In May 1919, a group of businessmen formed an association in Melbourne, which was initially named “The Taxpayers’ and Property Owners’ Association of Victoria.” At the time, Melbourne was Australia’s capital city and the seat of government.
The Great War had ended only six months before, but the citizens were concerned that the government of the day had yet to take action to fulfil its promise to repeal certain taxes that were created during the great conflict in order to pay for the nation’s involvement in the war.
As the taxes stayed in force, one could contend that the new Taxpayers’ Association (as it came to be known by October 1919) failed in its attempt to keep the government true to its word. However it is undeniably also true that it was the government’s backtracking that spurred this group of concerned citizens to form an association that has ever since been representing and giving voice to at first ordinary taxpayers and then to tax practitioners.
Similar associations were set up over the late 1920s to mid-1930s in all the other states, so that the original organisation re-claimed the “of Victoria” in its name. The bodies in other states adopted the naming form (hence “Taxpayers’ Association of NSW”, “Taxpayers’ Association of Queensland” etc). Regional branches in each state were also formed.
Decades down the track, in 1966, the separate organisations combined, with the new national body originally known as the Federated Taxpayers’ Association of Australia. After this, Divisional Councils for each state were formed to deal with state-based matters.
In that year the secretary of the association was Mr Eric Risstrom, who in later years became the head (and the national voice) of what became known as the Australian Taxpayers Association. Mr Risstrom’s portrait still hangs in the office to this day.
The “self-assessment” system of tax, introduced by then Treasurer Paul Keating in 1986 and bolstered by a vast body of binding tax rulings in 1992, thrust the role of tax practitioners into the forefront of how ordinary Australians would manage their tax affairs. From this time on, Australians would become the world’s most prominent users of the services of tax professionals.
The combined body, as well as still representing the interests of ordinary taxpayers, came to take on more representation of tax practitioners, and became the national organisation Taxpayers Australia. Soon after the DIY super (now SMSF) phenomenon took off, and the wholly-owned body Superannuation Australia was established. The two bodies, combined with the greater importance of the role of tax practitioners, segued again to become Tax & Super Australia.
Tax & Super Australia is the world’s oldest taxpayer group and is also a founding member of the World Taxpayers Association — the year 2019 marks our 100 year anniversary.