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12 Mar 10 Advisers must meet standards

 Australian Financial Review, 10 March 2010

The Federal Government must ensure taxpayers are protected from potential risks, by ensuring all parties that provide tax advice are covered by the new Tax Agent Services Regime.

The Regime, which came into effect on 1 March 2010, requires tax advisors to meet a higher level of professional and ethical standards and introduces new wide ranging penalties for tax agents who fail to comply with the new standards.

As Australia's leading professional association in tax, the Taxation Institute of Australia is concerned that the Government is considering exempting from the laws some groups that provide tax advice, such as financial planners.

The intent of the new laws is to ensure that the tax profession is properly regulated and provides appropriate protection for the consumer.

Whether people receive and rely on tax advice from their accountant or a financial planner, they have the right to expect that the advisor meets the requirements of the regime and that they are covered by the protective measures within it.

Tax agents have no issue with being exposed to greater scrutiny and more significant requirements around education and service levels as a result of the new regime. However, the same professional and ethical standards should also protect taxpayers receiving tax advice from any party, including financial planners.

The new regime goes to the heart of strengthening the integrity of the tax system and the tax profession and any blanket exemption of advisors where they are clearly providing tax advice will erode the very outcome the regime was intended to deliver.

Robert Jeremenko
Senior Tax Counsel
Taxation Institute of Australia

Level 2, 95 Pitt St, Sydney

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