AIA opposes education expense reforms

May 3, 2013

The Australian Institute of Architects has announced that it opposes the federal government’s proposed reforms to self-education expense deductions.

Above: The 2012 National Architecture Conference, which provides CPD (continuing professional development) points for attending industry professionals and members. Photo by Ethan Rohloff.

The Australian Institute of Architects announced on Tuesday that it opposes the federal government’s proposed reforms to self-education expense deductions announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan on 13 April.

As an independent professional representative body for approximately 12,000 members nationally, the AIA believes that the proposed reforms will negatively affect the professional development of the architecture industry and, in turn, the future quality of Australia’s built environment.

The proposed reform involves an annual tax deduction cap of $2000 on all work-related education expenses (including formal qualifications, textbooks, stationery, travel expenses, conferences, seminars and self-organised study tours). The current claimable amount is unlimited.

The AIA argues that architectural practice, theory and research are continually evolving in order to meet the challenges posed by both societal and climatic changes, while ongoing developments in technology, infrastructure, materials and an increase in innovation requires architects to be multidisciplinary in both skills and scope. This need for continued learning is compounded by Australia’s rigorous system for accreditation of architects, which in many state jurisdictions incorporates minimum continuing professional development requirements.

In addition, in recognition of the importance of continuing education, the AIA has implemented a new level of membership (A+), which requires a commitment to a minimum annual level of professional development to be undertaken by all A+ members – further aiding Australian architects to compete in the global economy.

CEO David Parken says: “Equitable access to architecture-related education is not a luxury but a necessity for the creators of our cities, towns and communities and we are concerned that the proposed cap on self-education expense deductions will act as a disincentive for architects and other professionals to undertake further studies.”

The government’s efforts to address the future challenges facing the built environment, including environmental concerns, will require a commitment to facilitating the self-education of the professionals responsible for its adaptation.

“Climate concerns are challenging architects to create environmentally sustainable built environments not only through the design of new buildings but through the adaptation of existing buildings to prepare for climate change mitigation. The estimated replacement value of existing buildings currently stands in excess of $5.7 trillion, therefore it is vital that the profession adequately prepares to meet these current and future challenges,” says Parken.

“While we support sensible measures to address rorts in the current system which is a key driver of the government’s changes, we believe the implications of the proposed reform are too blunt and could be likened to taking a sledgehammer to the issue when a more targeted tightening of criteria could achieve a similar outcome without risking the up-skilling of professionals.”

Costs for built environment-related conferences are typically in the range of $1500, excluding associated travel and accommodation (which increase considerably for rural and regional practitioners).

The AIA is seeking a meeting with the Treasurer and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Craig Emerson, as well as Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, to discuss the proposed reforms and concerns for the architecture profession.

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