The agent exposed SMSF clients to prosecution and failed to disclose a substantial debt to the ATO.
AAT upholds TPB ban of ‘dishonest’ Victorian tax agent
The AAT has upheld a TPB decision to terminate the tax agent registration of Ms Jennifer Clifford after she misled both the board and the ATO and had significant outstanding tax debts.
Investigations revealed Ms Clifford made false and misleading statements to the TPB on her renewal application, including a claim to have no outstanding tax debts when she knew she owed the ATO over $145,000 and had no payment plan in place.
She also misled the ATO and the TPB by lodging multiple SMSF annual returns without obtaining the required audits. She told the TPB she knew there were no auditor’s reports when she lodged the returns, and claimed she only did so to stop the ATO asking why she had not lodged.
The TPB said Ms Clifford exposed clients to the risk of significant penalties under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 and a tax agent acting honestly and competently would not expose their clients to such a risk.
AAT deputy president Ian Molloy said Ms Clifford’s conduct amounted to serious and deliberate dishonesty.
“The applicant has not been open and honest in her evidence before the tribunal,” Mr Molloy said. “Her conduct has exposed some of her clients to possible prosecution. Even now she has not remedied some of these matters.
“I am not satisfied that that this conduct will not be repeated or prolonged. I do not believe the applicant has demonstrated genuine contrition or remorse.”
The AAT terminated Ms Clifford’s registration but amended the non-application period to 18 months, rather than two years that was originally imposed by the TPB, to account for the time she had already been deregistered.
TPB chair Mr Peter de Cure said the decision was a timely reminder to tax practitioners to uphold high professional standards.
“Ms Clifford did not prioritise her clients’ interests, she acted dishonestly and demonstrated she was not a fit and proper person to be registered as a tax agent,” he said.
“This type of egregious conduct will not go unnoticed by us.”
“We have terminated Ms Clifford’s registration to protect the public and to safeguard confidence in the tax and super systems. We are continuing to proactively target these higher-risk tax practitioners who are driving non-compliance.”
The TPB said anyone encountering a dishonest or unregistered tax practitioner should submit a complaint.