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.



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