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At the ATPF Lodgment Working Party (LWP) meeting on Thursday 15 June 2006, the ATO revealed that the ATO’s Relationship Managers are now also conducting preliminary compliance activities. The ATO indicated that its Relationship Managers are taking the opportunity on field visits with tax agents to carry out preliminary reviews of the agent’s working papers on particular items (e.g., work related expenses). These reviews are compliance focused in nature.

This is an unacceptable conflict of interest between the help liaison role of a Relationship Manager, as currently understood, and that of an ATO compliance officer. Further, it appears to be a breach of the ATO’s Guidelines to Accessing Professional Accounting Advisors’ Papers, which state that working papers are classified as non-source documents by the ATO and should only be accessed in accordance with the Guidelines (para 3.2). What was more of a concern was the failure to recognize at the meeting that this approach would render useless the relationship manager role, as visits would no longer be welcome. A question seeking a further explanation will be put to the ATO’s Tax Practitioner Forum.

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