10,000 sign petition to dump education cap

Pressure is mounting on the Rudd government to scrap the controversial $2000 cap on tax deductions for self-education expenses, as professional groups including nurses, doctors, dentists and pharmacists join forces to fight the tax cap.

By Linda Belardi.

Nurses and doctors have joined an alliance of more than 20 professions to urge the Rudd government to ditch the proposed $2000 cap on tax deductible education expenses, arguing the budget measure risks undermining training standards and public safety.

The ‘Scrap the Cap’ campaign and online petition has already attracted over 10,000 signatures and numerous comments from professionals about how the change is likely to affect them. 

Dubbed a “tax on learning”, health professionals say the cap will make it much harder to meet the costs of compulsory continuing professional development and will disproportionately affect rural staff, trainees and women returning to the workforce.

Australian Nursing Federation Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said given the mandatory requirement for CPD for health professionals, the cap would act as barrier to annual registration and skills development.

She said safe patient care would suffer if financial disincentives stopped nurses from improving their clinical skills and knowledge of new health technology and treatments.

Australian Medical Association President Dr Steve Hambleton said the proposal was ill conceived and counter-productive.

He said the cap would affect the ability of GPs to attend conferences, workshops and seminars and to afford membership to professional associations and journal subscriptions.

A recent survey by the AMA also showed that 79 per cent of the nearly 600 doctors surveyed paid over $5000 in self-education each year, more than double the proposed cap.

Donna Boord, a South Australian nurse and midwife said that without tax relief she would not be able to afford the ongoing education costs. “I will be forced to do the bare minimum through free educational activities only, and this will have a huge impact on my professional development,” she said.

The ‘Scrap the Cap’ campaign is led by a coalition of professional peak bodies representing dentists, engineers, veterinarians, universities, accountants, postgraduate students, architects, lawyers and others.

Greens to push for senate inquiry

Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said her party had major concerns with the cap and would move to send the proposed legislation to a full senate inquiry.

“The Greens are concerned that while the current scheme may need better targeting, the $2,000 cap is a blunt instrument,” she said.

“While rorting from some professions is anecdotally reported, that should not outweigh the concerns of people such as nurses from regional areas trying to get training.

“I am also concerned this measure will unfairly impact on women re-entering the workforce after having children and people in professions that require costly continuing education,” said Senator Milne.

The former treasurer Wayne Swan announced the $2000 cap on April 13 as a budget savings measure to help fund the government’s school education reforms.

Mr Swan said under the existing arrangements unlimited deductions provide an opportunity for workers to enjoy significant private benefits at taxpayers’ expense, including first-class airfares and five-star accommodation. The cost of tax deduction claims for self-education purposes has also increased in recent years.

However, Mr Swan said the majority of professionals with self-education expenses would not be affected by introduction of a cap, as the average claim for tax deductions was below $2000.

The budget measure, which is set to begin 1 July 2014, is forecast to provide savings of $514 million by 2016-2017.

At a meeting on Monday, the 22 professional peak bodies agreed to increase their advocacy around the issue including by commissioning modelling on the impact of the proposal on the economy and other areas.

Submissions in response to the government’s proposal close on Friday, 12 July 2013. To make a submission email selfeducationtaxreform@treasury.gov.au

Read the government’s discussion paper: Reform to deductions for education expenses

To support the ‘Scrap the Cap’ campaign visit www.scrapthecap.com.au

Tags: ama, anf, continuing-professional-development, scrap-the-cap, tax, wayne-swan,

4 thoughts on “10,000 sign petition to dump education cap

  1. The $2000 tax cap will be a disincentive for health professions who live and work in rural and remote. The costs associated with attending training such as travel and accomodation and the cost of training will well exceed $2000 for health professionals. Training is mandatory for nurses to keep their registration, nurses in rural and remote areas do not have access to training which is often conducted in the metropolitean centres. Nurses in general practice pay for their own training which is most of the time done in their own time. You cannot honestly expect nurses to pay for their own training, take time off work without pay and travel to metropolitean areas for training, tax cap will serve only to de-skill rural and remote nurses.

  2. I agree with Kathy. I’m an Acting Clinical Nurse Educator in regional NSW part of my job is to attend training and conferences, which is most likely to be done in metropolitan areas. Whilst I pay for my own accommodation and travel the training itself is very expensive and at the moment I just spent $1950 in doing TAFE course…that’s my cap blown!

  3. So the Rudd-Gillard Government aspire to having a smarter Australia. Affordable education and upskilling training must be readily available for the wider community, not just those at high school, otherwise we run the risk of dumbing down our collective potential to become more ably skilled. Yes, scrap the cap, or least take it to a more realistic level of say $7,500 pa.

  4. Currently one subject in a Cert-Masters costs around $1635. Increasingly it is difficult to attract skilled staff with appropriate qualifications to rural areas. This will further diminish the pool of suitably qualified staff as health professionals and low paid workers are disuaded from embarking on further education. Additionally it will increase the costs of government service as health care workers will not be able to share cost saving benefits and technical advancements reducing uptake particularly in rural areas.

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