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On Tuesday 11 February 2014, Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes CTA attended the Tax Practitioners Board Consultative Forum. The Board has provided the following summary of the meeting:

Update from the TPB

1)      Registrations

  • The TPB continues to meet service standards, as outlined in the TPB’s Strategic plan, in relation to Registrations processing results. As at the end of December 2013, the current year-to-date overall weighted average for processing registration applications is approximately 21 days.
  • The TPB is continuing to receive a steady number of new applications and is constantly seeking to identify opportunities that enable streamlined processing and improve end-user experience with the registration process.
  • Having regard to professional indemnity (PI) insurance now being an ongoing registration requirement, the TPB will be in communication with registered agents to raise awareness of the need to ensure that the PI insurance details they have provided to the TPB are current. Relevant information will be sought on an annual basis using a streamlined online process, with the TPB working on requesting such information at an appropriate time that compliments the PI insurance renewal process so as to facilitate further engagement.
  • It was highlighted that it is important that registered agents respond to requests from the TPB for information in a timely and reasonable manner.

2)      Compliance

  • In conjunction with refinement of processes (including with referrals) and maturity of the TPB’s proactive work program, there has been a slight decrease in the number of complaints and referrals in comparison to the previous year. Public complaints continue to represent approximately 50 per cent of all complaints and referrals, with many finalised without further action. The main issues that are raised in public complaints concern dealing with client monies, acting in the best interest of the client and competency of services.
  • As at 31 December 2013, there were 331 matters on hand, compared with 413 matters on hand as at 30 September 2013 (as noted in the previous consultative forum report). There has been a total of 171 sanctions applied year-to-date as at 31 December 2013 (noting that an agent may have two or more sanctions imposed in particular cases), demonstrating generally good compliance with the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA) when having regard to the total population of registered agents.

Communication activities

1)      Outreach

  • The Forum noted the listing of recently issued TPB information products, including the recent website material in relation to the Canberra Outreach event being held on 4 March as part of the TPB’s continued activities to proactively engage with registered agents and comment on topical issues. This event will entail 5 sessions (2 for tax agents, 2 for BAS agents and 1 with financial advisers) and significant interest has already been received, with approximately 30 per cent of all individually registered agents in Canberra (and surrounds) already confirming their attendance.
  • The most recent Outreach events held in Adelaide in November 2013 were a success, with a significant number of registered agents in South Australia attending and the TPB receiving favourable feedback. Events for 2014 are planned to be held in Canberra (March), Brisbane (proposed for June) and Hobart (proposed for November). In 2015, it is proposed that Outreach events will be held in regional New South Wales and regional Victoria.

2)      Service Charter

  • The TPB will soon be releasing a TPB-tax practitioner service charter, giving definition to expectations in relation to the interaction between the TPB and registered tax practitioners. Forum members suggested reviewing language employed in the document to avoid confusion, in particular to make it clear that the Charter is only directed at tax practitioners as opposed to the general public.
  • Comments from forum members will be considered by the TPB prior to publishing the document to the TPB website in early March. It is also intended that the document be highlighted at the forthcoming Outreach sessions in Canberra.
  • It was also noted that the TPB is open to feedback at any time. Forum members remarked that the TPB may receive some feedback from registered agents after publication of the document and it was confirmed that post-release comments would be considered as part of any future review as appropriate.

3)      Registered Agent Symbol

  • Progress continues to be made in relation to a registered agent symbol, which will provide an opportunity for registered agents to promote their status. The TPB is currently awaiting final approvals from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and if no objections are raised, the TPB is hopeful of releasing the symbol as soon as late March. When the symbol is ready for (electronic) release, accompanying guidelines will also be published to the TPB website.

Professional practice work of the Board - Confidentiality of client information

  • The TPB will soon publish an exposure draft (ED) information sheet in relation to Code of Professional Conduct – confidentiality of client information, highlighting that agents have a responsibility to ensure that the confidential information provided to the agent by the client is not disclosed to another party without that client’s consent, unless there is a legal duty to provide such information.
  • Comments from forum members will be considered by the TPB prior to releasing the ED on the TPB website. There will be a 30-day submission period for public comment.

The Tax Institute also attended a meeting with representatives from the financial planning industry and the Board to consider the implications of financial advisers being brought into the Tax Agent Services regime effective 1 July 2014. Shortly, the Board will be issuing draft guidance materials for consultation.

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