Accounting professional bodies have pledged to work with the new government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on specific policies from the election but lamented the lack of ambition on fundamental tax reform.
Both CPA Australia and CA ANZ found elements of the Labor platform to praise although they also highlighted specific issues needing attention.
CPA Australia’s media and content chief Dr Jane Rennie said professional women had influenced Saturday’s (21 May) result – including an increasing number entering accounting – and it echoed their concerns.
“The election outcome will shift the dial on a number of issues which members tell us are important to them, such as climate change, sustainability reporting, and implementing a federal integrity commission,” she said.
The tax lead at CA ANZ, Michael Croker, said accountants would be able to help advise on one of Labor’s key election policies.
“CA ANZ supports the new Prime Minister’s goal to increase the availability and affordability of housing, particularly for low-income earners,” he said. “We welcome the opportunity to consult on the policies that can help achieve this objective.”
Another measure that would benefit from accounting input was the plan to legislate for a National Anti-Corruption Commission by the end of the year.
“Lobbying, financial decision-making and the collection and spending of public funds will come under additional scrutiny,” Mr Croker said. “The many CAs who work in federal government departments – already well versed in ethics and governance principles – are well placed to help with this initiative.”
Dr Rennie hoped the Labor government would resurrect an idea to help businesses get timely advice from accountants.
“While in opposition, the ALP committed to an advice voucher scheme. Although this didn’t get a mention during the election campaign, we’d like to see it back on the agenda at the earliest opportunity,” she said.
Dr Rennie also welcomed Mr Albanese’s commitment to protect universal superannuation in his victory speech – a remark that contrasted Labor’s housing affordability proposals with those of the Coalition – and was confident “it’s highly unlikely we will see any expansion of conditions for early access of superannuation under Labor”.
Mr Croker picked up on an issue that has stirred heated emotions in the tax community since it was released in February: the ATO’s draft ruling on trusts.
“The Labor Treasurer should also ensure his briefings from officials include the retrospectivity and other concerns by CA ANZ on the ATO’s contentious draft guidance on discretionary trust distributions,” he said.
“CA ANZ brought this issue to the attention of the new Assistant Treasurer Steven Jones prior to the election and note the comment to address the issues with the policy. This is a priority for our members.”
He expected Labor to unveil its first budget no later than October 2022 and was “encouraged” by incoming Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ assurances on budget repair and improving productivity.
“We look forward to seeing an honest, detailed conversation with the public, industry and interest groups on the challenges this poses and the types of decisions we will need to make in response,” he said.
However, both bodies said fundamental tax reform remained an issue that cried out to be addressed.
“Many CAs find it difficult to believe that tax reform can remain a policy-free zone given the nation’s debt and deficit situation and Labor’s plan to spend more on the key measures in its election platform,” Mr Croker said.
Dr Rennie said Labor had given “no indication” that it would pursue major tax reform but construction conversations should start.
“It would, however, be valuable for Labor to work with state and territory governments to build a tax reform agenda during this term,” she said.