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Taxation Institute Says Tax Agent Services Bill 2008 an Important Step Forward

Publication date: 14 Nov 08 | Source: THE TAX INSTITUTE

Australia’s premier professional tax body, the Taxation Institute of Australia, today welcomed the long awaited release of the Tax Agent Services Bill 2008 for a properly regulated tax profession and protection for the consumer.

President of the Taxation Institute, Sue Williamson, said, subject to a few issues of detail, the Taxation Institute supports the general overhaul of the regulatory framework in the Tax Agent Services Bill 2008 and acknowledges it as being a necessary response to the significant changes that have occurred in the way that tax professionals operate within an increasingly complex tax environment.

“This Bill is an important step forward in supporting a mature tax profession with an appropriate regulatory regime.  It ensures that clients can use tax agents with greater comfort in knowing that their tax agent will be expected to meet education requirements and be required to comply with an acceptable code of conduct,” Ms. Williamson said.

“It strengthens the ability of the regulators to monitor and deal with rogue operators who are putting their clients at risk with bad advice.”  

“In other words it offers protection to clients and to tax agents who are doing the right things in terms of keeping up to date with the ever-changing technical requirements and operating ethically.”

“In particular, the Taxation Institute is pleased to see the addition of a number of provisions in the Bill that further clarify and strengthen the independence and operation of the new national Tax Practitioners Board.”

Notwithstanding the general support for the new regime, the Taxation Institute will be making submissions on certain aspects of the Bill.  

It is anticipated that the focus of these submissions will include:

  • Concerns about the potential for inconsistencies between the words of the legislation and the more pragmatic guidance material in the Explanatory Memorandum.
  • The need for clarification as to when a tax agent can rely on information provided by a client and when the tax agent needs to seek confirmation of that information.
  • Specific wording on the safe harbour measures.  Details of these measures are not included in the Bill.  However, the EM suggests that a client will not be protected from penalties if the relevant error is made by the tax agent other than carelessly (eg negligently or recklessly).
Although the Tax Agent Services Bill 2008  is the corner stone of the new regulatory regime, the Taxation Institute believes that we still don’t have the full picture for this new regulatory regime.