The Tax Institute’s role in the debate about high-level tax reform

Following on from last week, our constitution’s objects include the following:

“(a) [to] advance public knowledge and understanding of Taxation Laws, the practices of public authorities administering Taxation Laws and the attitude of Governments to Taxation Laws;

(d) encourage research into the reform of any Taxation Law …”

These objects are sufficiently broad to allow the Institute to contribute to debate about tax reform, and indeed contemplate that the Institute will contribute in some form or other to reforming the tax system. In addition, The Tax Institute has a long history of contributing to debate about tax reform (see, for example, Ken Spence’s President’s Report in the April 1998 issue of this journal, in which he committed the Institute to playing an important role in the tax reform process). My predecessor Steve Westaway also voiced the Institute’s concerns that the government was not following through on reforms recommended by the Henry Review.

Because of our historical involvement in tax reform debates and our position as the leading association for tax professionals, I think that most of our members (as well as the government and the ATO) expect The Tax Institute to contribute ideas and criticisms on tax reform.

I accept that we need to be careful about commenting about areas beyond our primary areas of expertise, but I think we would be letting down our members and the Australian public if we failed to advocate for reforms that we believe would benefit the Australian tax system.

Because we are often requested to provide submissions or comment on tax reforms within a short timeframe, the responsibility for formulating The Tax Institute’s position often falls on myself, the vice-president and the Tax Policy team. Our Tax Policy team has formulated a set of principles that guide them in preparing submissions and responding to requests for comment from the media. The full set of principles is only two pages long and can be found on the Institute’s website (website to come), but in summary the principles provide that any tax reform should promote a more efficient, equitable and simple tax system.

Where an immediate response is not required, The Tax Institute’s position is formulated after consulting our technical committees. We are currently revamping our technical committee structure to provide more opportunities for members to participate in preparing submissions. It is intended that the Institute will have a number of specialist committees (large business, GST, dispute resolution, superannuation, FBT and not-for-profit), as well as a generalist Technical Resource Committee. The Technical Resource Committee will cover any issues not covered by the specialist committees, particularly SME and tax practitioner issues, but will also be given the opportunity to contribute to the submissions being prepared by the specialist committees and will be comprised of the state-based technical committees. If you are interested in joining one of our technical committees, please do not hesitate to contact your state manager or the Tax Policy team.

The new government will be issuing a White Paper on tax reform later this year, so I expect the tax reform debate to reignite. The Tax Institute is committed to advocating reforms that promote our tax reform principles.

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.


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