Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand has now formally opposed the TPB’s plan to make it lawful for BAS agents to provide superannuation guarantee charge (SGC) services.
The professional accounting body believes an expansion of the scope of services demonstrates “scope creep” and does not align with the education and experience requirement of BAS agents.
“We have previously expressed concerns about the inclusion of superannuation-related services within the realm of BAS agents; however, we consider that this proposed amendment has reached a point where it is excessive, undesirable and unacceptable,” CA ANZ said.
“We have consistently said that we are concerned about and disagree with adding further permissible tax services to both the BAS services and tax (financial) advice service categories, respectively.
“That view has predominantly been on the grounds that we do not believe that these categories of registered practitioners have the requisite academic and experiential skill sets to provide advice to the public on the expanded tax subject matters.”
The TPB’s proposal
The TPB’s proposed legislative instrument specifies that SGC services will be viewed as a BAS service, including the calculation of the SGC and preparing the SGC statement.
It also proposes to allow BAS agents to advise on the offsetting of late payments of superannuation contributions against the SGC, including completing the late payment offset election section of the SGC statement; representing a client in their dealings with the Commissioner of Taxation, including the lodgement of SGC statements; being an authorised contact in relation to the superannuation guarantee and SGC accounts; and accessing the superannuation guarantee and SGC accounts in online services.
The proposal also looks to make it lawful for BAS agents to be an authorised contact for payment arrangements, requesting penalty remissions and for any audit or review activity.
However, CA ANZ believes such an expansion would require “a much greater degree of sophistication and nuance in understanding the interaction of tax and superannuation laws”.
It argues that the registration pathway for a BAS agent does not lend itself towards advising on matters outside the BAS subject-matter realm, with BAS agents required to hold a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping or Accounting, while tax agents are subject to a diploma or degree level qualification.
“Superannuation and SGC-related services are much broader than the subject matter in a BAS form, which are typically produced from data captured in financial reporting systems, following the advice and input of tax and finance team professionals or other external tax professionals,” CA ANZ said.
“By contrast, superannuation and SGC-related services are typically advisory and strategic in nature, are complex, require judgement, and carry a lot greater consumer risk as they are particularly relevant to individuals and their life-long savings and future retirement income.
“As BAS services are a subset of tax agent services, they are a niche area, and there is no holistic view of broader taxation issues such as personal income tax and capital gains tax, to name two critical areas that are essential for superannuation-related advice.”
The future of the profession
CA ANZ’s objection comes as the profession braces for sweeping changes from an independent review of the TPB.
One of the potential changes floated in the review’s discussion paper includes raising the educational requirements for tax and BAS agents to that of a degree-level qualification and a diploma-level qualification, respectively.
CA ANZ has now urged the regulator to complete a full review of its current academic requirements for agent registration ahead of implementing any potential changes.
The independent review, submitted to the government last October, has still yet to be publicly released.
In the meantime, the TPB has sought to implement new changes, including raising the idea of a new, yearly 40 hours of minimum continuing professional education (CPE) requirement for all practitioners, in place of the current 90 hours for tax agents, 45 hours for BAS agents and 60 hours for tax (financial) advisers to be completed over a three-year period.
BAS agent services were also recently expanded to allow agents to legally assist clients with the JobKeeper payment and cash-flow support measures in response to COVID-19.
BAS agents assisting clients with the superannuation guarantee amnesty would also not face any compliance action from the TPB.
Jotham Lian is the 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.