Monday, July 19, 2004

Samantha Maiden – News Ltd’s most clueless journo?
You get the feeling that Oz journo Samantha Maiden – who only a year ago was covering the “Government offers man sex industry job” story for the Hobart Mercury – does not do her own tax return.  Which I mention because such outsourcing does seem rather extravagant of her; assuming she follows the logical implications of two recent news articles carrying her byline, she would perish-the-thought of claiming a single cent in work-related tax deductions, this making the lodging of her tax return no more complicated than stapling a group certificate, and remembering her own name and address.
Personally, I think that there is considerable middle ground between Maiden’s every- work-related-deduction-is-a-rort line, and outright tax evasion, as condoned by the Garfield Barwick (together with able assistant, and unrepentant living redneck, Harry Gibbs) High Court.  Funnily enough, the ATO, as well as the entire body of current Australian tax law seem to agree with me on this.
Which thus begs the question:  what the fuck is Samantha Maiden on about – and why hasn’t her editor reined her in?  
Her errors are not rocket science – more like primary school maths, in fact. If “[a]verage work-related expenses for judges” on an itemised basis “included $2407 for cars, $5973 for other travel, $2075 for self education and $2457 for "other expenses"”, how does this equal an average total deduction claim of $4077?
And look at this sample* succession of howlers (*there are many more in the article):
Under a 1999 taxation ruling, about 1400 members of parliament nationally are able to claim a wide range of work-related expenses not available to ordinary Australians. They include election expenses, airport lounge membership, and the cost of birthday cards, flowers for funerals, conferences and seminars.
An analysis of ATO figures shows generous tax deduction arrangements allow one in three MPs to claim self-education expenses to study for MBAs and law degrees.
. . . Benefits that arise under frequent flyer programs, which can amount to thousands of points a year for globe-trotting ministers, do not form part of an [sic] MPs assessable income.

If only Ms Maiden’s apparent vow of tax-deduction abstinence didn’t financially preclude her from so doing, I’d suggest that a bit of work-related self-education (e.g. Basics of Tax Law) might be just the ticket.  At least she's consistent though, last month she was happily plugging Harvey Norman founder Gerry Harvey, and his too many graduates were failures in "the university of life" message.  For Maiden’s information –  since the said "university of life" has failed her in the area od tax law –  out of the copious various deductions that she claims are available MPs and “not . . . to ordinary Australians”, the only ones which wholly or partly fit the bill here are (i) election expenses, (ii) the cost of birthday cards and funeral flowers, and (iii) “providing light refreshments in the nature of morning and afternoon tea to staff and visitors".
Yes, that’s right, Samantha – even you wouldn’t be taxed on any frequent flyer programs benefits you might receive (I’m talking hypothetically here, of course, because we know that you would never to sully yourself to the extent of claiming the "thousands of points" such as you would get from a single annual Sydney-Canberra return flight, flying discount economy#).  And it’s just as well also that you don’t believe in the deductibility of “conferences and seminars”, because if you ever went to one, you might accidentally overhear your colleagues snickering about what a pathetic excuse for a journalist you really are.
Which is a shame though, OTOH, because what with your evident enthusiasm for Gerry Harvey's "university of life" message, there would be an ideal position for you outside the world of journalism, in which both you and Gerry could practise what you preach:  taking care of Harvey Norman's tax affairs.
# On Qantas, this yields 2000 points/miles

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