Devil in the detail on tax agent laws

New laws that would usher in a new regulatory regime for the tax industry will impose unfair obligations on tax agents if they are not changed, a leading industry group says.

The reforms that would be introduced by the draft laws, released by Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen late last week, would:

  • Require tax agents to be registered with a new national tax practitioners board.
  • Create a new professional code of conduct.
  • Require tax agents to pursue professional education.
  • Expose tax agents to greater penalties for misconduct.
  • Confer protection on consumers from tax penalties if they have relied in good faith on the actions of their tax agent.
  • Create a separate category for tax practitioners that deal principally with BAS statements.

“The proposed reforms aim to improve the registration and regulation of entities providing tax agent services which will provide greater protection and certainty to consumers and increased consistency in registration and appropriate, but flexible regulation for entities providing tax agent services,” Bowen says.

Taxation Institute of Australia president Sue Williamson says while the moves toward introducing a new regulatory regime are welcome, aspects of the draft laws must be changed if they are to be fair and effective for consumers and tax agents.

Williamson says the changes will result in better services for consumers and improved professional integrity for the tax industry.

But, she says, detail in the laws that require tax agents to question their clients if they are suspicious about the financial information they provide needs to be changed.

“It should not be up to tax agents to be the police of their own clients if they doubt the accuracy of the information they provide,” Williamson says.


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