The past, present and future of tax advocacy

by Noel Rowland *

When Harold R Irving and Clarence Montague Orr met at 11c Castlereagh Street, Sydney, on 16 July 1943 to establish the entity now known as The Tax Institute, their intention was to create a specialist organisation that would represent the interests of registered tax agents.

This organisation, first known as the Institute of Registered Tax Agents, became The Taxation Institute of Australia in 1946. For more than 70 years, it has supported tax professionals and has advocated on their behalf for improvements to tax policy and administration.

Over the decades, we have drawn on our members’ practical views and experiences to generate, articulate and promote strategies that will enhance the development and administration of tax law for the benefit of the system, the community and the national economy.

The Tax Institute has contributed to the debate on every major item of tax reform since 1943. The Institute’s president participated in the Tax Summit during the years of the Hawke Government in the 1980s. We provided input into business tax reforms and GST implementation during the Howard/Costello years, the Rudd Government’s 2020 Tax Forum and, more recently, the Abbott/Turnbull Governments’ reform agendas. We were also involved in the major reviews of the tax system undertaken by Asprey (1975), Ralph (1999) and Henry (2010).

A unique perspective

The Tax Institute is unique. We enjoy an enormous breadth in terms of our member’s experience and expertise, which includes the perspectives of lawyers, accountants, advisers, academics, policy developers and public servants. Many of these professionals are in public practice, or they advise businesses and individuals, and they understand the practical impact of tax laws and administration.

This gives us a broad array of expert viewpoints to consider when formulating our advocacy stance on any issue.

For example, 17% of our 12,000 members work in an in-house corporate role. Therefore, if any stakeholder wishes to understand the potential impact of new legislation or regulations from an in-house corporate tax perspective, the Institute is invariably the best organisation for them to speak with. Likewise, we also serve as an outstanding repository of views from advisers to small businesses or to high net worth individuals.

Senior tax counsel appointment

In this context of representing our members’ views, I welcome the recent appointment of Professor Robert (Bob) Deutsch as The Tax Institute’s new senior tax counsel.

He now leads the Institute’s tax policy and advocacy activities, positioning the Institute as a leading authority with government, the Australian Taxation Office, Treasury and other relevant bodies, as well as with the media and Institute members. His responsibilities also include leading the technical development and delivery of the Institute’s education program.

Bob brings to his new position an exceptionally strong tax technical knowledge and a broad expertise in stakeholder management, media and strategic thinking. He has been a deputy president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and, for over 20 years, he was a Professor in Taxation Law with the University of New South Wales. While he specialises in taxation matters, with a special emphasis on international tax, his time with the AAT has required extensive involvement in corporate law, social security and immigration matters.

In addition, Bob has experience as a solicitor with a major national law firm, as an independent barrister, and as a director with a major accounting firm. He has written widely in his fields of specialisation, as well as in the area of financial statements, and is an ongoing contributor to the highly successful Thomson Reuters Australian Tax Handbook. He is also a regular conference presenter for a number of organisations, including The Tax Institute and the University of New South Wales.

Bob’s deep expertise in both tax practice and tax education, developed over many years at the highest levels, gives him a perspective that will enable him to represent the Institute widely, for the ultimate benefit of members.

The future of advocacy

The senior tax counsel appointment will help The Tax Institute to continue advocating actively on behalf of tax professionals.

In this way, we will stay true to the vision of Harold Irving, who believed the Institute’s role was to help tax professionals “provide better and more useful and beneficial service to their clients in commerce and industry” as “the ramifications and complexities of our taxation laws, and their administration” become “increasingly burdensome.”

Our members can be reassured that we will argue for holistic tax reform in Australia, not just a tinkering around the edges of the system. We will also advocate strongly for reducing system complexity.

In addition, we will continue representing our members in relation to tax administration issues, particularly by leading and supporting them through the move to the ATO’s “digital by default” strategy.

Through 2017 and beyond, the work of the Institute on behalf of tax professionals will be more essential than ever.

Noel Rowland is The Tax Institute's Chief Executive Officer.


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