In a poll of 208 accountants, conducted by AccountantsDaily, 76 per cent of respondents said the TPB is not doing enough to stop unregistered tax agents operating in Australia.
In response, TPB chair Ian Taylor said the board is doing everything it can to address the problem but it faces substantial restrictions.
According to Mr Taylor, the board can only take action once an official complaint has been received regarding a specific person or entity providing tax agent services without the applicable registration.
One of the biggest difficulties the board faces in stopping unregistered agents operating, Mr Taylor said, is the reluctance of others, including registered practitioners, to make a formal complaint.
‘We can do more if we get more complaints that we can investigate. Every complaint that we receive we take very seriously and we obviously deal with those complaints properly and impartially based on our risk approach,” he said.
“It is difficult for the TPB to do more unless we get the proper referrals from the public and other agents. The fact is, for unregistered agent activity, the bulk of the referrals we get come from other agents so it’s those other agents out there who can help the TPB and help their own profession to get rid of these people by referring matters to us.”
Mr Taylor said that in the financial year to date, the TPB has received 100 complaints, all of which have been investigated.
“Of those 100 cases, in 37 per cent we have managed to achieve what we refer to as change of behaviour/education of the unregistered agent. What that means is that in some cases a person may be providing services but it may be inadvertent or it may be that they just don’t know they are breaking the law.
“So, what happens then to the other cases – for the other 63 per cent? There's been no further action.”
“There are a number of reasons why," Mr Taylor said. "The first is there may be a lack of evidence of the alleged offence… The second thing is that often people get their facts wrong… The next area where there might be no further action is where they might not actually be providing a tax agent service or alternatively they’re not charging a fee or getting another reward for it.
“There are lots of reasons why there might be no further evidence but the fact is that 100 cases have come up, we have investigated 100 cases so far, and we have had a couple of cases that have gone on to further investigation and progressing and they may indeed go eventually to the Federal Court,” he said.