History

Below is a history of the path of the Tax Agent Services Regime, provided by Gordon Cooper FTIA (Life), Cooper & Co. This is an extract from a paper written in May 2007. For full details on the current progression of the regime visit the news and background pages.

The full paper can be downloaded here.

In 1992 the author and David Russell QC visited the then Commissioner, Michael Carmody. The purpose of our visit was to suggest that after nearly 50 years of operation the regulatory regime for tax agents required a review and probably renovation.

The Commissioner agreed with the proposal that the tax agent regime required a review. He established the National Review of Standards for the Tax Profession under the auspices of the National Tax Liaison Group.

There was two years of activity by a Steering Committee comprising members who were drawn from various professional bodies, the ATO, the Attorney General's Department and others. It was ably chaired jointly by the incomparable Ian Langford-Brown from the Taxation Institute of Australia and poet extraordinaire Dr Keith McKenry from the ATO.
The Steering Committee was assisted by nine working parties which addressed issues such as ethics, professional standards and the appropriate regulatory regime.
The efforts of the Steering Committee and working parties culminated in the report "Tax Services for the public". This was delivered to the Commissioner on 2 November 1994. It contained 138 recommendations.
The Report received broad acceptance. However the path to implementation proved to be a long and, at times, rocky road.
On 6 April 1998 the then Assistant Treasurer, Rod Kemp, announced that from 1 July 1999 the Government would introduce a new legislative regime. Three key features were identified. These were stated to be:

  • establish a new national Tax Agents' Board;
  • develop a legislated Code of Practice that would specify the conduct expected of tax agents by the community; and
  • create a 'safe harbour' from penalties for those taxpayers who engage a tax agent, provided they exercise reasonable care by furnishing all the relevant taxation information to that tax agent.

Some members of the tax profession successfully sought a delay to the commencement of the proposed new regime. This was due to the additional burdens placed upon practitioners by the introduction of the GST and the reforms associated with the Ralph Review’s report, "A Tax System Redesigned" and the Government’s "A New Tax System".

During 2000 a working group was convened by Treasury to progress the detailed design and implementation of the new regime.

In the 2006 budget the Treasurer announced additional funding of $57.5m over four years to implement the new regime. The start date was anticipated to be no earlier than February 2008.

The Exposure Draft of the Tax Laws Amendment (Tax Agent Services) Bill 2007 and associated Regulations were released on 7 May 2007 for a period of public consultation until 13 July 2007.

During the 15 years that the author has been involved in this project a large number of very talented people have made significant contributions. In the early years Mark Neal and then for several years to 1998 Stefan Kovic, both from the ATO, stood out. More recently the project has benefited from the leadership of Paul McCullough from Treasury. From the professional side the contribution of Keith James, who provided a crucial link with the deliberations of the earlier self assessment task force, deserves recognition. More recently the efforts of Peter Davis have been crucial. Apologies for not specifically identifying the valuable parts played by the many other participants.