Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Australian Centre for Tax System Integrity, a joint undertaking of the Australian Taxation Office and Australian National University, has revamped its web site. New Australian Centre for Tax System Integrity Web Site

The massive corporate wave of crime, fraud and abuse rolls on, is undeterred by regular exposes in the business media itself. My favorite corporate crime journal (aka the Wall Street Journal) is a daily newspaper that never runs out of material. a daily newspaper that never runs out of material

Invisible Hands & Markets: New Perspective Toward Auditing Firms
The outside accounting firm is one of the four key gatekeepers. The sentries to the marketplace are: the auditors who sign off on companies' financial data; the lawyers who advise companies on disclosure standards and other securities laws requirements; the research analysts who warn investors away from unsound companies; and the board of directors responsible for oversight of company management.
Sentries of Risk Management ; [The clarity of former tax lawyers like Robert H. Jackson, Harry Blackmun, and Sumner Redstone shows that -- far from being a bunch of crazies speaking in tongues -- tax law represents just the opposite. Much of tax practice consists of trying to find logical definitions of ordinary English words (such as "sale" and "ownership"); and tax tries to root those definitions in the concerns of actual transactions Tax thinking boils a transaction down not to labels but to who gets what why, and it forces you to examine where and how it says that ]
• · Crime may not pay, but blowing the whistle on companies that swindle the government sure can. Jim Alderson got $20 million in one settlement and split $100 million with another whistleblower in a related case, both involving Medicare fraud by the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain and a company it acquired Blowing the whistle can bring big bucks; [Move On, Evil Conspiracy Theorists -- Nothing to See Here! ]
• · · Americans have always hated taxes. And for good reason. There’s a fine line between legitimate taxation and the abuse of power Giving Thanks
• · · · When liberals in the media or in politics start being alarmed about the national debt, it means just one thing: They want higher taxes. The thought of reducing spending would never cross their minds A taxing experience
• · · · · Are You Paying Yourself Enough?
• · · · · · Only the little people pay taxes: How much will the government's crackdown on tax shelters affect ordinary companies? More than you think

Read, every day, something no one else is reading (such as Cold River - smile). Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.
-Christopher Morley, American Novelist, Journalist, Poet (1890-1957)

What better spirit of Christmas than to continue giving year-round? That's part of the idea of the richest 31-year-old in history, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, as he gives away $10 billion dollars Christmas Gifts Year-Round

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Like most readers I follow a good writers wherever they happen to show off their ideas. Brian Toohey of the National Times fame has many features these days with the Australian Financial Review (sub reg req) Yesterday between watching my daughter swim with the squad team and run at the Athletic center, I managed to digest Brian's analysis in relation to Australia's tax policy and the challenges of the ageing population ... (If the author permits I will get some extracts on the web next week)

Invisible Hands & Markets: The Taxing Art of Seeing and Being Seen
Robert Deutsch, professor of law in the Atax Program at the University of NSW, designed a couple of tax modules which I successfully completed couple of years ago. (ATAX recently received a reseach funding to look seriously at the complexity of the tax law.) Anyway, he recently wrote a longish essay (extracts follow):
We need genuine simplification, not just another half-hearted effort, writes Robert Deutsch.
Now that the Prime Minister is safely ensconced in The Lodge with total control of both the house and the Senate it may be time for the coalition government to revisit the periodically recurring theme of tax simplification.
But this time, what needs to be examined is real robust and fundamental simplification rather than the cosmetic pale imitation that has been embraced in the past eight years.
Anyone who believes that genuine simplification has been part of the tax agenda since 1996 has not had a serious look at the tax legislation that has emanated from our federal parliament under various optimistic but misleading titles such as A New Tax System (Simplification) Bill.
This has largely been a "smoke and mirrors" affair that has simply served to rearrange the deckchairs by moving around different parts of the act, renumbering (eg. section 25 becomes section 6-5 and section 51(1) becomes section 8-1 etc) and hoping the outcome will help the average man in the street. Cosmetically, we feel better but little has actually been achieved.
Worse, new legislation such as consolidations (even the name is a turn-off to anything but a complex mind) is drafted in an allegedly simplified fashion that not even tax experts seem to understand.
A case in point is the foundation principle of consolidations, the so-called single entity rule, which sounds simple treat subsidiary companies as if they are parts of the parent company rather than separate entities.
Sounds like a reasonable idea except that in practice we (being the so-called tax experts) don't know exactly what this means and to help us the Australian Taxation Office has had to develop rulings and determinations to help explain how it thinks it works. Whenever that happens you can be certain that the answers are not simple since the ATO rarely rules on simple issues.
The solution to all this is to stop fiddling at the edges and to go directly to the heart of the tax system and introduce major reform. This should, at a minimum, focus on the following possibilities....
* Top rate of 30 per cent on all income and capital gains.
CGT concessions for long-term assets but existing small business CGT concessions removed.
* Standard deduction (10-15 per cent) for every taxpayer.
Strict reporting and compliance for those claiming more.
All tax offsets other than imputation credits eliminated.
* All GST exemptions bar health, education and exports eliminated.
* FBT rate cut to 30 per cent with simpler motor vehicles regime.
* Superannuation surcharge and all tax on super earnings eliminated; super payments taxed at 30 per cent.

Cosmetic change no solution to tax maze 11/11/2004
• · · The level and composition of taxation in Australia and the OECD How highly taxed are we? (PDF)
• · · · Dangers of Pure monopolies: The answer to our taxi problem is ... wait for it
• · · · · President Bush kissed Condoleezza Rice on the cheek last week after nominating her for secretary of state. Later, he laid a quick lip plant on Margaret Spellings, his choice for secretary of education Is the workplace kiss always remiss?
• · · · · · Howard’s appointments as departmental heads reflect a changing attitude to the Public Disservice ; [Rank and file election NSW Public Service Association ]

Thursday, November 25, 2004

We are direct beneficiaries of the economics lesson the pilgrims learned in 1623 Real Thanksgiving Lesson

Invisible Hands & Markets: But Enough About You: Bad Tidings
Income tax is the single biggest expense in all households, followed by food, transport and housing costs, a new 20-year report shows.
Only a third of households spent money on life insurance or superannuation, while ... almost half of all households spend money most weeks on gambling.
A third of households spend money on tobacco (and) 60 per cent spend money regularly on alcohol.
About 15 per cent of households regularly spend more money each week than they earn while a third are able to save money most weeks.
Mothers are the breadwinners for Australian families more than ever before, but most people still think children should be a woman's top priority.

Income tax: Australian families' biggest expense; [Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Sunday that "accountability will be carried out" against whoever slipped a provision into an omnibus spending bill that would have allowed two committee chairmen to view the tax returns of any American ]
• · Using tax dodges that range from perfectly legal to dubious, wealthy boat owners are enlisting the aid of the federal government to keep their luxury yachts on the water Three-part series on tax breaks for luxury yachts
• · · Illinois Judicial Campaign Money Sources of donations in high court race can’t be traced
• · · · Church. Monarchy, State. By the end of the century, the corporation had become the world's dominant institution; [Taking the Trouble to Research Your Market]
• · · · · Simon Castles So many souls drowning in the cult of the individual
• · · · · · WHETHER you want to set up a business, pay that overdue parking fine or even book tickets to Mamma Mia, you now only need to remember one website: www.gov.sg ; [Sydney Magazine SMH December issue touches on what could be done better in Sydney: In this context, czech out Reengineering citizen service delivery in Brisbane Public Sector Technology & Management Magazine ]

Monday, November 22, 2004

Marc Faber has published three interesting pieces on historical asset bubbles The South Sea Bubble and Law's Mississippi Scheme

Invisible Hands & Markets: Convict nation: The Unkindest cuts of all
Australia still hasn’t shaken the image that we are a nation of criminals, an unfair label we have carried since our foundation as a penal colony. Australia’s homicide rate remains relatively stable at 1.9 murders per 100,000 people, a rate similar to other industrialised nations such as Sweden, France and Canada, and far below South Africa’s frightening rate of 50 murders per 100,000, or the United States’ 5.6 murders per 100,000.
While Australians don’t murder each other very often, (thank God) we don’t seem to have much shame in assaulting one another. The number of assault cases increased by 40% between 1996 and 2002, and assault makes up a staggering 80% of crimes reported. An aggressive male culture which permeates throughout much of Australian society hasn’t helped this fact.
Despite Australia’s low homicide rate, we poll highest with regards to the number of people who have been victims of crime.

• Source: IBISWorld Australia Newsletter, October 2004 It seems as if Australia’s convict heritage is as strong today as it ever was [Shel Silverstein's famous fable - The Giving Tree - It happens to everyone who gets married, at least, it seems, everyone in my generation. You get Corningware—never enough You get advice—always too much. You save a piece of wedding cake and see it survives a year in your freezer—it rarely does ...]
• · Speaking of Death, good tax policy dictates that the replacement revenue source ought to be the most equitable tax available. Scholars, most economists, many lawyers, and others agree that a progressive income tax is the most equitable. It may not be the most efficient, which suggests that revenue needs to be sourced among multiple taxes A Bad Tax Idea Keeps Breathing ; [Killing the Geese]
• · · ATO and its Youthful staff have released a whole range of information about many basic tax matters, including: Special tax rules for under-18s ; [So Teresa Heinz Kerry releases part of her 2003 tax return and immediately questions jump out Would We All Like This Tax Rate? ]
• · · · People looking for venture capital money will call anything small nanotechnology You cannot, strictly speaking, baptize a technology, for it has no soul. But you could say that something like that rite of passage occurred last Monday
• · · · · Liliana Molina: Accountant deficit hits city: The shortage of accountants in Brisbane is becoming critical; [Social Capital Measurement and Consequences; Deirdre McCloskey [pdf] The Secret Sins of Economics ]
• · · · · · According to Oil & Gas Journal, there's more trouble ahead. Ken Lyne explains why: I notice the moccasins I'm wearing on this cold, wet day. They say 'L.L. Bean' but they also say 'Made in China.' The sole is rubbery plastic, made from petroleum. The sheepskin was boated in from Australia... Like the Second Coming of Christ

Monday, November 08, 2004

While my Apple is being built again, I am digesting lots of trees and paperbacks. Blogosphere is also very actively creating stories and analysis...

Ken Parish gathers posts from various bloggers such as Chris Sheil and Don Arthur who are trying to make sense of the Amerikan elections Land of the Free

Closer home Car chases take a brutal toll: 21 young lives snuffed out Dangerous Pursuits

John Grisham would have struggled to come up with the saga of Jeff Shaw's missing blood sample as Boilermaker Bill McKell explains

Neil Mitchell stole from kids with cancer. His crime shows how easy it is to commit fraud in Australia Art of the Con