The Tax Practitioners Board has said it is currently investigating 37 cases involving unregistered agents, following cases of agents posing as legitimate registered tax practitioners who lodge tax returns on behalf of clients, often by accessing their myGov accounts and lodging through myTax.
“Members of the community and tax practitioners frequently report information about the unlawful activities of unregistered agents,” TPB chair Michael O’Neill said.
“The TPB takes this intelligence very seriously and is currently investigating 37 cases. The worst cases will be brought to the Federal Court of Australia for prosecution.”
Mr O’Neill said the TPB’s resolve was firm, citing a recent case before the Federal Court where a Brisbane man accepted an undertaking not to provide tax services illegally in response to an application brought by the board.
Court-awarded penalties for breaching tax agent services laws can be as high as $52,500 for each offence by an individual and $262,500 for a company.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Mr O’Neill said. “Using an unregistered tax practitioner can cost thousands of dollars in tax bills and penalties.”
“It also means you are not covered by safe harbour provisions that offer protection against penalties from the ATO when a registered tax practitioner fails to lodge on time or makes a false or misleading statement on your return.
“We urge everyone this tax time not to share their personal myGov password with anyone, and if they plan to use a tax agent, to make sure they are registered with the TPB.”
‘Weed them out’
Last month, Victorian barrister Chris Wallis said the ATO could easily help solve the issue of unregistered agents by denying tax refunds to bank accounts that do not correspond to the taxpayer lodging or the trust account of the registered tax agent.
“Unregistered agents have no place in this world at all. The commissioner has resources to bring an end to the business models to allow them to operate in the way they do,” Mr Wallis said.
“Unless the cheque is going to an account that is on that person’s tax profile on the pre-populated form, it ain’t going out. That’s how easy it is — no refund cheque goes out to someone unless it is going to an account in that person’s pre-populated form.
“With agents, you know who the registered agents are, so it is not hard to say, ‘Please nominate your trust account for refunds please’, and they are the only accounts in which refunds are transferred to.
“The commissioner has got to have the will to make the change — it is simple because the information is already in his possession.”
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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.