THE Australian Parliament's House Tax and Revenue Committee review of the Australian Taxation Commissioner’s Annual Report for 2016–2017 is seeking final comments on the administration of Australia's tax system.

The committee’s annual review of the performance of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) tests ATO reportage against evidence from taxpayers, tax experts, professionals and agency scrutineers, such as the Australian National Audit Office. 

During the reporting period the ATO faced a series of setbacks. Major system outages occurred in late 2016, and again in February 2017. These were followed in May by Operation Elbrus revelations of alleged tax fraud.

Then, in April 2018, news reports on the ATO’s treatment of tax debt among several small and medium businesses, and its media response, brought out further criticism — including from the Inspector-General of Taxation.

Committee chair Jason Falinski MP said the ATO had been asked some tough questions during this review.

“With the inquiry drawing to a close, the committee now makes a final call to taxpayers and other stakeholders for feedback on ATO performance,” Mr Falinski said.

Topics of particular interest to the committee include the ATO’s fairness in management of tax debts and the dispute process, and the impact of IT transformation and platform issues — including blackouts for short durations.

Submissions should be lodged by Tuesday, October 9, 2018 on the committee’s website at www.aph.gov.au/taxrev or by contacting the committee secretariat on 02 6277 4821.

The 2017 Annual Report of the Australian Taxation Office is available at: www.ato.gov.au/About-ATO/Annual-report-2016-17/.

www.ato.gov.au

www.aph.gov.au

 

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BUREAUCRATS appear to be willing to sacrifice jobs in pursuit of negligible environmental gains. That is the claim of Lighting Council Australia acting CEO David Crossley on proposed and imminent changes to the National Construction Code.

Mrs Crossley, whose industry body represents lighting manufacturers in Australia, is arguing that changes to the National Construction Code aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions – from power used for lighting – were actually likely to decimate Australia’s successful lighting manufacturing industry. 

“The current proposal on the table will cause job losses and achieve very little in the way of energy efficiency benefits,” Mr Crossley said.

Lighting Council Australia has attacked the new draft of the National Construction Code, which, it claims, dramatically cuts the use of architectural and decorative lighting in new constructions and redevelopments.

Mr Crossley’s pointed comments come at a time when energy efficiency is a high priority for government, but he said the changes were ill-considered and warned that they will cost jobs.

“It looks like bureaucrats have dreamt up a new way of achieving a theoretical reduction in energy use, but they haven’t undertaken any assessment of the impact on industry,” Mr Crossley said.

He argued the sector currently provides 2,500 lighting manufacturing, design and engineering jobs.

“We’re running out of time to stop this disastrous policy from proceeding and we call for the Ministers with responsibility for building and construction issues to step up and rein in these bureaucrats who — despite the opposition of the three relevant peak bodies — have decided that it would be a good idea to sacrifice hundreds of highly-skilled jobs to achieve vanishingly little.”

Mr Crossley said the draft of the National Construction Code will be considered by the Building Codes Committee later this month and is expected to commence in July 2019.

www.lightingcouncil.com.au

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AUSTRALIA’s 80 gold medal-winning performances at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games are "set to be matched by a growth in the value of Australian gold exports" Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane has predicted.

“The projections are for Australian gold exports to reach $19 billion in 2019-20," Mr Macfarlane said. "During the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, our athletes have ensured we have kept most of the gold medals here in Australia. 

"The growth in jewellery, that accounts for almost half of global use of gold, is helping to drive growth,” he said.

Evolution Mining executive chairman Jake Klein backed up that prediction.

"Evolution is delighted to see so many elite athletes striving for and achieving gold at Queensland’s Commonwealth Games," Mr Klein said.

"Gold is awarded for the pinnacle of sporting achievement and, as Queensland’s largest gold producer, we have 700 Queenslanders across our sites striving to produce around 400,000 ounces of Queensland gold this year.”

In terms of the Queensland Resources Council’s Value of Production Index, gold is a positive contributor to the strong growth in resources to the Queensland economy.

“The Production Index has increased by $2.5 billion - or 17 percent - over the previous quarter," Mr Macfarlane said.

"We are also seeing growth in zinc, copper, lead, aluminium, gold and silver."

Mr Macfarlane said the Queensland resources sector provides one in every $6 in the Queensland economy, sustains one in eight Queensland jobs, and supports more than 16,400 businesses across the state "all from 0.1 percent of Queensland’s land mass".

Link to the Office of the Queensland Chief Economist report on gold.

www.qrc.org.au

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AMID a period of ‘tax talk crossfire’ between the major political parties, the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) is making urgent calls for the parties to bring robust and holistic tax reform to fruition.

“With the current, significant political banter, there is no doubt that the Federal Budget and next Federal election are looming closer,” IPA chief executive officer, Andrew Conway said.. 

“However, there seems to be an ‘old MacDonald had a farm’ ring to it all; with a tax cut here and a benefit loss there and no talk of total tax mix considerations, anywhere.

“There is no doubt that talk of company tax rate cuts and potential personal income tax reductions will be music to many ears; just as some touted measures such as the loss of cash refunds for excess dividend imputation credits and changes to negative gearing will sound alarm bells for some.

“However, Australia is missing the opportunity to get it right, in not allowing for a total overhaul of the tax system," Mr Conway said.

“The IPA is still advocating for the long promised and fading political memory of the Tax White Paper which was to explore the total tax mix and go beyond some of the shackles that constrained the Henry Tax Review.

“True reform needs to look at all aspects of taxation, including GST, and the need to eradicate nuisance taxes that exist at State and Federal level. 

“For example, payroll tax is an example of a tax that is counterproductive to economic growth; it acts as a disincentive to employment and does not motivate small entities to grow.  It should be removed. 

“We are asking the political parties to put aside rhetoric designed to attract votes from various sectors of the community and get on with the job of true reform to drive productivity and economic prosperity,” Mr Conway said..

publicaccountants.org.au

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THE FEDERAL Government is investing about $20 million in a Western Australia project producing lithium concentrate, an essential component in electric vehicles and battery storage.

The government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC)  is investing in the project located about 120km south of Port Hedland in Western Australia. The Pilgangoora open pit lithium mine will produce lithium concentrate that can support a full range of lithium products used in products such as lithium batteries. 

The CEFC’s investment in the project, led by Pilbara Minerals Limited, will help to finance the development of the Pilgangoora project.

A spokesperson said lithium was a vital component used in battery storage, which helps to support Australia’s increasing use of renewable energy.

“Increasing the supply of lithium will help to drive the uptake of clean energy technologies, such as electric cars and battery storage,” the spokesperson said. “This is the Turnbull Government’s first investment in a mining project of its kind in Western Australia and demonstrates our commitment to investing in clean energy technologies.”

Construction of the mine is expected to start in early 2018. The mine will provide direct employment in  the Pilbara region during the construction phase.

www.cefc.com.au

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THE Australian Retailers Association (ARA) said January 2018 trade figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) represent a timid post-Christmas trade, with a 2.09 percent total growth year-on-year.

ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said the ARA and Roy Morgan post-Christmas sales predictions were close to the actual post-Christmas trade results released today by the ABS. 

"The ARA and Roy Morgan release the only professionally researched retail predictions annually, and we are hopeful our post-Christmas forecast is in-line with the actual December and January trade results," Mr Zimmerman said.

"We predicted a 2.9 percent increase in post-Christmas trade, forecasting Australians to spend almost $17.9 billion from December 26, 2017 to January 15, 2018. As this forecast is over a three-week period the ARA and Roy Morgan will analyse these results against the December and January trade results to see if our predictions are on track.”

The strongest retail category in January was Other Retailing (3.22%), which was primarily driven by online retail which grew 3.23 percent year-on-year.

"The ARA and Roy Morgan predicted online retail to grow the strongest of all categories in post-Christmas trading, forecasting a 4.02 percent increase in post-Christmas trade,” Mr Zimmerman said.

"With the constant increase in online sales, we believe online retail will only grow even bigger as we continue to progress through the new year."

Unfortunately, Mr Zimmerman said, Newspapers & Books (-5.08%), Furniture (-2.43%), Footwear & Personal Accessories (-2.32%), Takeaway food (-0.95%) and Department Stores (-0.94%) all received negative figures in January.

"Although footwear is down at this point, we are hoping to see a pick-up in February’s retail figures as the back-to-school period was later than normal this year," Mr Zimmerman said.

"We believe furniture sales are lower than usual, partly due to the drop in the housing market and widespread pricing pressures for furniture retailers in Australia."

Across the country, Victoria (3.85%), South Australia (2.52%) and Tasmania (2.17%), showed the strongest year-on-year growth of all the states. While both New South Wales (1.84%) and Queensland (1.79%) remained steady, the Australian Capital Territory (0.44%) received minimal growth, and Western Australia (-0.27%) and the Northern Territory (-1.57%) received negative figures in January.

"With retail figures continuing to underperform, landlords need to understand how escalating rental costs affect an already struggling industry," Mr Zimmerman said.

The ARA claims current rental increases are unsustainable with rental prices increasing 5 percent on average, therefore retailers are looking for landlords to meet them halfway and shoulder some of the burden.

"The retail industry is struggling, and without retail landlords won’t survive, so we need support now," Mr Zimmerman said.

 

Monthly Retail Growth (December 2017– January 2018 seasonally adjusted)

Food retailing (0.01%), Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-0.69%), Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services (0.05%), Department stores (-0.57%), Other retailing (1.00%), and Household goods retailing (0.05%).

Queensland (0.42%), Western Australia (0.32%), Victoria (0.26%), Tasmania (0.31%), Australian Capital Territory (0.04%), South Australia (-0.61%), New South Wales (-0.22%) and Northern Territory (-0.50%).

Total sales (0.07%).

 

Year-on-Year Retail Growth (January 2017 – January 2018 seasonally adjusted)

Food retailing (2.56%), Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (0.43%), Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services (2.75%), Department stores (-0.94%), Other retailing (3.22%), and Household goods retailing (1.38%).

Victoria (3.85%), South Australia (2.52%), Tasmania (2.17%), New South Wales (1.84%), Queensland (1.79%), Australian Capital Territory (0.44%), Western Australia (-0.27%) and Northern Territory (-1.57%).

Total sales (2.09%).

About the Australian Retailers Association:
Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association, representing the country’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As Australia’s leading retail peak body industry, the ARA is a strong pro-active advocate for Australian retail and works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has launched an inquiry into access to justice for small business.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said small business operators were at the wrong end of a power imbalance in dealings with big business and governments. 

“Consumer protections don’t always apply to small businesses, who have limited options in seeking resolution,” Ms Carnell said.

“There are mediation services provided by my office and state Small Business Commissions, but if the dispute can’t be mediated it starts to get expensive.

“The current legal system puts small business in no man’s land.

“The court system is expensive and takes a lot of time. If there are two things that small business operators don’t have it’s time and money.”

Ms Carnell said the Federal Government’s new one-stop shop to deal with banking disputes, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), was a positive step.

But AFCA is an industry-funded scheme and won’t be able to deal with non-financial matters.

“That’s why I’m launching an inquiry into how we can improve access to justice for small business in disputes with big business and governments,” Ms Carnell said.

The first phase of the inquiry will examine:

  • The nature and incidence of small business disputes in Australia, identifying patterns and trends;
  • The level of awareness of options available to small businesses, particularly alternative dispute resolution;
  • Actions taken by small businesses when faced with a dispute;
  • Reasons for decisions made throughout the dispute resolution process, and
  • Developments and trends in similar jurisdictions overseas.

“Our starting point is to research the current situation by talking with academics, legal experts and mediation services,” Ms Carnell said.

“Early next year we’ll survey small businesses and any business operator who’s interested will be able to participate.

“I’m particularly interested to learn more about overseas experiences. If there are practical models elsewhere that work we’d like to evaluate them for potential application in Australia.”

Ms Carnell said a discussion paper would be released by the middle of 2018 to summarise the research and propose policy options.

Public comment will be invited on the paper.

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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