Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) and the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) have hit back at federal opposition leader Bill Shorten after he labelled the deductibility of the cost of managing tax affairs a rort.
Shorten made the comments in an interview with a national newspaper where he outlined his plans to limit the deductions for the cost of managing tax affairs to $3000, describing it as “one of the rorts we want to shut down”.
In a strongly worded response, CAANZ tax leader Michael Croker demanded an apology from Shorten on behalf of the body’s 120,000 members.
“You have reached the bottom of the political barrel when you are attacking not the people who are dodging tax, but the gatekeepers making sure Australians aren’t paying too much tax,” Croker said.
“Accountants are one of Australia’s most trusted professions and for a politician to kick off a campaign by attacking our integrity is, to say the least, a bit rich.
“That said, given we are exchanging free advice now, the political strategy of name-calling an entire profession is questionable and divisive.”
IPA chief executive Andrew Conway said Shorten’s comments were an attack on accountants and taxpayers who were paying their share of taxation.
“Labor’s views on this matter shows a lack of understanding about, and respect for, what it takes for an accountant to appropriately manage an individual’s tax affairs,” Conway said.
“It is not always a matter of a simple tax return; there may be many other factors associated with our highly complex tax system.”
Croker pointed out tax deduction expenses were not restricted to wealthy people, but also included “mums and dads going through one-off life events”, people with foreign income, and those going through a separation or divorce, as well as those looking to retire.
“My question to Mr Shorten is this: are they too all rorters? Do they not deserve a fair go? Hard-working accountants and their clients are very much looking forward to your answer,” he said.
Conway highlighted that the IPA supported the fact all Australians should pay their due share of tax, but should be able to access advice to ensure they were not overpaying.
“Labor’s proposed measure is genuinely and obviously a revenue grab. If you cap it at $3000 the likelihood of a person engaging appropriate tax advice is reduced,” he said.
“If you look at the people who are generally deserving of a tax deduction, based on this proposal, they would be unable to access it. This is not affecting the top end of town, it’s really affecting individuals, including small business owners.”
Croker said the criticism ran counter to policies put forward by the Labor Party.
“The ALP want to introduce sweeping negative gearing, franking credits, retirement and other tax increases, then attack the industry that ensures compliance,” he added.
“Australians deserve to seek the advice of their accountants and any party that stands in their way is not giving them a ‘fair go’.”