Last week, Justice Logan of the Federal Court dismissed the appeal by Philip Ham, upholding the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decision which affirmed the TPB’s rejection of Mr Ham as a tax agent as he was not a ‘fit and proper person’.
The Brisbane-based Mr Ham had been registered as an individual tax agent since June 1989.
Mr Ham was sued by a former client for breaches of ‘fiduciary obligations’ or trust after he derived millions of dollars from the sale of land in which his former client had an interest.
He was later disciplined by CA ANZ and was excluded from membership but failed to disclose these issues to the TPB.
In 2017, the AAT affirmed the TPB decision to reject Mr Ham’s renewal application for registration, determining his conduct was “inconsistent with the qualities of moral soundness, uprightness and honesty that one would expect of a tax agent”.
Mr Ham pursued his case with an appeal to the Federal Court, culminating with last Friday’s decision.
TPB chair Ian Taylor said the Federal Court’s decision confirms the high ethical and professional standards expected of a trusted adviser like a tax practitioner.
“This case is an important reminder for all members of the tax profession to act with competence and integrity, to ensure that the community, the TPB and the ATO can have confidence that services are provided with professionalism,” Mr Taylor said.
“Tax practitioners are engaged by three-quarters of individual Australian taxpayers and entrusted to manage their tax affairs in compliance with the law. It’s important that agents respect the mutual trust between client, agent and the TPB, and act properly to protect the public and to ensure the integrity of the tax system.”
Mr Taylor added that the TPB takes these matters seriously, with around 400 current investigations into tax practitioners across Australia.
“This is particularly important following ATO research linking some tax practitioners with overclaimed deductions, tax avoidance and evasion.”
The TPB recently released its annual report, detailing its compliance work for the 2017–18 period which resulted in a total number of 287 sanctions, including 24 terminations, up from 17 last year.