As reported by AccountantsDaily late last year, The Audit & Risk Recruitment Industry Survey 2015, conducted by global job board careersinaudit.com, collected responses from 1,700 auditors and tax agents worldwide and revealed that two thirds of respondents felt that they would not be protected by victimisation and/or dismissal if they were to speak out against unethical conduct.
Speaking to AccountantsDaily, chairman of the Tax Practitioners Board Ian Taylor noted that the TPB receives an average 1,500 complaints per annum, with 150 of those coming directly from practitioners reporting on the behaviour of their fellow tax agents.
“150’s not a huge number, but in the context of the total number of complaints that we get per annum it’s still a steady stream that are coming from other practitioners effectively dobbing in an existing practitioner,” Mr Taylor said.
When asked if the complaints process acted as a potential deterrent to would-be whistleblowers, Mr Taylor stated that the strength of evidence, as opposed to the process itself, proved to be the biggest hurdle in moving forward with a potential complaint.
“There may be some circumstances; we’ve had some feedback previously from some people that the complaints process is time consuming and they may not choose to do it, but our difficulty is that if someone is going to make an accusation against another accountant or registered tax practitioner, then we have to be very certain,” he said.
“We can impact very easily and readily their income earning capacity,” he added.
Mr Taylor emphasised that industry regulations within Australia are extensive and noted the role that professional bodies play in disciplining unethical behaviour by the profession's membership.
“Those professional bodies have the same issue that we have at the TPB about the level of evidence, because if they’re to exclude people from membership they can also have a pretty severe impact in relation to what they do and how they do it for the future,” he said.