Before you make a complaint to us about a tax practitioner, we encourage you to try to resolve any issues directly with the practitioner first, wherever possible. It's a good idea to do this in writing, so you have a record for reference. If you make a complaint, we will ask you to provide details about what has already been done to resolve the issue.
If you are unable to resolve your complaint with the tax practitioner, you can contact us.
You can make a complaint to us about:
- registered tax agents, BAS agents or tax (financial) advisers (collectively referred to as 'tax practitioners')
- anyone advertising or providing tax agent, BAS or tax (financial) advice services for a fee who is unregistered.
However, there are some complaints about tax practitioners we cannot investigate.
All complaints are reviewed and risk assessed, but not all complaints will result in you being contacted or advised of the outcome. However, the information you provide is valuable and will assist us in ensuring tax practitioner services are provided in accordance with appropriate standards of professional and ethical conduct.
Complaints we cannot investigate
A large percentage of complaints received by the TPB are unable to be resolved or addressed by us directly. For example, this may include matters where:
- the services provided by a tax practitioner are not considered a tax agent, BAS or tax (financial) advice service, or
- the conduct of a tax practitioner does not breach the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA)
- fee and commercial disputes.
Some disputes are also best dealt with by another body, such as the police or Fair Trading.
The following are types of complaints that we may not be able to act on:
We cannot always help to resolve a fee dispute with a tax practitioner. These disputes are often commercial matters that you should try to resolve according to the terms of agreement you have with your tax practitioner.
If your complaint relates to a fee dispute only, please contact Consumer Affairs or the Office of Fair Trading in your State or Territory.
However, if your complaint relates to a fee dispute associated with inappropriate conduct, we may be able to assist.
Non-return of documents
In some instances, a tax practitioner may exercise a 'right of lien' over documents. This means they may hold certain documents until the contract you have with them is finalised, such as by fees being paid.
For more information refer to Claiming a lien over a client property TPB(I) 02/2011.
Penalties imposed by the ATO
We cannot order a tax practitioner to pay any penalties, interest or charges imposed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on you.
However, the ATO administers 'safe harbour' provisions, where taxpayers using a registered tax or BAS agent may not be liable for some administrative penalties imposed by the ATO in certain circumstances. This may apply, for example, where an agent is responsible for:
- failing to lodge a document (such as an income tax return) on time
- making a false or misleading statement resulting in a shortfall of tax.
For more information refer to Safe harbour.
Case studies - types of complaints we cannot act on
Example 1 – Tax practitioner refuses to return client’s documents until their fee is paid
The TPB receives a complaint against a registered tax practitioner from a client of the practitioner. The client advises in their online complaint form that despite repeated requests the practitioner would not return their bank statements, receipts and trust deed. The tax practitioner is holding on to client’s documents as their fee has not been paid. The client refuses to pay the fee as they believe the fee is exorbitant.
This is a commercial issue. The client should contact Consumer Affairs or Department of Fair Trading in their State/Territory, or consider legal action.
Example 2 – An employee complains about incorrect completion of payment summary
An employee completes an online complaint form stating that their employer has incorrectly completed a question in payment summary of all employees. The employer is not a registered tax practitioner. The matter relates to an in-house payroll and is not provided for a fee.
The TPB takes no action on the complaint as it is not a matter that it can investigate.
Example 3 – A consumer complains about their missing tax refund
A consumer sought the assistance of a third-party acquaintance to lodge their tax return online to the ATO. They authorised via a signed letter for the refund to go into the third party's account. The third party is not a registered tax practitioner and was not acting as a tax agent providing tax agent services or advertising these services.
As the third party was not registered with the TPB, the consumer should consider referring their matter to an appropriate authority (such as Consumer Affairs or the police in their relevant State/Territory) or consider taking independent legal action against the third party.
Consumers may reduce their risk by ensuring they use the services of a registered tax practitioner. Registered tax practitioners may be found by checking the TPB Register or looking for their registered tax practitioner symbol.
Example 4 – Complaint about an unregistered individual preparing tax returns and statements
A complainant reported that an individual has been preparing tax returns and BAS while unregistered.
The TPB made enquiries on receiving this complaint and found that the individual was a contractor working under the supervision of a registered tax agent (who received the fee directly).
The TPB finalised the complaint with no further action against the individual as they were not charging a fee. If the complainant had raised concerns about the quality of services that were provided, the TPB may look into whether or not the registered tax agent had the appropriate level of supervision and control in place.
Complaints we can act on
We have power to formally investigate certain matters under section 60-95 of the TASA. Matters we have the power to investigate include:
- applications for registration
- breaches of the Code of Professional Conduct
- any false or misleading statements made to the Commissioner of Taxation
- advertising or providing tax agent, BAS or tax (financial) advice services for a fee when not registered
- any other conduct that may breach the TASA.
For more detail about investigations, refer to the Investigations information sheet.
How to make a complaint
Complaints are lodged with the TPB via our online complaints form. Please provide as much detail as possible, including any relevant documentation to support your complaint. We will not act on complaints without sufficient information and evidence.
You can make an anonymous complaint. However, we will not progress the complaint unless you are able to provide sufficient information and evidence.
You cannot save the form to complete it later. Please ensure you have all the information listed below before you start completing the form.
|Checklist - information you should have to lodge your complaint|
Name, address and registration number (if registered) of the tax practitioner.
To check if a tax practitioner is registered, search on the TPB Register.
Information about the following points so that we have enough information to act on your complaint:
Any available evidence to support your complaint that you could attach to the form.
What happens after you lodge a complaint
You will receive an email acknowledging your complaint.
All complaints are reviewed and risk assessed but not all complaints will result in you being contacted or advised of the outcome.
If it is a complaint we can act on, we will undertake further enquiries. This may include contacting you for further information.
Where appropriate, we will send the details of your complaint and your contact details to the tax practitioner concerned. We will require them to contact you directly to resolve the complaint within 72 hours.
For further information about this process refer to 72-hour practitioner complaint resolution process.
Review rights and who can assist you further
If you are not satisfied with how we have dealt with your complaint, you have the following options:
Independent review - You can seek an independent review of your case. When requesting an independent review, you must provide the reasons as to why you believe an independent review should be conducted, including where you believe the TPB's decision making process has been deficient. You can do this by completing our general enquiry form.
Inspector-General of Taxation - You can contact the Inspector-General of Taxation by visiting www.igt.gov.au.
Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner - If you are concerned about our handling of your personal information, you can make a complaint to the Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner by visiting www.oaic.gov.au.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal - You may seek a review of the Board's decision by the AAT. For a list of appealable decisions under the TASA, refer to Reviewable decisions.
Last modified: 2 April 2019