The government has repeatedly rejected the RDTI software task force

A software-specific working group as the research and development tax incentive would have avoided recent challenges the regime has faced but has been repeatedly rejected by the federal government over the past three years, according to a member of the existing advisory roundtable of RDTI.

Michael Johnson Associates President Kris Gale is a member of the RDTI Roundtable, but said the group had been “sterilized” and that controversial issues related to recently released guidelines for software claims would not have arisen if a software group had been created when it was first requested more than three years ago.

The Roundtable on Research and Development Tax Incentive (RDTI), made up of members of professional associations and tax advisers, met for the first time in March 2019, replacing the former national group reference.

The Roundtable has 43 members, with only a select number of members invited to attend the two meetings per year.

The group was formed during the height of the government crackdown on software claims under the program and continued to meet during attempts to curtail the program through a number of controversial reforms that were ultimately scrapped.

Parliament, Canberra

At the first meeting of this roundtable, Mr. Gale requested that a working group be created through the roundtable to address the issue of software claims under the program.

The terms of reference for the roundtable allow for the creation of sub-groups for “specific proposals and problems”.

The minutes of the meeting confirm that “some industry members have suggested that a working group be created to further explore any outstanding issues regarding the software guidelines.”

But Mr Gale said that request was “systematically ignored” in the three years that followed, and no such task force was created, despite several key problems with software development and at the RDTI.

“They continued not to accept the request. To date, there has never been a mandated task force,” Mr. Gale told InnovationAus.com.

“They create groups, give them terms of reference and then neutralize them and do things there. You have a group participating everywhere, but the process seems to avoid our involvement.

The roundtable’s size can also hamper its effectiveness, Gale said, with only half of its members meeting at a time. Until this year, the other band members didn’t even know when it was going to reunite without them.

How software development fits into the popular RDTI scheme has been a long-standing issue for the industry.

AusIndustry released new guidance on this last month, but the example included in it was called “severely inadequate” and unlikely to actually qualify for the program.

This included a sample response with a 4000 character limit that only had 200 characters.

The government consulted the Tech Council of Australia and other tech companies on the guidance, but Mr Gale said these mistakes would have been avoided if a software task force had been established years ago, as he had asked.

“I was absolutely amazed that they released this example. It clearly wasn’t shared with anyone knowledgeable in the field,” he said.

“We feel like it’s pre-ordained and they’re resisting their own mechanism like round tables because they think we have an agenda. A working group would have solved the problem faster and if you had brought the same group together to work on this project, we would not have had this result.

“It’s time for the right combination of key players to come together, not for them to continue to be separated.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley by email.

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