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Treasury must take the rap for the cap

18 Jul 2013

The AMA today released its response to the Treasury Discussion Paper, Reform to deductions for education expenses.

The Discussion Paper details the Government’s proposed assault on education in the form of a $2000 cap on the tax deductibility of work-related self-education expenses.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that the Treasury Discussion Paper shows a total lack of understanding of the reality of professional self-education, especially for doctors.

Dr Hambleton said that Treasury has not conducted sector-by-sector analysis of the possible impact of the proposed reform across the professions, nor has it provided any credible quantification for setting the cap at $2,000.

“Treasury has given the Government very bad advice,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Treasury must take the rap for the cap.”

Dr Hambleton said that the Government has claimed – based on the Treasury advice – that the $2,000 cap would not deter doctors from pursuing legitimate work-related self-education to improve their medical skills and knowledge.

“Surveys of our members prove this claim wrong,” Dr Hambleton said.

“More than 9,000 doctors responded to our three surveys, with one survey reporting that 92 per cent of doctors incur self-education expenses above the $2,000 amount.

“The average doctor in our surveys spends $12,637 each year on work-related self-education activities, which is more than six times the proposed cap.

“Vocational Trainees, or doctors in training, in our surveys spend $11,369, on average, which is five to six times the cap amount.

“There is no one size fits all medical self-education, which Treasury implies in its Paper.

“There are big differences in our surveys between specialties, with the highest spending $16,578, on average, and the lowest spending $9,744, on average.

“And there are big differences State by State and region by region, with doctors who work in remote areas having the highest self-education expenses.

“The cap will hurt all doctors, and ultimately their patients, but it will hit doctors in training, surgeons, and doctors in remote areas the hardest.

“For example, one Vocational Trainee spent nearly $40,000 on self-education to gain essential and minimum qualifications to practise medicine, and this was purely on courses - no skiing holidays and no fancy hotels, as Treasury so wrongly asserts.

“The great majority of work-related self-education activity by doctors is genuine and legitimate – and makes them better doctors.

“The AMA has no argument with a clampdown on claims that are not genuine or which involve recreational activities as a significant part of the claim.  This can be pursued under existing tax arrangements.

“If the Government wants to work with the profession to ensure benefits are at reasonable levels within community standards, we are happy to work with them on that.

“But we don't think the Government should besmirch the reputation of the whole medical profession in the pursuit of a small number of alleged irregular claims.

“The proposed cap is a tax on learning, a tax on excellence.

“The Government must immediately scrap the cap,” Dr Hambleton said.

The AMA is a founding member of the Scrap the Cap Alliance, which now has more than 50 member organisations covering more than 1.6 million professionals, including universities, nurses, engineers, accountants, lawyers, veterinarians, allied health professionals, and small business operators.

The AMA response to the Treasury Discussion Paper, Reform to deductions for education expenses, is at

Expert accounting and financial advice provided to the AMA is at


18 July 2013

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                             Kirsty Waterford                   02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

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Published: 18 Jul 2013