TPB chair Ian Taylor said in his annual review address that the 2016/17 financial year was “challenging” for the TPB on the resources front, as it grappled with a substantially increased workload, particularly in relation to the registration of tax (financial) advisers.
However, the TPB's figures show about $2m was added to its budget, compared to the previous reporting period. In 2016–17 the ATO allocated an operating budget of $16,894,000 to the TPB for its direct costs, excluding depreciation, up from $14,760,364 allocated in the year prior.
The TPB still considers this budget inadequate, given how the population of tax professionals has grown in the years since the TPB began.
"At 30 June 2017, 78,593 tax practitioners were registered with the TPB. This population is now more than three times the number registered when the TPB first commenced in 2010, yet our budget in 2010-11 was $16.8 million,” a spokesperson told Accountants Daily.
It appears the TPB went over its budget in 2016/17, with total direct expenditure coming in at $16,967,463. The report notes that due to rounding, there may be some inconsistencies in reported figures. In the 2015/16 financial year, the TPB came in under budget at $14,481,885.
A major addition to direct expenditure in the 2016/17 year is the tax (financial) adviser program, costing $846,411. The TPB has cited, on several occasions in the annual report and in the last 12 months broadly, that this program is a significant resources drain.
IT upgrades also posed issues for the regulator, as they have for the ATO in the months since the widespread December 2016 outages.
Mr Taylor expects the current financial year will present similar results.
“In 2017–18, the TPB faces another challenging year, with a significantly increased workload and extensive IT upgrades within the context of further budgetary constraints. We are always looking for ways to improve our processes to achieve greater efficiency,” he said.
“However, the additional tax (financial) adviser renewal requirements may impact on the service standards we have previously achieved for application processing. This will be a real challenge for us in 2017–18,” he said.
In 2016–17, the TPB received 1,525 complaints and referrals regarding potential breaches of the TASA by tax practitioners and unregistered entities. This is up from 1307 in the year prior.
Of the registration applications finalised during the 16/17 year, the TPB formally rejected 12 tax agent applications, one BAS agent application and one tax (financial) adviser application. This is a sizable proportionate drop from the previous year of 30 tax agents and 17 BAS agents.
Overall, the annual report’s figures indicate the TPB’s performance against priority areas met expected service standards. There was a slight falter on the processing time for all applications, which the regulator attributes to resourcing constraints and “a significant increase in registration workload and enquiries.”