Insight: tax agents
It's often claimed Australians ''punch above their weight'' on the sporting field, but we also have a more dubious honour: our use of tax agents.
Seventy-one per cent of Australians pay someone else to take care of their tax affairs, the second-highest percentage in the world after Italy
Why are we so keen on outsourcing our tax?
Complexity is a big reason. The two booklets explaining the tax rules to individuals will be about 120 pages long this year. Every time there's a change in household payments that's income-tested, these rules tend to get more complex.
The national love affair with property investment also keeps tax agents busy.
About one in seven taxpayers owned a rental property in 2009-2010 and nearly two-thirds of these investments were negatively geared, which often requires complex accounting work. However, more than 80 per cent
So maybe there's a simpler reason for our tax-agent use: the time-honoured tradition of paying no more tax than you have to. The late Kerry Packer summed up this attitude when he was asked by a parliamentary committee in the 1990s if we has minimising his tax.
''If anyone in this country doesn't minimise their tax they want their heads read. Because as a government, I can tell you, you're not spending it so well that we should be donating extra,'' Packer said.
There's nothing wrong with minimising tax through legal means, of course.
But economists worry our system has become so complex we are diverting too much energy into following the rules.
As the former treasury secretary, Ken Henry, said in 2008, tax agents could arguably make a better contribution to society doing other things.
''Many high-achieving tax agents could be school teachers, for example. It wastes time that people could spend with their family, volunteering in their community, relaxing with friends.''
Dr Henry's suggestion was to give every taxpayer an optional ''standard deduction'' of $500 from this July, rising to $1000 next year.
But don't hold your breath for this perk. In a win for tax agents, the standard deduction was abandoned in this year's budget.