Evan’s Corner: House of Representatives Arts Inquiry – COVID-19 pandemic

Written by: Evan Lowenstein
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the arts industry, the Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts is holding an inquiry into Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions.
It was announced in August 2020 by the Arts Minister, Paul Fletcher, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and amongst its terms of reference was to consider:
  • The direct and indirect economic benefits and employment opportunities of creative and cultural industries and how to recognise, measure and grow them
  • The impact of COVID-19 on the creative and cultural industries; and
  • Avenues for increasing access and opportunities for Australia’s creative and cultural industries through innovation and the digital environment.

In response to, and seeing this as an important contribution, Lowensteins submitted two reports, in which we reiterated our position on the need for the government to urgently amend the rules restricting the purchases of art by Self-Managed Superannuation Funds that we have been championing ever since the rules were introduced back in 2010.
In addition we also made submission on and sought reform of the restrictive nature of the Div 35, Non-Commercial Losses legislation that seeks to restrict the ability of artists that are earning over $40,000 from any type of employment from claiming legitimate art related losses against that income.This provision was introduced in 2000 and has a major effect on artist’s tax affairs.
To quote from our submission:
‘Again we emphasise the fact that during the pandemic visual artists have suffered alongside so many others in the arts sector and we feel that reform of this stifling tax measure must be enacted that will bring some financial relief to those most affected.’

We went on to say: ‘The current economic situation of the pandemic can only add to the difficulties that artists experience in their efforts to eke out a living from their profession.
This legislation affects those artists who are struggling to make ends meet and who can least afford to forego the tax deduction on the losses from their art related activities.
In fact this legislation has the effect of penalising artists for their lack of financial success, which I am sure is not the intention of the legislators.’

Our hope is that the Government will take heed of our submission and take some action that will certainly assist the arts industry at least from a taxation reform point of view.
However, based on our many attempts, until now unsuccessful at convincing governments of both sides of the merits of our suggestions, we are less than optimistic about our chances of having our suggestions implemented.
For the full transcripts of our submission go to: