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Innovate or Perish! Australia’s Innovation System

La Trobe University Professor of Practice in Economics, Dr Mark Cloney, questions popular reports that Australia performs badly in industry-university collaboration and innovation when compared to other OECD countries.

If Australia’s current innovation policy is based on questionable OECD data might the Australian Government run the risk of targeting scarce resources into the wrong areas as it prepares its strategic plan for Australian Innovation to 2030?

Concerns over the performance of Australia’s innovation system caused the Australian Government to undertake a Senate Inquiry (2014) and then flag innovation as a major policy focus when it announced its $1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda (Commonwealth of Australia, 2015). A central element of that policy statement was to substantially increase university-industry collaboration on the basis that such alliances internationally have become a prominent feature of the knowledge-based economy, dealing with the speed of transformation and economic disruption.

Australia, like the rest of the global economy, is facing significant structural change in the coming decades which offers both challenges and opportunities. Some suggest 40 per cent of today’s jobs will no longer exist in 10 years and that changing technology (robotics and artificial intelligence etc.) and new business models will continue to disrupt ‘old’ business processes and structures. Others say that this same disruption will also create new growth markets.

So is Australia’s innovation glass half full or half empty?

One strategy in meeting challenges and opportunities is adopting continuous innovation and the uptake of innovative skills and technologies. Continual innovation results in new markets, mindsets, skills and organisational re-design which are critical drivers of productivity and growth.

According to Universities Australia (2017), universities are central to skilling and upskilling the next generation of Australian entrepreneurs and startups and thereby improving Australia’s innovation system and sustainable growth. Its research finds that more than four in five Australian startups founders are university graduates (Universities Australia, 2017, p.3) and that startups were the largest contributor to job creation in Australia in the last decade (Universities Australia, 2017 p.8).

As suggested, the health of Australia’s innovation system still remains subject to conjecture and contrasting opinions with, for example, Australia is sitting at the bottom of OECD (2015) rankings in terms of university-industry collaboration. Moreover, according to Global Innovation Index (2017), Australia slid further down the world rankings in terms of innovation inputs and outputs from 19 to 23 in the latest world rankings among 127 countries (Cornell University, INSEAD, and WIPO, 2017). However, is this really the case?

A report by IP Australia challenges the notion that Australia is at the bottom of the OECD university-industry collaboration index arguing that this finding is based on questionable data selection. For example, when you focus on patent applications filed by an Australian university with a collaborator (business partner) Australia moves to the middle of comparable international tables (IP Australia, 2017).

The city of Melbourne, home to nine universities, was recently named as the ‘most intelligent community’ in the world at the Intelligent Community Forum in New York in June 2017. Based on six intelligent community indicators the New York think tank pointed to Melbourne’s broadband speed, research institutions, new innovation precincts and its focus on sustainability as its major strengths.

The challenge seems to be that Australian universities specialise in innovative research to answer fundamental questions, while businesses have specialist skills in commercialising and implementing products, services and ideas. However, university research can be often disconnected from the innovative needs of business (e.g. startups and SMEs) and not-for-profits.

So is there a disconnect? If so, why the disconnect? Or, are we doing better than we think?

Our National Innovation Forum on September 28 and 29 in Melbourne features  Dr Benjamin Mitra-Kahn, Chief Economist at IP Australia, and Dr Charles Day, CEO of the Office of Innovation and Science Australia. They will explore the current health of Australia’s innovation system. The Forum also presents industry and academic perspectives on how we can continue to improve innovation through university-industry collaboration and engagement, particularly for startups and small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through the use of business accelerators and incubators.

No doubt the forum will shed some more light on whether Australia’s innovation glass is indeed half full or half empty, and where the Australian government may choose to target its resources to achieve its 2030 vision for Australian Innovation.

National Innovation Forum: Call for Best Practice Case Studies


For more information on the forthcoming LBS Northlink National Innovation Forum, see the conference website.

The focus of the LBS/NORTH Link National Innovation Forum is on delivering international and national speakers, and case studies, of successful university-industry collaboration, including examples of business incubators and accelerators. It is an opportunity to engage with industry and government perspectives on how we can continue to improve university-industry interactions and engagement, particularly for startups and SMEs in the Australian context.

We are now calling for case studies on the themes of the Forum. Case studies will be reviewed by the Forum academic panel, and those accepted will be made available to Forum participants. The best two case studies will be selected for presentation in a session at the Forum.

The deadline for submissions of abstracts is Monday 28 August 2017. A template is available via the corresponding Eventbrite page. Please submit the case studies through the online submission form.

If you have any questions, please contact Tim Marjoribanks.

Forum Themes

  • The role of incubators, accelerators and TTOs (Technology Transfer Offices) in facilitating sustained university-industry innovation and engaging startups and SMEs
  • Understanding the global forces shaping opportunities for business innovation (including for startups and SMEs) over the coming decade
  • Business perspectives on enablers and barriers to university-industry collaboration
  • Developing innovative ecosystems and facilitating their leadership and coordination
  • Regulation and legal framework of the innovation ecosystem (patent law, licensing, federal and state jurisdictions and university policies)
  • The economic, political and societal framework in which businesses and universities operate (incentives, competitiveness, regulation, competition policy, innovation and technology policy)

Important dates

  • Monday 28 August for case study submissions
  • Friday 1 September acceptance notification to successful authors
  • 27/28 September National Innovation Forum

Background

The Federal Government flagged innovation in Australia as a major policy focus with its $1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda in November 2015. A central element of the statement was to substantially increase university-industry collaboration on the basis that such alliances have become a prominent feature of the knowledge-based economy, dealing with the speed of transformation, and economic disruption. The statement also recognised that Australia lags behind university-industry partnerships internationally and in translating research into commercial outcomes (i.e. innovation efficiency).

 

Innovate or Perish! – Australia’s Innovation System


For more information on the forthcoming LBS Northlink National Innovation Forum, see the conference website. Early Bird tickets available until 31 August 2017.

Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice, Economics

Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice, Economics

LBS Professor of Practice in Economics, Dr Mark Cloney, questions popular reports that Australia performs badly in industry-university collaboration and innovation when compared to other OECD countries.

Australia, like the rest of the global economy, is facing significant structural change in the coming decades which offers both challenges and opportunities. Some suggest 40 per cent of today jobs will no longer exist in 10 years and that changing technology (robotics and artificial intelligence etc.) and new business models will continue to disrupt ‘old’ business processes and structures. Others say that this same disruption will also create new growth markets. So is Australia’s innovation glass half full or half empty?

One strategy in meeting challenges and opportunities is adopting continuous innovation and the uptake of innovative skills and technologies. Continual innovation results in new markets, mindsets, skills and organisational re-design which are critical drivers of productivity and growth. According to Universities Australia (2017), universities are central to skilling and upskilling the next generation of Australian entrepreneurs and startups and thereby improving Australia’s innovation system and sustainable growth. Its research finds that more than four in five Australian startup founders are university graduates (Universities Australia, 2017, p.3) and that startups were the largest contributor to job creation in Australia in the last decade (Universities Australia, 2017 p.8).

However,  the health of Australia’s innovation system remains subject to conjecture and contrasting opinions with, for example, Australia sitting at the bottom of OECD (2015) rankings in terms of university-industry collaboration. Moreover, according to Global Innovation Index (2017), Australia slid further down the world rankings in terms of innovation inputs and outputs from 19 to 23 in the latest world rankings among 127 countries (Cornell University, INSEAD, and WIPO, 2017). Is this really the case?

A report by IP Australia challenges the notion that Australia is at the bottom of the OECD university-industry collaboration index arguing that this finding is based on poor data selection. For example, when you focus on patent applications filed by an Australian university with a collaborator (business partner) Australia moves to the middle of comparable international tables (IP Australia, 2017). Moreover, the city of Melbourne, home to nine universities, was recently named as the ‘most intelligent community’ in the world at the Intelligent Community Forum in New York in June 2017. Based on six intelligent community indicators the New York think tank pointed to Melbourne’s broadband speed, research institutions, new innovation precincts and its focus on sustainability as its major strengths.

Concerns over the performance of Australia’s innovation system caused the Federal Government to undertake a Senate Inquiry (2014) and then flag innovation as a major policy focus when it announced its $1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda (Commonwealth of Australia, 2015). A central element of that policy statement was to substantially increase university-industry collaboration on the basis that such alliances internationally have become a prominent feature of the knowledge-based economy, dealing with the speed of transformation and economic disruption.

The challenge seems to be that Australian universities specialise in innovative research to answer fundamental questions, while businesses have specialist skills in commercialising and implementing products, services and ideas. However, university research can be often disconnected from the innovative needs of business (e.g. startups and SMEs) and not-for-profits.

So is there a disconnect? If so, why the disconnect? Or, are we doing better than we think?

LBS in partnership with NORTH Link is exploring these questions at its National Innovation Forum to be held over September 28 – 29, 2017 at its Bundoora Campus. The Forum offers a unique opportunity not only to hear from recognised national and international thinkers and business leaders on the topic of innovation and university-business collaboration but to also engage with them in Q&A. Two of the speakers, Dr Benjamin Mitra-Kahn, chief economist at IP Australia, and Dr Charles Day, CEO of Office of Innovation and Science Australia, will explore the current health of Australia’s innovation system in some detail. The Forum also presents industry and academic perspectives on how we can continue to improve innovation through university-industry interactions and engagement, particularly for startups and small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) through the use of business accelerators and incubators.

The Forum will no doubt provide new insights on whether Australia’s innovation glass is indeed half full or half empty.

References:

Commonwealth of Australia (2015), National Innovation & Science Agenda: Welcome to the Ideas Boom, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Cornell University, INSEAD, and WIPO (2017), The Global Innovation Index 2017: Innovation Feeding the World, Ithaca, Fontainebleau, and Geneva.

IP Australia (2017), Australian Intellectual Property Report 2017, Commonwealth of Australia (https://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/ip-report-2017).

OECD (2015), OECD Innovation Strategy 2015: An Agenda for Policy Action, October 2015.

Universities Australia (2017), Startup Smarts: Universities and the Startups Economy, University Australia, March, universitiesaustralia.edu.au

Innovative Teaching is Rewarded

At La Trobe Business School, Teaching Awards and Teaching Support Staff Awards in our College reflect the extent to which our academics are able to make a real difference to student satisfaction and experience.  This year, there were five College Teaching Awards: LBS staff picked up three of the five awards in total.  In addition to the College Academic Staff Teaching Awards, the College also recognises the important role tutors and casual teaching support staff play in supporting academics to deliver a quality student experience. This year LBS staff picked up two of the four awards made.

Winners of the teaching awards were:

Peter Matheis (Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Marketing) for developing effective, engaging and innovative approaches to student learning and collaborative teaching initiatives in Marketing through blended flip-class room designs and resource curricula development

Esin Ozdil (Accounting and Data Analytics) for implementing diverse and timely formal and informal evaluation techniques that improve teaching and enhance students learning experience and engagement in different subject delivery modes

Seema Miglani and Biserka Siladi (Accounting and Data Analytics) for the development and delivery of a multi-campus, third year core subject using blended-learning technologies and resulting in improved levels of students’ satisfaction and understanding of real-word issues of auditing and assurance.

Winners for the Teacher Support Staff  category were:

Muhammad Saqib Manzoor (Economics & Finance) for the effective development of learning materials and co-developing assignments that engage and stimulate students as reflected by the high students satisfaction scores

Saedi Khosroshahi (Economics & Finance) for stimulating the students’ curiosity, encouraging critical thinking and promoting effective communication.

 

LBS’s Angela McCabe’s research project features on Clarivate Analytics State of Innovation website!

LBS lecturer Dr Angela McCabe

Recently, La Trobe Business School Lecturer in Management, Dr Angela McCabe’s research project has been featured as a case study on the Clarivate Analytics (formally Thomson Reuters)– State of Innovation Website. The article also features Angela’s colleagues from University of Melbourne and INSEAD.

Clarivate Analytics is a leading provider of intellectual property and scientific information, decision support tools and services that drive Innovation for governments, academia, publishers, corporations and law firms as they discover, protect and commercialize new ideas and brands. The State of Innovation website highlights research projects featuring Clarivate data.

Dr Angela McCabe summarized her research project as follows:

Our research examines climate change research from the perspective of management studies, to clarify the communicative and evaluative dynamics by which research spreads and diffuses across disciplines. We seek to examine how the metrification of the sciences facilitates ‘evaluative tournaments’ that act as de facto ‘arbiters of truth’ in the realm of climate change. We examine how evaluative tournaments — represented by practices such as rankings, impact factors and citation scores — accord greater value to one understanding of climate change over another. In our analysis we are drawing on a custom dataset provided by Clarivate Analytics comprising over 3500 climate change articles published in Nature and Science from 1980 to today.

Access the full case study on the Clarivate Analytics website.

National innovation forum: Innovate or Perish?

In a world that is more connected than ever, how can we create sustainable bonds between universities, business and not for profits? All with a view towards creating a more mature innovation culture and ecosystem.

The missing ingredient to growth is the ability to think outside the box – to innovate. For many businesses’ it’s safer inside the box. But when you’re constricted by the four walls of a box you can’t truly grow.

The demands of day to day operations of many SMEs and not-for-profits exclude them from maximising the benefits of innovative. Most are doing everything they can to maximise profits or fundraising, and minimise costs.

Universities, on the other hand, exist outside the normal parameters that can inhibit business growth. As such Universities have the potential to break the walls of the box, let in the light and build the links to create innovative businesses.

This is why, as a nation, Australia must get better at creating meaningful collaboration between universities and business. Such is the need for stronger connections the Federal Government flagged innovation in Australia as a major policy focus with its $1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda in November 2015.

The core principle of the government’s agenda is to make a substantial difference in the numbers of university-industry collaborations. The reason is simple; such alliances have become a prominent feature of the knowledge-based economy, dealing with the speed of transformation, and economic and technological disruption.

These partnerships allow a business to break free of the confines of everyday operation, and to work with universities to translate ideas into commercial realities.

While Australia lags behind the world in translating research into commercial outcomes university-industry partnerships internationally are being exploited to great effect.

While Australian universities are among the world’s best, when it comes to innovation it’s important to make sure that research, innovation and business are connected. If research is irrelevant to startups, SMEs and not-for-profits it becomes a purely academic exercise.

At the forum international and national business and academic speakers will present case studies of successful university-industry collaboration including examples of business innovation, incubators and accelerators.

Attendees will not only learn what has worked but they will also discover what can be done to improve university-industry interactions and engagement, particularly for startups and SMEs in the Australian context.

A multitude of speakers with wide ranging backgrounds and experience will speak at the conference.

Major themes

  • The role of incubators, accelerators and TTOs (Technology Transfer Offices) in engaging startups and SMEs while at the same time connecting those start up and SMEs with university-industry innovation.
  • Global forces shaping opportunities for business (including startups and SMEs) over the coming decade
  • Business perspectives on the opportunities and barriers to university-industry collaboration.
  • Developing environments where innovation can thrive.
  • Regulation and legal framework (patent law, licensing, federal and state jurisdictions and university policies).
  • The economic, political and societal framework in which business and/or universities operate (incentives, competitiveness, regulation, competition policy, innovation and technology policy).

Sessions include

  • Conference evening event with a key note speaker and networking opportunities.
  • International and national academic speakers and case studies on successful approaches to university –industry collaboration with a focus on startups and SMEs. Questions answered will include; what has worked and why? What can be learned from mistakes? What needs to change?
  • Australian business leaders’ perspectives on global challenges and opportunities for innovation and improving industry-university collaboration.
  • The state of Australia’s national innovation system – Australian government perspective, frameworks, opportunities, incentives and challenges.
  • Master Classes on frugal innovation; design thinking and lean start-up principles; and, data analytics and business transformation.

Event Details

Date: Wednesday 27 (afternoon) and all-day Thursday 28 September 2017

Where: La Trobe Business School, located at the Donald Whitehead Building, La Trobe Melbourne Campus, Bundoora Victoria

Register: Please register via this link.

La Trobe Business School Professor shares SeniorPreneur insights on Studio 10 National TV

Professor of Entrepreneurship, Alex Maritz

Recently, La Trobe Business School’s Professor of Entrepreneurship, Alex Maritz, appeared on Channel 10’s morning show. He shared research outcomes from the recent nbn Silver Economy Report, where he collaborated on research and analysis on a national SeniorPreneur research project.

SeniorPreneurs emerge from retirement

The Silver Economy Report reveals that tech-savvy baby boomers are expected to contribute an additional $ 11.9billion to the Australian GDP in new ventures each year, Insights reveal that SeniorPreneurs are expected to start 14,000 new businesses each year; representing the fastest growing sector of entrepreneurship. 34% of all small businesses are lead by senior entrepreneurs. More than half (54%) of them claim they employ a predominantly online model in their businesses, with 61% of them preferring to upskill online. Be it motivation to create or supplement income (67%), pursue passion projects (58%) or keep mentally stimulated (55%), these tech-savvy boomers are undergoing a new renaissance.

The Silver Economy Report is available online, here.

The Studio 10 TV in-studio interview is available here (Professor Alex Maritz speaks at 1:48).

La Trobe Business School is at the cutting edge of innovation and technology when it comes to offering tech-savvy Entrepreneurship Education courses online. For more information, click here.

Antony Jacobson, Professor of Practice -Entrepreneurship at La Trobe Business School, was a special guest lecturer at St Helena Secondary College, Eltham North

Professor Of Practice Antony Jacobson was invited to address Year 11 students on overcoming innovation challenges on 25 May 2017. This presentation was a follow on to students from St Helena Secondary College attending one of the three VCE Business Forums held by the LBS at La Trobe University in February this year.

In the lecture at St Helena Secondary College, Antony Jacobson explained that disruptive innovation doesn’t only satisfy existing consumer needs.  Rather, such innovation creates new boundaries, horizons, products and services that have not been thought of before. The innovator of today is a pioneer who takes our lives, imagination and our functionality to new and previously unimagined areas.

Professor of Practice Antony Jacobson sparked students’ enthusiasm by stating that, “in the coming years, the world will be focused and enthused by never before seen innovations and we will be reading about the schools and universities these innovative pioneers came from. Never underestimate your own ability, passion and intelligence as a potential disruptive entrepreneur and let’s in the coming years read about the world’s new innovators that have come from St Helena Secondary College and La Trobe University”

Professor of Practice Jacobson will be visiting numerous high schools through the remainder of 2017, addressing students about entrepreneurship and innovation opportunities, and making them aware of the exciting Entrepreneurship and Innovation courses and subject offerings available at La Trobe Business School.

LBS’s Dr Tarek Rana delivers interactive workshop to local businesses in Moreland City Council

Recently, La Trobe Business School’s Dr Tarek Rana delivered an interactive workshop to local businesses as part of an industry engagement initiative between Moreland City Council and La Trobe Business School.

The budgeting and cash flow workshop aimed to help local business owners and managers with:

  • Setting and managing financial budget
  • Improving cash flow and profits of their businesses
  • Identify key business and financial tools

Dr Tarek Rana’s workshop showed how a business can improve its financial outcomes by linking budget with the business strategies. The workshop was focused on refining the way owners manage budget and cash flow by identifying organisational objectives and developing short-term goals and long-term strategies. Dr Rana has discussed many steps a business owner or manager can do at minimal cost to improve, measure and assess performance, re-evaluate objectives, goals, strategies through budgeting and cash flow management.

These workshops are also an important way in which LBS is strengthening its relationships with local industry and the business community.

Dr Tarek Rana

Dr Tarek Rana is La Trobe Business School Academic Coordinator for Albury-Wodonga Campus and a Lecturer in Management Accounting with La Trobe Business School. Prior to becoming an academic, Tarek was a Principal and senior manager of professional accounting firms in Sydney and Canberra. He has considerable practice experience in the areas of business services, taxation, auditing, and financial planning as well as consulting services including performance measurement and risk management.

Tarek has strong links with professional accounting bodies both in Australia and overseas. He is La Trobe University Albury-Wodonga liaison for CA ANZ, CPA Australia, and CIMA UK. He has served as an executive committee member of the CIMA Australia ACT Branch (July 2013 – June 2016), and now serving as a council member of CPA Australia Albury-Wodonga Branch (February 2017 – Present) and a branch committee member of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand Albury-Wodonga Group (August 2016 – Present).

TEN TAX TIPS FOR STUDENTS? [1]

Mark Morris La Trobe Business School Professor of Practice

By Mark Morris

Few student welcome the prospect of preparing and lodging an income tax return with the Australian Taxation Office (the ATO).

However, where the income tax deducted from a student’s job exceeds the total income tax payable for the tax year the only way in which a student can obtain a refund of overpaid tax is by lodging an income tax return.

Of course, other students will be legally required to lodge a return and pay tax where insufficient income tax been retained from their salary, or where they derive other categories of assessable income on which they owe tax.

We have developed ten tax tips to help you decide whether you need to lodge an income return for the year ended 30 June 2017, and how to prepare a return if you have too.

1. Are you an Australian tax resident?

The first step is to work out if you are an Australian resident for Australian income tax purposes.

If you were born in Australia and continue to live here, you will be regarded as an Australian resident for income tax purposes as this is the country in which you reside.

However, it is important for international students to recognise that being a resident for Australian tax purposes is quite different to being a permanent resident for Australian immigration purposes, and that they may sometimes unknowingly be an Australian tax resident.

Very broadly, an international student may be regarded as residing in Australia if they are here for such a period of time that their behavior reflects a degree of continuity, routine or habit that is consistent with residing in Australia.

Whilst it is a question of fact in each case as a broad rule of thumb the ATO takes the view that living in Australia for six months is a period of time which is generally consistent with a person residing here for tax purposes.

For example, in one of the ATO’s binding public taxation rulings it held that an overseas student who came to Australia to attend a pre-arranged 4-year university course was an Australian resident even though he left after 6 months to return to his home country following a family illness as his living and working arrangements whilst in Australia were consistent with someone whose pattern of behavior was that they resided in Australia[2].

Accordingly, if you are unsure whether you are an Australian resident for income tax purposes you should contact the ATO or a registered tax agent to obtain more clarity as to whether or not you are an Australian resident in working out your tax rights and obligations.

2. What happens if you are an Australian tax resident?

Assuming you are regarded as an Australian resident for tax purposes what are some of the key tax implications you need to consider.

On the plus side you will be entitled to a tax free threshold which will mean that you do not pay any income tax for the year ended 30 June 2017 if your total taxable income was $18,200 or less.

Accordingly, if you worked part time and derived salary income from which income tax was deducted by your employer you will be able to obtain a tax refund of any Pay As You Go (PAYG) tax retained from your salary income if your total taxable income was $18,200 or less.

In practice, most individual resident taxpayers will also usually be entitled to a tax credit being the low income tax offset which means that no tax will typically be payable if that person’s taxable income is below $20,542. However, the amount of this this tax offset reduces tax payable but is not in itself refundable.

On the negative side you will be subject to tax on all your assessable income for the year ended 30 June 2017 regardless of where it was sourced. For example, an overseas student would need to include both their Australian salary income and any interest income earned in a bank account held in their home country.

In addition, Australian residents are subject to a 2% Medicare levy but only where their taxable income exceed certain thresholds.

By contrast a non-resident is only taxable on assessable income which has an Australian source being generally locally derived investment income. However, such income will be subject to tax at a rate of 32.5% for any taxable income derived up to $87,000 as there is no tax-free threshold for non-resident individuals.

3. What do I need if I want to lodge a return for the 2017 year?

Most students who have been employed would have already been issued a tax file number which is a prerequisite for every individual lodging an income tax return.

If for some reason you are lodging a return but do not have a tax file number you will need to apply for one from the ATO either directly or by using a registered tax agent.

You should then collate all the records and information you will need to prepare you income tax return including, amongst others, any payment summary, bank interest statements, dividend slips, invoices and receipts.

Assuming you have a tax file number you may consider preparing and lodging your income tax return on-line using the ATO’s myTax product if your tax affairs are reasonably simple. Further details on myTax can be found here.

Otherwise it may be prudent to contact a registered tax agent to ensure you identify all your entitlements and to ensure that your income tax return is correctly prepared.

Regardless of how you lodge your return you will need to disclose full bank account details when preparing your income tax return if you expect to receive a tax refund.

4. What types of income need to be included in your return?

As discussed, as an Australian resident you will be taxed on all of your assessable income wherever it is derived.

Some of the more common types of assessable income include the following:

  • Salary and wages (whether as a full-time, part-time or casual employee);
  • Allowances and bonuses (where received during the 2017 income year);
  • Tips and gratuities (such as those received working in hospitality jobs);
  • Fees received as an independent contractor under a contract for service;
  • Any business income derived during the year (not being income derived from carrying on a hobby);
  • Australian government payments and allowances including, amongst others, Newstart allowance, youth allowance, AuStudy payments and certain other educational and training allowances;
  • Interest income;
  • Dividend income (including the amount of any franking credit tax offset for any franking credit attached to a dividend paid by an Australian resident company);
  • Any distributions received as a beneficiary from a family trust or as a partner in a partnership; and
  • Capital gains arising from the disposal of certain CGT assets (which is a highly complex area requiring specialist expertise).

The total of such assessable income may be reduced by eligible deductions which may take the form of work-related deductions, self-education expenses in certain circumstances and personal deductions.

5. What type of work-related deductions can you claim?

You may be entitled to claim a deduction for expenses directly incurred in the course of gaining or producing your assessable income. However, you will not be able to claim an outright deduction which is capital in nature although you may be able depreciate certain capital assets like a computer over time for tax purposes where it has been used for the purpose of gaining or producing assessable income. In addition, you will not be entitled to claim a deduction for expenditure which is private in nature such as the cost of conventional clothing (e.g. suits) purchased for work purposes.

Some of the more common types of deductions you may be able to claim are as follows:

  • Work-related subscription and union fees;
  • Protective clothing and certain work uniforms (including compulsory work uniforms required by your employer);
  • Home office expenses (where you are required to work at home after hours and have a separate room allocated in your home study for that purpose);
  • Employment related telephone mobile and internet costs; and
  • Travel expenses between worksites (but excluding travel between home and work)).

You may also be entitled to claim a deduction for the cost of tools of trade, briefcases and calculators costing less than $300 to the extent to which you use it for work-related purposes.

However, you will only generally be able to claim any work related expenses costing $300 or more if you have retained all the relevant invoices and receipts.

6. When are self-education costs allowable?

Broadly, self-education expenses are only deductible to the extent that the course of study undertaken will either maintain or improve your skills in your current occupation.

Accordingly, you will not be entitled to claim the costs of your course if you’ve not yet embarked on a particular career. Nor will you be able to claim such costs if you have decided to change careers and have incurred such expenses in studying a new area of expertise.

However, you will be able to claim a deduction for self-education expenses where the study or training you are undertaking is likely to enhance your chances of promotion or increase your income earning capacity in your existing occupation.

Further details as to when self-education expenses are allowable or not are set out in Taxation Ruling TR98/9 which can be downloaded here.

Eligible self-education costs include, amongst others, course fees, textbooks, stationary, travel costs and the depreciation of items such as laptops, tablets and printers. However, it is necessary to add back $250 of any self-education expenses as being non-allowable.

Finally, any Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayments are non-deductible.

7. What other personal deductions may be allowable?

Donations of $ 2 dollars or more to a deductible gift recipient (e.g. a charity like the Red Cross) will be allowable provided you have kept copies of receipts for any gifts made.

You can also claim a deduction for any fee paid to a registered tax agent during the year ended 30 June 2017 for the cost of managing your tax affairs. However, any amount paid to a registered tax agent to assist you in in preparing your 2017 income tax return will only be deductible in the year ended 30 June 2018.

8. What tax offsets can you claim?

Whilst tax deductions may reduce assessable income tax offsets are directly applied as a credit to reduce tax payable.

Certain tax offsets may also result in a refund to the extent that the tax credit exceeds tax payable.

The most common tax offsets that a student may claim include the beneficiary tax offset, the franking credit tax offset and the small business tax offset.

A beneficiary tax offset may be available where a student receives a Newstart allowance, youth allowance, Austudy payments and certain other Commonwealth education or training programs.

The calculation of this offset can be complex but this offset may not only reduce tax payable on the amount of Government benefits received but also assessable income received from other sources.

Further details on the beneficiary tax offset can be found here.

A resident company may pass on a tax credit for tax it has paid to shareholders when it pays such shareholders a franked dividend. Such a tax credit can be claimed as a franking credit tax offset which may also result in a tax refund where the franking credit exceeds tax payable.

Finally, where a student is also carrying on a business that individual may be entitled to the small business income tax offset for the year ended 30 June 2017 being 8% of the income tax payable on the portion of an individual’s taxable income that is ‘total net small business income’ provided the aggregated turnover of the business is less than $5million.

However, an individual is only able to claim one small business tax offset for an income year irrespective of the number of sources of small business income derived by that individual and the maximum amount of the offset is capped to $1,000 per year. The application of this offset is also quite complex and specialist advice should be sought if you intend to claim it.

9. What are some of the potential traps to watch out for?

There are special rules to discourage adults from splitting income with their children (i.e. minors) aged under 18 at the end of the year unless that minor is engaged in a full-time occupation, receives a carer allowance, disability support pension or double orphan pension or a person who is disabled or a beneficiary under a special disability trust.

Where the minor is subject to these special rules, penalty tax rates apply to such children receiving dividends, interest, rent, royalties or a family trust distribution.

Where such income is between $417 and $1,307 tax will be paid on the excess of income over $416 at a rate of 68% whilst any amount of such income in excess of $1,307 will be subject to tax at a rate of 47%.

10. Where do I go for help?

If you believe that you required to lodge an income tax return or that you may wish to lodge a return in order to obtain your tax refund, you may wish to either contact the ATO or look at their website for more details at www.ato.gov.au

Should you want to get independent tax advice then try to locate an accountant who has the tax expertise to makes sure you lodge a correct income tax return but make sure that the accountant is also a registered tax agent who has been legally authorised to provide such services.

And if you are entitled to a tax refund go get what is yours!

[1] Latrobe University has used reasonable care and skill in compiling the content of this general commentary. However, it should not be relied upon as advice in any circumstances, and no warranty is provided by either the University or the author concerning the accuracy and completeness of these materials. Accordingly, they disclaim all and any liability to any person in respect of reliance on any of the matters raised in these materials, and professional advice should be sought from an appropriately qualified registered tax agent where required.

[2] Refer to Example 8 of Taxation Ruling TR98/17.

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