Nick Renton's 30th Australian book has just been published. His first book - Guide for Meetings and Organisations - was released in 1961, but the bulk of his output dates from 1989 onwards.
Many of his works deal with investment and taxation issues. Thus it is not surprising that he has now turned his attention to the goods and services tax which is due to start in Australia in July 2000.
In GST and Investment he has produced a guide which will demystify this new levy for a target audience of ordinary families who have put their savings to work in a portfolio of suitable assets.
These days many people own shares and fixed interest securities. Some hold these investments directly, others indirectly through managed funds or superannuation. Millions of Australians became first time shareholders though the Telstra floats and the AMP demutualisation and these all have a great desire to learn how the system works.
As the author points out, these people will not be greatly affected by the GST in their capacity as investors. However, they will still find it useful to have the rules explained to them in plain English, because these rules will affect the economy as a whole and also because the GST will have an impact on all companies listed on the stock exchange.
Property investors, on the other hand, will have to do considerably more homework. The rules applying to such investments are much more complex, but investors will need to understand them in order to be successful at their craft.
To illustrate, the threshold for compulsory registration for GST at $50,000 per year turnover sounds as though it is aimed primarily at "big business". But it is sufficiently small to catch a retired person with a $500,000 superannuation lump sum put into an investment property returning 10 per cent.
Readers of this book will, of course, also be vitally interested in the subject as citizens of Australia and as electors.
Nick Renton is not only a recognised expert in the subject matter of this book; he is also a great wordsmith. He has put his communications skills to work to make the convoluted language of the GST statutes understandable to ordinary mortals.
In the course of doing so he has not hesitated to interpose his own analytical comments on the legislation, so that its provisions can be better seen in context.
He has defined technical expressions in lay terms. He has translated the rules and simplified them as far as practicable. He has then put them into an order which investors seeking to teach themselves will find most useful for that task.
He takes the occasional light-hearted shot at the authorities - for example, for using circular definitions in the Act. Such criticisms would, of course, never be found in an official government publication or a formal text. In a rare feat, he has managed to turn a book on taxation issues into entertaining reading.
But he also gives serious advice, which will help users of this work to evolve investment strategies appropriate to their purposes.
The value of the book is enhanced by the inclusion of some useful background material in the appendices. The official government line is put on the permanent record by setting out the Treasurer's Second Reading Speech in full, while for balance two essays by the author debating some controversial aspects have also been presented.
This highly topical volume deserves a place on the bookshelves of every Australian household.
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