30 April 2013 — The federal government’s proposed reforms to self-education expense deductions will negatively impact the professional development of the architecture industry and in turn the future quality of the built environment, The Australian Institute of Architects says.

Institute chief executive officer David Perken said Treasurer Wayne Swan’s proposed reform would involve an annual tax deduction cap of $2000 on all work-related education expenses, such as formal qualifications, textbooks, stationery, travel expenses, conferences, seminars and self-organised study tours. The current claimable amount is unlimited.

“Architectural practice, theory and research are continually evolving to meet the challenges posed by societal and climatic changes while continued changes in technology, infrastructure, materials and an increase in innovation requires architects to be multidisciplinary in both skills and scope,” he said.

“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.

“Additionally, in recognition of the importance of continuing education, the Institute has implemented a new level of membership (A+) which requires a commitment to a minimum annual level of professional development be undertaken by all A+ members, further assisting Australian architects to compete in this increasingly global economy.”

Mr Parken said equitable access to architecture-related education was “not a luxury but a necessity for the creators of our cities, towns and communities”.

“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,” he said.

“In addition, 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.”

Mr Parken said while the Institute supported sensible measures to address rorts in the current system, the implications of the proposed reform were too blunt and risked the up-skilling of professionals.

Typical costs for built environment-related conferences were in the range of $1500 excluding associated travel and accommodation, costs which increase greatly for rural and regional practitioners,” he said.

The Institute hopes to meet with Treasurer Swan and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research Craig Emerson as well as leader of the opposition Tony Abbott to discuss its concerns.