Issued: 11 August 2021
Last modified: 11 August 2021
Each Australian state and territory have different financial help and assistance for businesses and individuals affected by COVID-19. Many businesses are engaging tax practitioners to help them access this assistance.
While these programs are not tax agent, BAS or tax (financial) advice services, because they fall under non-Commonwealth legislation, it is still important to be mindful of your Code of Professional Conduct (Code) obligations.
The following questions and answers should help you understand the Code obligations associated with the various packages.
If I provide an accountant’s letter or provide advice to business clients applying for NSW COVID Business Support programs am I providing a tax agent or BAS service?
When you are providing the accountant’s letter or advising your client about the NSW COVID Business support programs, including the COVID-19 business grant, COVID-19 micro-business grant and JobSaver, you are not providing a tax agent or BAS service. This is because these assistance programs are administered by the NSW Government and are an ‘act of grace payment’ under the Government Sector Finance Act 2018 (NSW), which is not a taxation law for the purposes of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA). A taxation law for the purposes of the TASA is a law administered by either the Australian Taxation Office or the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB).
If I advise my clients about applying for one of the COVID-19 assistance packages offered by the various states and territories, am I providing a tax agent or BAS service?
When you are advising and assisting your clients to access COVID-19 assistance packages being offered by the states and territories, you are not providing a tax agent or BAS services because you are not applying laws that are administered by the Commissioner of Taxation.
However, it is important to bear in mind that registered tax practitioners are bound by the Code. Therefore, if they do not have the requisite skills and expertise to provide advice on the COVID-19 economic stimulus measures, they should not be providing the services.
Does attendance learning events focusing on state and territory COVID-19 business support packages count as eligible continuing professional education for the purposes of the TPB?
We have temporarily relaxed our continuing professional education (CPE) requirements due to the impacts of COVID-19. We currently allow activities undertaken to improve knowledge and skills in relation to the state and territory financial assistance packages as relevant CPE. Although the services provided in relation to these packages are not considered tax agent, BAS or tax (financial) adviser services, undertaking CPE activities in relation to them will allow registered tax practitioners to continue to provide services to their clients during this difficult time.
Relevant CPE activities could include attending training events, webinars or other learning events focused on the financial assistance packages, including activities offered by your professional associations.
As a registered tax practitioner, are there any TPB issues I need to consider when advising about the state or territory COVID-19 business support packages?
It is important for tax practitioners to understand that when advising clients on the assistance packages, they are still bound by the Code in the TASA. This includes your general Code obligations in relation to acting with honesty and integrity, acting lawfully in the best interests of your clients and providing competent services.
Will the TPB take any action if a tax or BAS agent has provided or incorrectly calculated their clients decline in turnover?
Honest mistakes can be made while you’re advising on these assistance packages, particularly in a pressured, fast moving and uncertain environment. However, if you have knowingly made the mistake, then we may seek to investigate you if we think that there may be a breach of the Code.