Lack of consultation on new legislation could lead to unintended consequences for tax professionals

SYDNEY, 15 November 2023: Amendments to the Treasury Laws Amendment (2023 Measures No. 1) Bill 2023 (the Bill) were accepted by the Government in the Senate today, forgoing usual consultation processes and sidelining key professional associations representing the tax and accounting profession.

The amendments will change the appointment process for members of the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) and require registered tax agents and BAS agents to notify the TPB of other agents they ‘reasonably believe’ have committed a significant breach of the Code of Professional Conduct in the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA).

Unlike other laws, including the Corporations Act 2001, these amendments lack any protections usually afforded to those who are the subject of false or unfounded allegations, or for claims for lost revenues against someone who made an allegation.

The Joint Bodies* wrote to the Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Stephen Jones MP, to express concerns with these latest amendments to Schedule 3 to the Bill, which were tabled by the Greens on Wednesday 8 November 2023. While the Joint Bodies agree with the policy intent (to enhance community confidence in the tax profession and ensure high standards of ethical behaviour), serious concerns remain that the amendments in their current form may have devastating impacts for any tax practitioner falsely accused of misconduct.

Matthew Addison, Co-Chair of the TPB’s Tax Practitioner Governance and Standards Forum (TPGSF), said on behalf of the Joint Bodies, ‘The original amendments in Schedule 3 to the Bill are intended to improve the effectiveness and independence of the TPB, enhance community confidence, and support high standards in the tax profession while streamlining the regulation of tax practitioners.’

‘While the Government consulted widely on the original proposed amendments earlier this year, there has been no consultation with stakeholders on the Greens’ latest amendments, nor has an accompanying explanatory memorandum been provided to give further guidance on the changes.’

‘We strongly suggest that targeted consultation with key stakeholders be immediately undertaken to ensure the provisions operate as intended, and include any resulting changes as part of the second tranche of legislative changes to the TASA which are currently in exposure draft form.’

The Joint Bodies’ stance is that consultation should be undertaken for all significant changes to the law.  Poor tax law design and lack of consultation can often lead to poor or unintended outcomes for everyone involved, which is why the usual process of parliamentary consultation is in place and should have been followed in this case. Any amendments to the law must consider all impacts and become good law, based on sound and considered policy.

*Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, CPA Australia, Institute of Public Accountants, The Tax Institute, Australian Bookkeepers Association, The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, Financial Advice Association of Australia and SMSF Association (collectively the Joint Bodies) represent the tax profession as the external members of the TPB’s Tax Practitioner Governance and Standards Forum (TPGSF).

Other media releases
  • ATO casts the NALI net too wide says Joint Bodies
  • Tax reform heavyweights weigh in on the path to lasting change in our system
  • The Tax Institute COVID-19 response