On Tuesday 12 August 2014, Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes CTA attended a meeting of the Tax Practitioners Board Consultation Forum. The Board issued these key messages following the meeting:
Update from the TPB
The TPB continues to meet service standards, as outlined in the TPB’s Strategic plan, in relation to Registrations processing results. The overall weighted average for processing registration applications in the 2013-14 financial year was 21 days, while also recognising that the TPB’s ability to sustain these service standards may be impacted by budgetary constraints and increased workload in association with administering a system for the registration of tax (financial) advisers from 1 July 2014. The TPB will continue to identify opportunities that enable streamlined processing and it was highlighted that it is important for agents to ensure they maintain currency of their email and telephone details with the TPB.
The following was also noted during the overview provided:
- The number of registered agents has stabilised around 55,000 for the last 12 months, of which approximately 40,000 are tax agents.
- Approximately 75 per cent of registered individual agents are a member of a TPB recognised professional association.
- The TPB is receiving a small but steadily increasing number of applications from Australian financial service licensees and Authorised representatives, with no reported problems with the notification process to date.
In conjunction with maturity of the TPB’s proactive work program and refined processes in relation to the number of ATO referrals, there has been a slight decrease in the number of complaints and referrals in comparison to the previous year (2,600 compared with 2,680 in the 2012-13 year). A total of 310 sanctions were applied in the 2013-14 year (including, among other outcomes, 49 terminations and 66 suspensions), demonstrating generally good compliance with the TASA when having regard to the total population of registered agents.
Complaints from the public continue to represent a major source of complaints (almost 40% of the total number of complaints and referrals).The main issues raised concern acting in the best interest of the client and competency of services (subsections 30-10(4) and 30-10(7) of the TASA). Internal project work in relation to Professional Indemnity insurance (PII) obligations and Personal tax obligations represented a significant proportion of the primary breach of finalised cases.
The Forum noted the listing of recently issued TPB information products including, among other things:
- Exposure draft (ED) information sheet TPB(I) D22/2014: Payroll service providers, which was released for the purpose of assisting payroll service providers to determine if they need to register with the TPB as a tax or BAS agent. The closing date for submissions was 25 August 2014.
- Finalised papers for tax (financial) advisers in relation to the following:
- What is a tax (financial) advice service?
- PII requirements
- Continuing professional education (CPE) requirements.
Professional Practice Issues
Tax (financial) advisers
Having regard to feedback received from financial advisers and the ATO, the Board intends to develop a relevant legislative instrument in relation to extending the definition of a tax (financial) advice service to incorporate the following particular interactions:
- applying for a TFN and/or ABN;
- excess contributions tax (ECT), including negotiating payment arrangements;
- determining dependency for Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 purposes.
In the interests of providing a timely reference, recognising that tax (financial) advisers are required to comply with obligations under the Code of Professional Conduct (Code) from the time they register with TPB, the TPB has developed a summary Code comparison table on its website comparing the Code items with relevant obligations under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).
The forum provided comments and suggestions for the purpose of providing guidance to assist the TPB in developing and publishing an ED information sheet on the following topics in the near future:
- Sufficient number requirement for partnership and company registered tax (financial) advisers;
- What is a fee or other reward?
Data access associated with software and Cloud usage
It was noted that the growing online presence in association with increasing usage of Cloud, software programs and online data management has raised questions in regard to what is required of an agent. In this regard, the TPB will be seeking feedback in relation to an appropriate position on data access associated with software and Cloud use for the purpose of providing relevant guidance.
It was noted that the TPB has a general expectation that all ATO correspondence received by a registered agent on behalf of a taxpayer (including tax receipts and notices of assessment) should be passed on to the taxpayer, along with all other documentation which is required to be passed on by law. The TPB intends to highlight this message in its next eNews edition.
The Board also updated members in relation to their ‘red tape’ reduction activities.
Shortly after the meeting, the Board issued its draft guidance on a course in Australian taxation law and a course in commercial law approved by the Board for tax (financial) advisers. More information on the exposure drafts is available here.
Members who wish to contribute to The Tax Institute’s submission on the exposure drafts or who require further information in relation to the above should contact us at Tax Policy.