Complaints and referrals received about BAS agents
While the vast majority of tax practitioners comply with their obligations, the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) proactively uses outcomes from investigations to promote compliant behaviour.
From 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017 the TPB received 1,525 complaints and referrals about tax practitioners. Of this total, less than 10 per cent (139) were complaints or referrals about BAS agents where BAS agents represent approximately 20 per cent of the regulated population.
Complaints come from the general public (clients of tax practitioners) and other registered tax practitioners and referrals come from the ATO and other sources.
A risk-based approach
The TPB compliance strategy strongly supports responsible tax practitioners who comply with the Code of Professional Conduct (Code) and other legislative requirements, and results in firm action against those who do not comply. It applies a strategic, risk-based approach to compliance, providing help and support to encourage a change in practitioner behaviour in a large number of matters.
In a small percentage of cases, where the TPB Board Conduct Committee (BCC) decides a breach of the Code is proven, sanctions may be applied which could include suspending or terminating the registrations of tax practitioners where appropriate, for non-compliance with the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA).
The principles supporting the TPB’s approach are to:
• respond appropriately to all complaints and referrals and take action where tax practitioners are at risk of not meeting their obligations
• exercise sound judgement and use available powers
• begin enquiries and investigations in a timely manner
• enhance tax practitioners’ skills and knowledge
• identify and address undesirable tax practitioner behaviours
• treat tax practitioners and stakeholders fairly and with respect
• enhance the tax system’s integrity and uphold the law.
The BCC reviews matters presented to it for alleged failure to comply with the TASA, including the Code of Professional Conduct. From January to April this year the BCC has imposed a range of administrative sanctions.
In January 2016, the TPB implemented the annual declaration process for all registered tax and BAS agents. Other than in their year of registration renewal, tax and BAS agents are required to annually notify the TPB that they continue to meet certain ongoing registration requirements to maintain their registration. The annual declaration replaced a previous process, which required all registered practitioners to annually notify the TPB of their professional indemnity insurance details.
In the year ended 30 June 2017, 36,788 registered tax and BAS agents lodged an annual declaration, and many also took advantage of the opportunity to update their contact details with the TPB. On average, about 99 per cent of tax practitioners required to lodge their annual declaration each month did so by the due date.
The annual declaration has already improved the integrity of the TPB Register, with a number of tax and BAS agents surrendering their registrations as they no longer met their ongoing obligations. The annual declaration also ensures that tax and BAS agents have current information with the TPB about how they meet the professional indemnity insurance requirement, continuing professional education requirement and up-to-date details about whether they are meeting their personal tax obligations.
The TPB has also investigated a number of practitioners who failed to comply with requests to complete the annual declaration as well as a number of practitioners with outstanding tax obligations.
Cyber security and risk
The TPB has released revised guidance related to cyber security issues for registered tax practitioners. Its professional indemnity insurance and continuing professional education guidance has been updated to reflect the emerging threat of cyber attacks and the importance of tax practitioners proactively protecting themselves, their practice and their clients. The updated information is available now in the TPB’s PI insurance and continuing professional education explanatory papers. You can also read practical tips on protecting your practice from cyber threat.
Ian Taylor, chair, TPB