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A day to remember


The Accountants Daily Strategy Day held in Sydney and Melbourne earlier this month served up a satisfying variety of information and ideas.

By Philip King 16 minute read

If a day listening to people on stage is your idea of a challenge, then this year’s Accountants Daily Strategy Day had a few answers. One involved a first-rate coffee cart while the other was a speaker list that in turn challenged, illuminated and inspired.

The first speaker set the tone by questioning the profession’s obsession with numbers. Andrew Van De Beek started his own practice, Illumin8, when he was just 26, and describes himself as founder and head of purpose.

“So I’m talking about this whole idea of X plus Y divided by Z or whatever the heck it is … who cares? We’re not accounting for purpose,” Mr Van De Beek said.


“A lot of what we do as accountants is pretty transaction-based. We take numbers, we put them in a box, we have receipts that we validate, we have lodgers to lodge, taxes to pay, budgets to manage.

“Why is it so transactional? When there is a person behind the transaction? A person with hopes, a person with dreams …”

He cited a study by the Society of Human Resource Management that revealed 94 per cent of Millennials want to use their skills to benefit a cause. Young people were concerned about global warming, immigration, equality and more, he said.

So he urged everyone to look at the people and the purpose first.

“We are here for more than just making money, paying taxes, all of us included, whether it’s our business or our clients. And a lot of people that I get to meet, are really starting to do something about this,” Mr Van De Beek said.

“So with all that in mind, I have to continue to ask the question, why are we still only talking about profit?”

Goodwill hunting

For the second speaker, senior manager tax policy at CPA Australia Elinor Kasapidis, goodwill is something accountants have in abundance – and the ATO has been taking advantage.

“The profession is doing so much of the heavy lifting and there isn’t any compensation, there isn’t any reprieve on other things they’re obligated to do,” said Ms Kasapidis.

“Tax practitioners and accountants are so trusted and make things much easier and cheaper for the government to implement, they are built into the design of programs without much thought as to the specific and cumulative impacts of every change on them.

“While it’s fantastic that the profession is so valued – and rightly so – it is important that they are supported by the ATO and other agencies, and receive government services that reduce their costs.

“The government might say, ‘Just pass on the cost or change what you do or just don’t help your clients’. But accountants are professionals and they’re committed to making things work.

“The Government is taking advantage of that. Accountants are being overwhelmed.”

Hunger games

If hunger pangs were starting to make the audience restless, then former footballer Mark Bunn, now a health, happiness and performance speaker, had some good news. If you only change one thing, he said, make lunch the main meal of the day.

And to take everyone there, he delivered an inspiring message that it is possible to rediscover the energy and enthusiasm of a five-year-old. He had been inspired by eastern traditions and believed we could learn a lot.

“I found they had a very rich wisdom of health habits … almost no incidence of heart disease, cancer, type two diabetes, osteoporosis, depression,” Mr Bunn said.

“I guarantee if you change just one or two little things in your daily routine, you can have significantly more energy, less stress, better motivation.”

As well as making a meal of lunch, Mr Bunn prescribed connecting to early morning sunlight, getting outdoors to “earth” ourselves every day, and exercise – even a walk will help.

And take a little time to decompress between the end of work and going back to the family.  

The power of the blog  

Healthier and better balanced after an indulgent lunch break – well, some at least – it was time to learn about marketing.

Practice + Pixels chief executive Tyson Cobb advised accountants to broaden their scope of “tactical” marketing opportunities and shift away from an excess reliance on social media.

“Accountants talk about their website ranking on Google or wanting to do lead generation on LinkedIn, which are effective mechanisms but they’re only a couple of very small pieces of the pie,” Mr Cobb said.

“They might have over 1,000 followers on LinkedIn, which is great, but what happens if LinkedIn shuts down tomorrow and you lose your 1,000 followers? What do you do next?

“But if you build a full-circle marketing function, there’s less risk involved. For example, if you’ve built a database that you continuously communicate with via email, you’re still keeping in touch with your large client base.”

Regular newsletters or blog updates was one way to take advantage of that contact database, although it was important to understand what clients wanted and identify patterns.

“Instead of answering questions every time each client asks them, answer them in an article or a blog post. That is more valuable to a larger volume of people,” Mr Cobb said.

Room with a review

Board member Judy Sullivan took on the challenging mid-afternoon slot with a look back at how the government responded to recommendations of the review into the TPB.

The review covered the appropriateness of the body, governance arrangements, how legislation supports the TPB and whether there were ways to improve it.

Of the 28 recommendations, the government supported 10 in full or in part, and 10 in principle.

“One of the most notable reform announcements was the view to enhance the independence of the TPB from the ATO,” she said.

“So they acknowledge that we really work in regulating the tax practitioners and the essential services that they give to the community, but they thought that greater independence would provide more confidence to the tax practitioner, that tax provision, and the TPB disciplinary actions, just to make sure that there was a real perception of the independence between the ATO and the TPB.”

Home and away

In practice, independence from the ATO came in the form of afternoon tea before the speaker many had been waiting for: acting deputy ATO commissioner Sylvia Gallagher.

For those who stayed the course, Ms Gallagher covered a huge amount of ground, from updates on the top 500 taxpayers to late lodgment rules. But two topics went to the mood of the moment: cryptocurrency and work-from-home claims.

She said by mid-February the ATO had processed nearly 11.9 million returns and issued almost 9.5 million refunds at an average of $2,700 each.

And the ATO was taking a special interest in WFH deductions with 4.1 million taxpayer claims already exceeding last year’s figure and a huge increase on 2019, when there were just 1.4 million.

“We’re noticing weird and wonderful claims where things don’t add up,” Ms Gallagher said. “We’ve seen claims for toilet paper, tea, coffee and biscuits because ‘if they’re provided at work then you should be able to have them at home’.

“We’ve seen people claim for the cost of hotel quarantine, because they have to quarantine and they have to work.

“Doggy daycare is another one. Someone didn’t actually want their dog at home because it’s too destructive, so they decided they were going to try to claim doggy daycare.

“And good old Ugg boots – who doesn’t love a pair of Ugg boots.

“Obviously, we didn’t accept any of those.”

Cryptocurrency would be another area of focus, Ms Gallagher said, as trades in digital coins leapt 64 per cent in 2021 as half a million Aussies bought, sold or exchanged.

“If you’re not already paying attention then you really should be,” she said, because the ATO had been using data matching on crypto since 2019 and had transaction records going back to 2014.

“We have a lot of information and we do use this data to ensure that people are meeting their tax obligations and there’s a level playing field.”

The Accountants Daily Strategy Day was held on 3 March in Sydney and 9 March in Melbourne. Partners included Intuit QuickBooks, ATOmate, Ignition, Accountancy Insurance, AuditCover, Dext and Paytron.

Philip King

Philip King


Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

You can email Philip on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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