Architects welcome first step against cap on self-education expense deductions

The Australian Institute of Architects welcomes the deferral of the introduction of reforms to self-education expense deductions until 2015 as announced by federal Treasurer Chris Bowen today.

This is the first step by the government to resolve the unfortunate policy originally proposed by former Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, the Hon Wayne Swan MP on 13 April 2013, which would impose a $2000 cap on tax deductions for all work-related education expenses.

Institute CEO David Parken says ‘a 12 month deferral is a good first step by the government and will provide those opposing the cap additional time to develop accurate data on the negative effects of the policy’.

‘This cap will hurt many sectors of the economy through loss of productivity and many professionals will no longer be able to afford to keep their skills up to date. We believe economic modelling that is currently underway will reveal the devastating impact this policy could have.’

Scrap the Cap, an alliance comprising over 70 professional and industry organisations including the Institute, was formed in opposition to the proposal and has been proactive in its advocacy, meeting with government ministers and advisors in efforts to reverse the cap’s implementation.

‘The Institute remains committed to the Scrap the Cap Alliance and will continue to work with the group to coordinate our opposition to the proposed policy and are currently surveying our members to gather details on the real effect it would have on them, particularly in relation to undertaking Continuing Professional Development,’ Mr Parken said.

As an independent professional representative body for approximately 12,000 members nationally, the Institute believes the proposed reforms will negatively impact the professional development of the architecture industry and in turn the future quality of our built environment.

While the Institute supports sensible measures to address any ‘rorts’ under the current system we think the proposed cap is too blunt and doesn’t take into account the ‘public good’ derived from an individual’s investment (time and cost) in furthering their knowledge and skills in their chosen field.

The Institute has written to the federal government and the opposition, issued a media release and made a submission to the government’s consultation paper, where we have outlined our concerns about the proposed cap. We argued that it is imperative Australia continues to produce highly skilled, technically innovative architecture professionals that are internationally competitive, ensuring Australia’s contribution to the global economic and creative economies, and environmental sustainability. We pointed out that architectural practice, theory and research are continually evolving to meet the challenges posed by societal and climate changes.

Changes in technology, infrastructure, materials, and the rise in innovation, mean an architect by necessity must be multidisciplinary in both skills and scope. For example, architects undertake post professional study related to the practice of architecture including; urban design, sustainable development, urban policy and strategy, construction management, design innovation and environmental science.

We also pointed out that Australia has a rigorous system for accreditation of architects, incorporating (in most state jurisdictions) minimum continuing professional development requirements in order to retain registration as an architect. And in recognition of the importance of continuing education, the Institute has also introduced a new category of membership called A+, which requires a commitment to a minimum annual level of professional development be undertaken by all A+ members.

In addition, we are particularly concerned about the impact of these reforms on sole practitioners, small to medium practices, and practices located in rural areas where travel costs to access conferences are typically high. Typical costs for built environment-related conferences are in the range of $1500 excluding associated travel and accommodation, costs which increase greatly for rural and regional practitioners.