free goods and services could now be excluded
  • whether the taxation of superannuation could be simplified, and if so, how.
The “real arguments” for and against a corporate tax rate cut were also explored.

The topics focused on key areas of Australia’s tax system and were hotly debated. The format of the day allowed the arguments to be put for and against the various propositions in a purer context than is usually available when stakeholders are responding to tax policy propositions.

Delegates were also able to question the debaters and proffer their own views on, and possible solutions to, the issues.

It is a rare circumstance where the merits of a policy proposition can be argued without an overarching aim of trying to achieve a particular outcome, usually to persuade the government towards one’s own views.

Feedback on the day from the delegates that I spoke with was that they very much enjoyed the event and are looking forward to the next one. It was a good opportunity to discuss and debate these issues freely.

The issues selected for debate on the day are just a starting point. There are many aspects of the tax system for which the merits of maintaining them should be debated in a public forum. It is only when they are highlighted and then debated by experts that we can test whether we have all the right elements in making the tax system as simple, efficient and transparent as it could be. We all know that we are far from that status and therefore there is much left to debate and discuss, all in the name of improving Australia’s tax system.

Another exciting announcement made at the event was that the Australian Tax Research Foundation will be awarding an annual research grant to an individual or a group of young tax professionals each year.

A publication from the materials of the event will also be published in the coming months under the banner of the Australian Tax Research Foundation. If you would like to stay informed, please contact taxpolicy@taxinstitute.com.au.


* Stephanie Caredes is The Tax Institute’s Tax Counsel. This article was first published in the October 2017 issue of the Institute’s member-only Taxation in Australia journal.

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