Monthly Archives: March 2015

PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE TO DISCUSS THE REINVENTION OF THE AUSTRALIAN TAX OFFICE

 

Tracking progress on reinvention of the Australian Tax Office

The Inspector-General of Taxation and several key stakeholders will participate in a wide-ranging discussion on current tax issues this Wednesday.As part of the House Tax Committee’s inquiry into the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) 2014 Annual Report, senior officials from the ATO will give evidence on a range of issues, including:

• the risk framework used to select taxpayers for audits;
• the introduction of single touch payroll from July 2016;
• the ATO’s survey on taxpayer perceptions of ATO fairness; and
• delays in issuing refunds to taxpayers.

Committee Chair, Bert van Manen MP, said the hearing would allow the committee to track progress with the Commissioner’s plan to reinvent the ATO as a more contemporary and client-focused organisation.

“In past hearings, the ATO has been responsive in dealing with issues raised by stakeholders and the committee. We look forward to working through new issues at this hearing and being part of continuous improvement at the ATO,” he said.

Public hearing
Wednesday, 18 March 2014
Committee Room 2R1
Parliament House, Canberra

4pm   ATO
Inspector-General of Taxation
Chartered Accountants Australia + New Zealand
Council of Small Business of Australia
6pm   Adjournment

The hearing will be broadcast live at: www.aph.gov.au/live

For media comment: please contact Amanda Williams on 0414 605 850.

For information about the hearing: please contact the committee secretariat by telephone (02) 6277 4821, e-mail taxrev.reps@aph.gov.au, or visit the committee website http://www.aph.gov.au/taxrev

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Henry Sapiecha

Investor Group to Buy GE Capital’s Australia, New Zealand Consumer-Lending Unit

Jeff Immelt

Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric. Mr. Immelt has said he aims to reduce GE Capital’s share of the broader company’s profit.

SYDNEY, Australia—In one of the biggest deals in the Asia-Pacific region so far this year, General Electric Co. agreed to sell the consumer-lending business of GE Capital in Australia and New Zealand to an investor group including KKR & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG. The pact has an enterprise value, including debt, of about 8.2 billion Australian dollars (US$6.26 billion).

GE continues to shed consumer finance businesses around the world, part of an effort to reduce its presence in banking amid investor pressure to focus on industrial operations like making jet engines, power turbines and CT scanners.

The conglomerate has exited or pared back its exposure to consumer businesses in Japan, Turkey, the Nordic region, Eastern Europe and the U.K. in the years since the financial crisis. Last year, it took its biggest step yet to slim down GE Capital by selling shares in its private-label credit-card and retail-payment plan business in North America, part of a plan to spin it off entirely this year.

The moves have helped shrink GE Capital and make it less risky. But the unit would still rank as the seventh largest U.S. bank, and investors want GE to go further. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that GE, in an acknowledgment of those concerns, was considering making bigger cuts to its banking business, including to its much touted business of lending to midsize U.S. companies, according to people familiar with the matter.

GE Capital’s consumer-finance business in Australia and New Zealand has more than three million customers. It provides personal loans and credit cards, as well as interest-free financing for products sold by local retail partners including housewares and electrical-goods retailer Harvey Norman.

GE Capital will keep its commercial finance unit, which provides loans and leasing to midsize businesses in Australia and New Zealand.

The investor group that is buying the operations also includes $10 billion alternative-investment firm Värde Partners, which has offices in Minneapolis, London and Singapore.

In landing the deal, the KKR, Deutsche Bank group bested several other suitors, according to a person familiar with the matter, including three separate groups involving TPG, Apollo Global Management LLC and Macquarie Group Ltd.

GE’s finance business nearly toppled the company during the worst of the global financial crisis. Since then, GE has scaled back its finance arm, selling off billions of dollars of assets. Yet the company’s stock remains stuck below $30 and the company has underperformed some of its industrial peers that don’t have big lending operations.

At an investor conference in February, GE Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Bornstein said investors remain concerned about the size and returns of the lending business, and how new bank regulations affect the business’s ability to generate returns.

“We will continue to look at the balance of the portfolio,” Mr. Bornstein said. “A lot of this is going to play out in the next couple of years. We’re focused on being small.”

GE’s chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, has said he aims to reduce GE Capital’s share of the broader company’s profit to 25% in 2016 from 42% last year and more than 50% before the financial crisis.

At the end of last year, GE agreed to sell its consumer finance Budapest Bank to Hungary’s government and it completed the sale of its consumer finance business in Sweden, Denmark and Norway to Spanish lender Santander. A year earlier, it sold its 69% stake in Swiss consumer finance bank, Cembra Money Bank AG, to the public through an IPO.

GE, meanwhile, is still interested in businesses that play to its industrial strengths and in January, it bought helicopter-leasing concern, Milestone Aviation Group, for about $1.8 billion.

Elsewhere in Asia, GE has been in talks to sell stakes likely valued at more than $1 billion in its South Korean auto-financing and credit-card businesses, people familiar with the situation told The Wall Street Journal in October. The sale would unwind a partnership that began 10 years ago between GE and Hyundai Motor Co, one of South Korea’s largest companies.

—Gillian Tan contributed to this article.

Write to Rebecca Thurlow at rebecca.thurlow@wsj.com

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Henry Sapiecha

Commonwealth Bank does away with smartphone tap-and-go pay sticker for Android

iPhone users will still need the Commonwealth PayTag sticker for now.

iPhone users will still need the Commonwealth PayTag sticker for now.

Commbank’s latest mobile banking app opens up tap-and-go payments for Android phones, replaces the need for a pay sticker for phones, and launches a further assault on cash payments.

The bank’s latest Tap and Pay app, released on Wednesday, is available for all brands of Android phones with near-field communications (NFC) running 4.4 and above. In the past Android phones other than Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5 required a bank-issued PayTag sticker.

But it is now a clunky process. The app requires a PIN to be used for every transaction, not just those above $100.

No card: Commonwealth Bank says 60,000 tap-and-pay transactions are taking place in Australia each week using smartphones, worth $1.25 million.

No card: Commonwealth Bank says 60,000 tap-and-pay transactions are taking place in Australia each week using smartphones, worth $1.25 million.

The bank has worked with MasterCard to deliver the mobile payment solution which relies on technology known as host card emulation (HCE) to transmits payment information and replace the 16-digit number of a credit or debit card with a 16 digit unique token to secure each transaction.(Tokenisation is also a key feature of the ApplePay service which is yet to launch in Australia).

Instead of requiring a secure element actually on the phone – such as the phone’s SIM card or the bank’s previous PayTag sticker – to handle card emulation, this is handled by the cloud service.

Google introduced HCE in version 4.4 of its Android operating system, also known as Kitkat, with Visa and MasterCard throwing their weight behind it a year ago.

While the Commonwealth Bank is the first local bank to offer the service, Westpac New Zealand has been trialling HCE since mid 2014. Cuscal and CUA launched the redi2PAY service which relies on HCE, in July.

Lisa Frazier, executive general manager for digital channels at the Commonwealth Bank said that to use the contactless payment capability users would launch the app, see details of the payment on their screen and input a PIN, then pass the phone over a payments terminal to complete the transaction.

Frazier said the bank would still support iPhone users who make up about half of the 3.2 million users of the bank’s app – but that to make a contactless payment iPhone users would still need an NFC sticker.

She would not be drawn about Commbank’s plans for smartwatch apps.

Besides extending the reach of its digital wallet solution the announcement lobs another grenade at cash which is feeling the heat from a range of digital payment solutions.

ANU economics professor Rabee Tourky earlier this month predicted that cash as we know it would be phased out within a decade, and replaced by electronic alternatives, including a Government backed virtual currency.

“Money will not disappear – but cash in a paper form will disappear.  You can exchange Bitcoin without a bank or a third party. The advantage is that you can make very small and very large payments with almost zero fees,” said Tourky.

He predicted that within a decade; “The Australian government will certify and issue a trusted digital cash.”

The Reserve Bank declined to comment on such a possibility, but in its submission to the Senate inquiry into digital currency, noted that uptake of virtual currency was slow and had thus far no significant implications for the RBA’s ability to manage monetary policy.

Governor Glenn Stevens has however previously noted the displacement impact of contactless payments on cash.

In a speech to the Australian Payments Clearing Association last October Stevens said however that the uptake of digital wallets had been slower than expected – but acknowledged that could change rapidly as new solutions emerged.

That’s what the banks and payment disruptors such as PayPal are hoping.

Frazier said demand for mobile banking was exploding. She said Commbank’s user base has grown from 1.76 million a year ago, to 3.2 million today, and that in the last 12 months the app had been used to complete $100 billion worth of transactions.

Even before the launch of the HCE enabled app tech she said 60,000 tap-and-pay transactions were taking place each week using smartphones, worth $1.25 million.

Update: The first version of the story said an NFC chip was not needed for the new app to work. The mistake was a technical misunderstanding.

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Henry Sapiecha

The Super-Rich and Us BBC VIDEO Documentary 2015 Episode 1&2 Rich People VS Poor People UK

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Published on 8 Jan 2015

The Super-Rich and Us Season 1 Jacques Peretti investigates why the super-rich were drawn to Britain.
The Super-Rich and Us BBC Documentary 2015 Episode 1 Rich People VS Poor People UK
In a series about the extraordinary stories behind maps, Professor Jerry Brotton uncovers how maps aren’t simply about getting from A to B, but are revealing snapshots of defining moments in history and tools of political power and persuasion.
Visiting the world’s first known map, etched into the rocks of a remote alpine hillside 3,000 years ago, Brotton explores how each culture develops its own unique, often surprising way of mapping. As Henry VIII’s stunning maps of the British coastline from a bird’s-eye view show, they were also used to exert control over the world.
During the Enlightenment, the great French Cassini dynasty pioneered the western quest to map the world with greater scientific accuracy, leading also to the British Ordnance Survey. But these new scientific methods were challenged by cultures with alternative ways of mapping, such as in a Polynesian navigator’s map which has no use for north, south and east.
As scientifically accurate map-making became a powerful tool of European expansion, the British carved the state of Iraq out of the Middle East. When the British drew up Iraq’s boundaries, they had devastating consequences for the nomadic tribes of Mesopotamia.

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Henry Sapiecha