How to become a tax agent: subjects, qualifications and code of conduct

Published: 1 Mar 2024


Dr Julianne Jacques accepts the Tax Adviser of the Year Award, 2020

Tax agents are among Australia's most highly skilled professionals. They are more than just accountants or bookkeepers — tax agents have the expertise and knowledge necessary to help clients across every sector complete their all-important income tax returns with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). 

As a tax agent, you can assist businesses and individuals on tax issues big and small. Your clients can confidently focus on their lives and businesses, knowing that their tax needs are in expert hands.

To become a tax agent, you must have an unwavering attention to detail, a high level of numeracy, and a keen, analytical mind. Plus, to be a registered tax agent, approved by the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) to work across Australia, you need some formal qualifications and experience – which is where we can help.

Code of Conduct in the tax profession

As members of a trusted and respected profession, tax agents are heavily regulated. In particular, tax agents must adhere to the TPB's Code of Professional Conduct. The Code regulates your professional and personal conduct, and it is important you understand how it affects you as you invest time and resources into your tax career.

Tax agents must:

  • Act with honesty and integrity at all times
  • Always act lawfully in a client's best interests  
  • Manage conflicts of interests as and when they arise
  • Maintain confidentiality at all times unless the law directs you otherwise
  • Have the relevant skills and knowledge to provide up-to-date, accurate tax advice 
  • Maintain professional indemnity insurance at all times

By adhering to the Code of Professional Conduct, you won't just preserve the integrity of the tax profession – you will provide clients with the reassurance they need to trust you with their important tax issues.

Qualifications and experience for tax agents

Business leaders trust tax agents with the financial issues that matter most. It is unsurprising, then, that tax agents must complete rigorous training before they can practice in Australia. But the hard work is worth it — once you are qualified, you are part of one of the world's most respected professions. 

If you are aiming to become a tax agent, you must consult with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) to find out what is required, based on the experience and qualifications you already have. For example, you may have to:

  • Finish a degree or a post-graduate award from an Australian tertiary institution (or a degree or award that is approved by the Board from an equivalent institution) in the discipline of accountancy. Disciplines other than accountancy must be relevant to the tax agent services provided
  • Complete Board-approved courses in Australian tax law, commercial law and regulatory compliance 
  • Secure at least 12 months' work experience in the five years before applying for a tax agent registration

If you're unsure whether you meet the tax agent requirements, contact the TPB and they can advise you further.

Board-approved courses

Tax agents hold a reputable professional status. As such, you may not be able to register with the TPB as a tax agent in Australia unless you complete Board-approved tax courses in:

  • Basic accountancy principles
  • Australian tax law (two units, one of which can be pitched at entry level)
  • Commercial law (three units)

These courses ensure that you have the depth and breadth of knowledge you need to offer clients across every industry the most accurate tax advice possible. At The Tax Institute, we can help you satisfy the second and third of these educational requirements.

Subjects and Programs offered by The Tax Institute

If you want to meet the Tax Practitioners Board's qualifications requirement for tax agent registration, enrol in our Tax Agent Program. Our online and interactive subjects not only provide virtual classrooms and webinars to study remotely, but they also allow you to take your final assessment at a place that suits you best.

Approved by the Board, our program gives you the skills, knowledge and expertise you will need to succeed as a tax agent. You will work through the following subjects:

  • CTA1 Foundations takes you through basic tax principles and the legislation behind them. You will learn practical skills that can be applied immediately to real-life tax situations. It also explores the professional regulatory standards you must adhere to if you plan on working as a tax professional — namely, the Code of Professional Conduct.  
  • CTA2A Advanced explores complex tax issues to deepen your understanding of Tax Administration, CGT, Small Business CGT and the Taxation of Partnerships, Trusts and Superannuation.
  • CTA2B Advanced provides more depth of understanding in GST, Tax Planning & Anti-avoidance; FBT, Corporate Tax and the fundamentals of International Tax.

We also provide the three core commercial law subjects you will need to offer clients reliable, accurate and comprehensive advice:

  • CommLaw1 Australian Legal Systems introduces, explains and explores the way laws are made, how to find the law in a given area, and how the law will be interpreted and applied. 
  • CommLaw2 Entities and Business Structures includes regulatory issues concerning superannuation (other than tax-related), bankruptcy and insolvency. Importantly, it also examines instances where commercial law and the taxation treatment converge. 
  • CommLaw3 Property Law develops a sound understanding of commercial law in relation to property - including intellectual property - finance, insurance, competition and consumer law.

Completing our Tax Agent Program means you've met the educational requirements to apply for your tax agent registration.