Investigations information sheet
What we can investigate
Under Subdivision 60E of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA), we may investigate:
- an entity's application for registration
- any conduct that may breach the TASA, including a registered tax practitioner's compliance with the Code of Professional Conduct (Code)
- certain conduct of unregistered practitioners.
Conducting an investigation
We usually make preliminary enquiries in response to a complaint we receive before commencing a formal investigation. However, we do not need to receive a complaint or make preliminary enquiries before starting an investigation. When we decide to start an investigation we notify the entity in writing within two weeks of the decision and the investigation officially starts on the date set out in the notice.
We strive to be fair in our enquiries and investigation processes and ensure procedural fairnes is afforded as required. We give all appropriate and relevant parties an opportunity to provide their claims and/or explanation. We generally request information and give a reasonable period of time to respond (usually two weeks).
Once a formal investigation has started, we have the power to require a person, including a complainant or another third party to:
- provide us with information, documents or other items
- appear before us and give evidence.
Persons required to appear before us will be notified by a formal notice and be eligible for an allowance for time and/or expenses incurred. There is a limit to amount of the allowance or expenses as they are prescribed by the legislation. We may also require the person to take an oath or make an affirmation when providing evidence.
Anyone who is issued with a formal notice under the TASA is required to comply with it. It is an offence under the Taxation Administration Act 1953 not to comply.
We are allowed to:
- take possession of and make copies or take extracts of, any document
- keep the document or other item relates.
Outcomes of an investigation
We must make a decision on an investigation within six months from when the investigation starts. If there are delays for reasons beyond our control, the investigation period can be extended. Any decision to extend the investigation is reviewable in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
Following an investigation, we will decide whether or not a breach of the TASA has occurred and whether to take civil or disciplinary action.
Possible outcomes from an investigation include:
- granting or rejecting an entity's application to register with us
- imposing one or more of the available sanctions such as a written caution, an order, suspension or termination of an entity's registration
- applying to the Federal Court for an order for payment of a penalty and/or an injunction
- making a decision that no further action will be taken.
Notification of decisions
We will notify the affected person or entity in writing within 30 days of the outcome of the investigation, giving reasons for the decision.
We are required by law to notify:
- any complainant of the decision
- any recognised professional association that the registered tax practitioner under investigation is a member of, about our decision and reasons for the decision
- in certain circumstances the Commissioner of Taxation about our decision and the reason for the decision.
Most decisions following an investigation are reviewable in the AAT. However, decisions to take no further action, issue a written caution or apply to the Federal Court for an order for payment of a penalty or an injunction are not.
Last modified: 13 May 2014