At the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) we are working hard to enhance the integrity of the registered tax practitioner profession. One of the ways we’re doing this is by targeting the highest risk tax practitioners with our investigations and compliance programs. We believe that by doing this, we are also protecting the community and supporting those tax practitioners who continue to do the right thing.
We understand that the vast majority of tax practitioners are compliant – they comply with our Code of Professional Conduct (Code) and other legislative requirements. The Australian community has a high level of trust in its tax practitioners, which speaks volumes about the excellent work performed by the professionals in the industry. However, we also know there are a small group that don’t comply, and we classify them as high-risk. These are the ones we need to take firm action on to address their high-risk behaviour and to safeguard the integrity of the tax and super systems.
What is a high-risk tax practitioner?
A high-risk tax practitioner is a tax practitioner that is reckless in their work. They can be both the unknowing accomplice to illegal behaviour, or wilfully blind to their illegal conduct. They can be the facilitator, promoter or implementer of a fraudulent scheme or even an architect and participant in unethical or illegal arrangements. We’ve found that high-risk tax practitioners can also take advantage of jurisdictional differences and information gaps between agencies. They also have little regard for State, Federal and International borders.
Types of high-risk tax practitioners
High-risk tax practitioners may fall into two broad categories. Firstly, they can be registered tax practitioners that:
- lodge incompetent, incorrect or false returns and statements for their clients
- have a poor history or compliance with their own tax affairs
- have allegations of fraudulent or criminal activities against them
- promote aggressive tax schemes
- don’t comply with their personal tax obligations.
The second category is unregistered providers. These are sometimes hard to identify as they cannot use traditional lodgement and software methods to provide services to the public. Some purport to represent the public while only lining their own pocket. They may not lodge any tax documents that can identify them or may use false details.
How do we identify high-risk tax practitioners?
We identify high-risk tax practitioners by several different ways, including:
- complaints received from the public or other tax practitioners
- media and public source information regarding disciplinary or criminal proceedings
- civil disputes in tribunals or courts
- assessments using data and analytics
- referrals from other agencies.
Vulnerability of clients and the community
Once we identify these high-risk tax practitioners, we’ll assess and evaluate the risk they pose to the tax system. We also consider the potential vulnerability of the tax practitioners’ client-base, and the community at large, if the conduct were to continue. Essentially, we determine that the higher the harm caused, and the more prevalent or likely it may be, the higher the risk. The nature of higher risk behaviour sits at the top of a spectrum and it can be:
- intentional or fraudulent
- wilfully blind
- recklessly indifferent
Consequences for failing to comply
There are a number of administrative or civil penalty provisions in the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA) relating to certain conduct of registered tax practitioners, and activities of those who are acting as unregistered providers.
If we find that a tax practitioner has failed to comply with the TASA, we may impose one or more administrative sanctions or seek a Court imposed civil penalty. The severity of a sanction depends on the nature and extent of the breach and the individual circumstances of each case. Tax practitioners have the right of review with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). The AAT provides an independent review.
How to make a complaint
If you know of someone providing tax agent, BAS agent or tax (financial) advice services without being registered, report them to us by completing our simple online form. All reports will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Last modified: 27 November 2020