The independent review of the TPB, chaired by Keith James, has now been released by the government and contains wide-ranging recommendations aimed at ensuring a fit-for-purpose regulatory regime for the tax profession.
A key recommendation handed down in the final report has taken aim at the current primary qualification requirements for agents, noting that these education standards were set as far back as the 1980s for tax agents and 2010 for BAS agents.
Tax agents can currently register via a number of entry pathways, including a diploma qualification or through membership of a professional association, while BAS agents currently require at least a Certificate IV in Financial Services in Bookkeeping or Accounting.
One view pursued in the review’s earlier discussion paper considered lifting the tax agent primary qualification requirement to a degree minimum level and requiring BAS agents to hold a diploma at minimum.
However, the final report has adopted a more nuanced approach, accepting that a decision to lift the primary qualification level should not be taken lightly and without careful analysis and consideration.
Instead, it recommends that the TPB collaborate and consult with other regulators, professional associations, education providers, the tax profession and other key stakeholders to determine if education standards need to be lifted, and what grandfathering arrangements would be appropriate if required.
“Given the period of time that has elapsed since these requirements were set and the significant changes in the financial adviser profession, it is appropriate that the tax practitioner primary qualification requirements are reviewed,” the final report said.
“For example, new education standards apply to new and existing financial advisers requiring an approved bachelor degree qualification.
“Consideration ought to be undertaken in relation to whether there should be a similar lifting of educational requirements for tax and BAS agents.”
In response, the government has now given the TPB the green light to undertake further consultation.
“Following this consultation process, the government will consider if changes to the legislation are required, as well as the need for any transitional arrangements,” the government said in its official response.
The review has also recommended the registration entry pathway based on being a voting member of a TPB-recognised professional association be removed prospectively with appropriate permanent grandfathering arrangements in place.
It believes the change is necessary to better align with a whole-of-government approach to lifting education standards and ensuring consistency across different professions.
The recommendation is expected to attract a fierce response from the professional associations, with a number of accounting bodies hitting out at the proposal when it was first floated in a discussion paper released last year.
The government has adopted a neutral position on the final recommendation, noting that it will instead undertake further consultation ahead of implementing any changes.
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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.