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End in sight after a 15 year journey

Publication date: 29 May 08 | Source: THE TAX INSTITUTE

Australia’s premier professional tax body, the Taxation Institute of Australia, today said the Government’s release of its exposure draft of a regulatory framework for tax service providers was a major step forward for the profession and Australian taxpayers.

President of the Taxation Institute, Sue Williamson, said Australia’s tax professionals strongly supported the move as it made significant advances towards a properly regulated tax services profession.

“The Taxation Institute has been working hard for the past 15 years to see proper regulation come to fruition as it will ensure the services provided by tax professionals are delivered to the highest standards and consumers are protected,” Ms Williamson said.

“While there is a need for some further work to be done, we are pleased to see that the Government has listened and responded to many key concerns raised by the Taxation Institute and its Members on the May 2007 draft.”

Ms Williamson said she was particularly pleased to see that Government had proposed the creation of an independent Tax Practitioners Board set up under its own legislation, one of the Taxation Institute’s key recommendations in previous consultation on the issue.

“Despite this new draft being a significant advance towards a properly regulated tax services profession, there are still a number of key issues that need to be addressed before the regulatory scheme is finalised,” Ms Williamson said.

These key areas include:

    * ensuring the Code of Professional Conduct strikes the appropriate balance between consumer protection and reasonable obligations on tax professionals and in doing so, does not result in unnecessary compliance costs for the consumer;
    * making sure that the safe harbour for taxpayers effectively protects the consumer where they acted honestly and openly with their tax advisers; and
    * ensuring that the regulatory scheme enables tax practitioners to use contemporary business structures in their day to day operations.

“The Code of Professional Conduct remains our major area of focus. Although the new draft improves on the original obligation for tax agents to audit their client's affairs, there is still ambiguity that needs to be dealt with,” Ms Williamson said.

“It’s crucial with any regulatory model that there is a balance between the obligations imposed on consumers and on tax professionals. A client should not be held responsible for reckless actions of their tax adviser, nor should an adviser be liable for the reckless actions of their clients.”

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About the Taxation Institute of Australia: The Taxation Institute is Australia’s largest and most diverse body of tax professionals working together to improve the tax system and the delivery of tax services through education, sharing of information and consultation.

Media Contacts:

Sue Williamson, President - Taxation Institute of Australia on 0411 646 783

Peter Laidlaw, Lighthouse Communications Group on 0419 210 306