Last week, Treasury released a discussion paper on its independent review of the Tax Practitioners Board, suggesting a lift in educational requirements for tax and BAS agents to that of a degree and diploma level qualification correspondingly.
The preliminary view of the paper went further to suggest that the pathway for members of a professional association who have eight years’ experience in the past 10 years to register with the TPB should be reconsidered, noting the lifting of standards in the financial planning sector.
“In light of the lifting of standards in the financial adviser profession, which now mandates that all individual financial advisers have a baseline educational qualification, the appropriateness of individuals becoming registered through their voting membership with a TPB-recognised professional association needs to be considered,” the paper said.
FASEA’s new requirements for financial advisers include a FASEA-approved degree, completion of a Financial Adviser Exam and 40 hours of continuing professional development.
Speaking with Accountants Daily, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand tax leader Michael Croker said any change to TPB registration through membership of a professional association should not be taken lightly, considering the strict standards of the profession.
“Relitigating the entry pathways that members of professional bodies can use to register with the TPB is a very serious move,” Mr Croker said.
“As trusted advisers, Chartered Accountants meet high ethical and education standards backed by robust disciplinary processes and the recent recognition of the CA designation by FASEA is a testament to this.
“We should be building more recognition of the assurance provided by better-skilled tax agents who meet the highest ethical standards as a member of a professional body, not reconsidering it.”
Tony Greco, general manager of technical policy at the Institute of Public Accountants, criticised the comparison with the financial planning space, arguing that accountants were “way ahead of the curve” as a profession.
“They are considering financial advisers moving into a degree as something that should happen in the tax agent space, but it is a different environment in the sense that we’ve always had compulsory CPD, we’ve always had professional standards, we are already a profession and you can’t just overlay what is happening in the financial planner space and say that’s the go-to for tax agents,” Mr Greco said.
“If you look at the code of ethics that accountants have under the APESB, it is stronger than what FASEA has got for financial planners.
“Accountants are already way ahead of the curve, and that’s why we are a profession as opposed to an industry.”
Mr Greco said the IPA would lobby for the protection of that pathway for experienced practitioners, arguing that practical experience was still a “viable pathway”.
Further, Mr Croker said any conversation around new registration requirements for agents should be focused on streamlining regulatory burden.
“If such a discussion is going forward, the TPB needs to look at the appropriateness of their pathways and approved courses so that they better align with the academic requirements of our members,” Mr Croker said.
“We are committed to streamlining, rather than adding to, the regulatory duplications that are a barrier to maintaining a community of qualified tax practitioners.”
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.