International Family Business Blog

My 50 Years in Tax

February 2013 marks 50 years since I commenced my career with the Australian Taxation Office in Sydney. I was straight out of high school in an era when if you did not achieve a university scholarship, it was necessary to find a job. 

My Tax Office experience helped shape the direction of my professional career because I was streamed into the international tax area, ultimately being tasked to set up the withholding tax unit in the Sydney Office when those taxes were introduced in 1968. When that task was completed I accepted an offer from what was then Price Waterhouse & Company to head up their Expatriate Tax Group. My professional career since then has been varies (see LinkedIn if you are interested in the details). 

I began my professional education presentation activities in 1975 with a paper on the taxation of trusts at a seminar in the Macquarie University Theatre. In 1992 I became a tax academic teaching university students, and continue to do so.

To a considerable extent I owe my skills and experiences to my various mentors, including: Ronald Gray Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Sydney; Charles Berg founding partner of Charles J Berg and Partners in Sydney; my tax teachers at UNSW Peter Fox and Jeff Sharpe; barristers Russell Bainton QC (later Justice Bainton of the Supreme Court of NSW) and Graham Hill QC (Later Justice Hill of the Australian Federeal Court); a number of international influencers including tax lawyers Sidney Roberts of Roberts & Holland in NY and John Avery-Jones of Speechly Bircham in London; and I also had the privilege of working closely with Australia's pe-eminent tax text editor Professor Robin Woellner for a number of years when he was appointed inaugural Dean of Law at the then UWS Macarthur.

I have been blessed with a most interesting career and professional life that despite the slings and arrows … has been mostly enjoyable. God willing, I will continue the good fight!

Australia's under-employed

The ABS Labour Force statistics for January reinforce the conclusion that our economy has a systemic underemployment problem.

The ABS release today states "Full-time employment decreased by 9,800 …and part-time employment increased 20,200". In layman's terms 9,800 FT jobs disappeared, but 20,200 new PT or casual positions were created.

Unfortunately, even if they are 'new' these casual positions have an economic downside. If the 'new' employees are breadwinners, their casual wage is unlikely to be counted as sustainable income for a mortgage. So the new jobs won't have a positive impact on new housing starts! If some of the 'new' positions have been taken by some of the 9,800 who lost their FT jobs, there will also be a negative impact on retail sales.

The average weekly hours worked has fallen from approximately 35.5 in January 1979 to approximately 32.5 in 2011. Over the same period, the percentage of FT workers fell from around 84% to around 70% (represents almost a doubling of the casual workforce). Meanwhile, the participation rate for the over 65s has doubled to 12% over the course of this century! (Glenda Kwek in The Age).

Clearly, the Australian workforce has been undergoing a major workforce casualisation process. I would suggest that this is a most inefficient utilisation of the available labour. When you add in the poor productivity in some sectors of the economy, not a good sign!

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