The main thing about tax that Australians will know about first-hand is income tax, such as that levied on salary and wages, investment income and business income. That a proportion of this income is expected to be owed to the government as tax is a fairly straightforward concept. Apart from an occasional change to the rate at which income is taxed, this side of taxation activity can be said to be widely understood.

The annual return, apart from declaring this income, also informs the government (through the ATO) if a taxpayer is claiming any allowable deductions, offsets or other mechanisms that may affect the amount of tax liability. And it is these elements of the tax landscape — the exceptions, concessions, exemptions and so on — that make the Australian tax system more opaque and complex.

Generally, the source of much of this complexity is the legislative process. The to-ing and fro-ing before tax proposals become tax law can be blamed for much of the curly conundrums that perplex tax practitioners and their client taxpayers, not to mention the role that case law plays in further complicating an already tough discipline.

However, help is at hand. The articles that follow will hopefully clear up many of the questions that perplex taxpayers and practitioners alike.