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On Tuesday 13 March 2012, Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes ATIA, attended the Tax Practitioner Board (Board) Consultative Forum. The Board has issued following key messages arising from the Forum:

1. BAS agent renewals

  • they have now chosen to become employees and therefore did not need to register;
  • the notification process was extremely simple permitting entities to register who may not have intended to be BAS agents long term;
  • some now registered agents were never required to become registered as a BAS agent in the first place;
  • agents have chosen to cease providing BAS services or tax agent services.

There are 9,918 BAS agents who have lodged or were in the process of lodging their renewal applications with the Board at 1 March 2011. The Board is pleased with the number of renewals applications received as it is significantly higher than anticipated.

Of the 14,500 agents who notified the Board that they were providing a BAS service in 2010, 1,570 have surrendered their registration and 3,012 have taken no action to renew. The reasons some of these agents have not renewed include that:

2. Processing times

The Board noted that they are currently experiencing a backlog in processing registration applications and renewals. This backlog is largely attributable to the significant number of applications received when the notification period ended on 29 February 2012. The Board is looking to further refine the application process to ensure a more timely consideration of applications, but all registration requirements are based on the law which the Board administers.
The Board emphasised that, under the law, as long as an agent has submitted their renewal application before their registration expires, they will remain registered until the Board makes a decision on their renewal application.

3. Continuing professional education

The Board will release the finalised explanatory paper on CPE by the end of April 2012 and will employ a phased implementation approach. From 1 July 2012, all tax practitioners should begin or continue their CPE in accordance with the Board's policy to help maintain their knowledge and skills. From 1 July 2013, the Board will start asking agents how they are complying with the CPE policy. All agents should maintain a record as evidence of their continuing professional education from 1 July 2012.

Relevant CPE undertaken through a professional association will be recognised by the Board.

The Board will be issuing further details in coming months.

4. Compliance work

  • 439 complaints on hand, with 70% relating to alleged breaches of the Code of Professional Conduct.
  • The registration of 12 tax agents and 2 BAS agents have been terminated due to the agents no longer meeting the fit and proper person requirements of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (Cth).
  • Three agents have been sanctioned due to breaches of the Code of Professional Conduct.

The Board noted some key statistics in relation to its compliance work. These included:

5. Professional practice

The Board has been progressing its work on professional practice issues, in particular, developing its preliminary view on what it means to take reasonable care and the Board's view as to when a trust arises.

The Board recently held a discussion group with tax and BAS agents in Geelong in February 2012 with a focus on what it means for an agent to take reasonable care for the purposes of the Code of Professional Conduct. Some key issues that arose from that session surrounded source documents, engagement letters, scoping out the arrangement with the client and the relevance of ATO benchmarks.

6. Board approved course in commercial law

  • Agent renewals and processing of applications - The Board noted that they are processing new applicants as a priority because agents that had previously registered that have lodged an application to reregister within the relevant timeframe continue to remain registered until their application is decided (by operation of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (Cth)). Tax or BAS Agents concerned about their applications are encouraged to contact the Board directly or can email The Tax Institute at Tax Policy.
  • Continuing professional education and commercial law requirements - The Tax Institute will advise its members when further information in relation to the CPE and commercial law requirements are made available and will continue to consult with the Board on these matters.
  • Professional Practice - The Tax Institute will continue to consult with the Board in relation to matters concerning professional practice issues. Members are encouraged to contact The Tax Institute at Tax Policy with any comments or feedback they may have concerning these matters.

The Board is currently considering a number of matters in relation to a Board approved course in commercial law. Matters under consideration are the topics that need to be covered in such a course and how the commercial law requirement applies to certain tax agents who were registered before and after 1 March 2010.

The Tax Institute notes the following in relation to the points made above:

Members who seek further information in relation to any of the above items should contact us at Tax Policy.

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