19 Oct 12 Tax Practitioners Board Consultative Forum
On Thursday 11 October 2012, Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes CTA attended the Tax Practitioners Board (Board) Consultative Forum. Following the meeting, the Board has issued these key messages:
On 31 May 2012, the Assistant Treasurer issued a media release announcing that the Government would be conducting a merit-based selection process for membership for the Board, including the Chair. The process is well under way; however, to ensure a smooth transition, the Minister has put in place acting arrangements for the current Board to continue until 21 January 2013.
Making agents aware of the continuing professional education policy
Further information about the Board’s continuing professional education (CPE) policy has been published to the Board’s website, including a downloadable version of the brochure sent to registered agents in July 2012.
The Chair and Secretary noted the continuing trend to reduce the registrations backlog, noting that the remaining applications are less straightforward and necessitate receipt of further information. These will be processed as quickly as possible.
It was observed that the Board also has a dedicated education enquiry presence to assist applicants to understand the education qualification requirements. If applicants cannot find the requisite information on the Board’s website at www.tpb.gov.au, enquiries regarding whether a course will meet the Board’s requirements should be referred by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information provided:
- their name;
- contact details, including phone number;
- details of the qualification or course;
- course outline and other relevant course materials;
- academic transcript (if relevant).
Bookkeepers who prepare BAS encouraged to register now!
The Board continues to encourage people and businesses who provide BAS services for a fee or other reward, but who have not yet registered with the Board and are unable to meet the standard registration option, to register before the transitional registration option ends on 28 February 2013. Further information about this option is available on the Board’s website at www.tpb.gov.au.
As part of its BAS agent encouragement strategy, the Board has also been in contact with key software providers and small business councils to assist in distributing tailored messages to alert the public about the need for those providing BAS services to register with it.
Compliance and complaints
The Chair noted the recent civil penalty decisions made in the Federal Court, since the previous Forum held in July. These relate to people who have provided tax agent services for a fee while not being registered as a tax agent with the Board.
It was highlighted that compliance outcomes also arise in the Board Conduct Committee and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Board provided a summary of conduct cases to the Forum and this will be published on our website.
The Board has received a significant increase in the number of complaints about registered and unregistered agents and continues to encourage agents and the public to lodge complaints using the online complaints form. This is available at www.tpb.gov.au.
Beware of being used by others to lodge false returns – you could put yourself and your business at risk
The Forum noted the risk associated with fraudulent tax returns, including in regard to online activity.
The Chair observed that the Board has terminated a number of tax agent registrations for failing to take reasonable care and for not being fit and proper in association with lodging fraudulent income tax returns based on false payment summaries.
Some indicators of potential fraud were outlined, including:
- unusually high tax installments compared to income;
- payment summary is handwritten or appears to have been altered;
- large claims are made for deductions that are unusual for the occupation;
- the taxpayer is accompanied by a person who speaks on their behalf;
- large numbers of payment summaries are provided for processing that relate to people that the agent has never met.
The Chair also reiterated the following practical steps an agent should take, as advised in a recent Chair’s message:
- Check the identity of new clients;
- Check the identify and authority of the person approaching you to lodge returns or statements on behalf of others;
- Conduct your own proof of identity checks directly with the taxpayers themselves;
- Have strong and robust procedures in place;
- Check details of the payment summaries with employers.
The Board is continuing to work with Treasury and ASIC on the regulatory system for financial advisers who provide tax advice in the context of financial planning advice.
The Board has recently issued the following products on its website:
- Information sheet TPB(I) 14/2012: Tertiary qualifications in a discipline other than accountancy for tax agents’. This was released on 13 September 2012 and outlines the Board’s position in relation to the application of item 202 in Schedule 2 of the Tax Agent Services Regulations 2009 (TASR).
- Revised ‘Proposed TPB Guideline TPB(PG) 02/2010: Course in commercial law that is approved by the Board’. This was also released on 13 September 2012. The Board has taken the view that from 1 March 2017, the Board expects all new registrants to show they have completed a Board approved course in commercial law by having wholly or substantially studied all of the ‘core commercial law areas’ in three units of study. In this regard, the Board is continuing to work with the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector to encourage the teaching of these core subjects.
The Board also intends to release the following products in the near future:
- a final information sheet on holding money or other property on trust in regard to the Code of Professional Conduct (Code), outlining the Board’s position in relation to the application of subsection 30-10(3) of the TASA (one of the obligations of registered agents under the Code);
- an information sheet discussing circumstances when a valuer will need to register as a tax or BAS agent with the Board; and
- a bankruptcy information sheet, which will aim to identify general principles that should be taken into account when considering the effect of bankruptcy upon an individual’s eligibility for registration under the TASA.
New Board website launched
The website is the Board’s main communication channel, providing guidance and advice to agents and consumers. The new website was launched on 28 September 2012, with the structure and content refreshed to improve accessibility.
The Board will continue to invest in improving content and accessibility on an ongoing basis. Feedback is invited for Board consideration and incorporation into its work program.
Please contact TPBCommunications@ato.gov.au if you have any feedback about the new website.
Professional practice work program
Reasonable care papers open for comment
On 19 September 2012, the Board released two exposure drafts (EDs) on what registered tax agents and BAS agents need to do to take reasonable care in their work. These papers are open for comment until 13 November 2012 and can be found on the Board’s website.
These EDs will assist registered tax and BAS agents to understand their obligations under the Code in regard to:
- taking reasonable care in ascertaining a client’s state of affairs, and
- taking reasonable care to ensure that taxation laws are applied correctly.
The Chair invited the submission of further comments, in particular practical examples and relevant background source documentation, which can be sent to email@example.com.
Other current work program topics
- The Board is currently scoping out information for the creation of information sheets in regard to:
- conflicts of interest; and
- offshoring / outsourcing.
The Chair invited material on these topics, in particular practical examples of common situations that arise and the provision of relevant background material.
- The Board is also considering the development of an ED or other guidance in regard to the impact of technology and the TASA.
The Tax Institute continues to consult directly with the Board on many of the issues noted above and welcomes comments and feedback from Members on matters for which the Board has responsibility. Please contact us at Tax Policy if you have any feedback or comments or if you require further information in relation to any of the above.