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AAT affirms TPB termination decision following sustained misconduct over nine years

AAT affirms TPB termination decision following sustained misconduct over nine years

The Tax Practitioners Board (TPB’s) decision to terminate the registration of Mr Ashley Cross of West Perth, WA on the grounds of misconduct and impose a two-year non-application period has been affirmed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). The registration of Mr Cross’s partnership, trading as M. Adamson and A. Cross (Adamson and Cross) was also terminated.

Following a referral from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) about self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) Auditor Number misuse, the TPB concluded that Mr Cross and his partnership had failed to act honestly and with integrity and additionally failed to provide competent tax agent services. 

Over a period of nine years, Adamson and Cross lodged 125 SMSF annual returns falsely declaring that the SMSFs had been audited when in fact they hadn’t been.

Mr Cross argued in the AAT proceedings that the degree of dishonesty involved was lessened by the fact that ultimately, when audited, the SMSFs were all found to be compliant and that he did not derive any financial benefit. The Tribunal did not accept these contentions.

The Tribunal found that regardless of his motivation, ‘Mr Cross had repeatedly and deliberately chosen to put what he perceived to be the interests of his clients, above his fundamental professional duty to act honestly. He repeatedly, deliberately chose to mislead the ATO.’

Chair of the TPB, Mr Ian Klug AM, reminded tax practitioners that there were serious consequences for failing to act honestly and with integrity and that such behaviour invariably calls into question whether a practitioner meets the fit and proper person requirement.

‘The terminations imposed reflect the gravity of Mr Cross’s and the partnership’s dishonest conduct in lodging SMSF annual returns with false declarations over such a prolonged period,’ Mr Klug said.

Ten tax practitioners have now been terminated as a result of false declarations in SMSF annual returns. The TPB has also suspended the registration of four other tax practitioners.

As a result of recent ATO referrals, more than 60 tax practitioners are now subject to TPB enquiries regarding SMSF Auditor Number misuse.

The TPB’s compliance action also links in with a broader ATO lodgement campaign targeting persistently disengaged SMSF trustees, of which more than 1,100 are estimated to be tax practitioners. The TPB and the ATO will collaborate to address the risks in respect to the tax practitioners in this group.

About the Tax Practitioners Board

The TPB regulates tax practitioners in order to protect consumers. The TPB aims to assure the community that tax practitioners meet appropriate standards of professional and ethical conduct. 

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More information

More information about SMSF auditor number misuse, including the ATO’s proactive approach to more effectively treat the issue is available on the ATO website. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021