Earlier this month, the Fair Work Ombudsman secured its first accessorial liability penalties against accounting firm Ezy Accounting 123 for facilitating underpayment by its client.
Laurus Bookkeeping director Cassandra Scott believes such examples cast a bad light on the industry, where most bookkeepers strive to stay on the right side of the law.
“This is where there's quite an extreme in the cases being touted to a certain extent, fear-mongering in the industry around accessorial liability whereas the great majority of the bookkeepers that I deal with are very aware of it and doing everything they possibly can to ensure their clients are compliant and they are not complicit in the breaches,” Ms Scott said.
“There will always be, irrespective of which industry, somebody that steps outside that who continues to act with impropriety but it shouldn't be tarnishing the whole bookkeeping industry and I think there's a lot of language out there at the moment that is fear-mongering around legislation where it is not necessarily warranted.”
Further, Ms Scott says word from the ATO and the TPB hint at greater scrutiny on BAS and tax agents over the next 12-24 months.
“There's starting to be a lot more accountability and scrutiny over what we do and how we deal with our clients, whereas years ago it was easy to just hide behind saying, ‘that the client told me to do so’ — that barrier is being broken down now and bookkeepers are probably very much aware of that and very conscious of that historically,” she added.
“I think the accounting industry is actually starting to see that hiding behind a client disclosure statement isn't necessarily going to provide them with the level of protection that they historically perceived to have had.
“Certainly there seems to be a perception in the bookkeeping industry that some of the regulation coming through from the TPB is going to be placing a whole lot more accountability on the BAS agents and tax agents and I think the industry as a whole is going to see, within the next 12-24 months, the tax office and the TPB being more active in pursuing non-compliant agents.”
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Jotham Lian is the news editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.