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NSW tax agent terminated after misappropriating funds while in a partnership with wife

NSW tax agent terminated after misappropriating funds while in a partnership with wife

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has upheld the Tax Practitioners Board’s (TPB) decision to terminate Mr Richard Geoffrey Plaskitt’s tax agent registration after his partnership misappropriated approximately $330,000 in client funds amongst other wrongdoings. Mr Plaskitt was the sole supervising registered tax agent for the partnership and his wife (Mrs Plaskitt) was the only other partner and performed bookkeeping duties. 

TPB investigations revealed Mr Plaskitt allowed the partnership to use client money to make a series of unauthorised payments. This included transfers totalling over $84,000 to pay the partnership’s tax debts to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Mr Plaskitt argued that he had obtained the client’s authority for these payments via a letter, a claim which the AAT found was not supported by the letter supplied and was denied by the client.

Mr Plaskitt’s wife, other family members, and the partnership itself were also the recipients of a series of payments and loans which were transferred from the same client’s accounts without their consent. 

Notably, Mrs Plaskitt received transfers totalling approximately $60,500. Mr Plaskitt did not offer any explanation to the AAT for these payments to his wife and could not establish that they had been authorised by the client, despite his position as the supervising tax agent for the partnership. Additionally, Mr Plaskitt oversaw the use of client funds to pay fees relating to a professional association, totalling $1,292.

Mr Plaskitt was also unable to explain a series of loans and repayments totalling approximately $184,000 which were transferred from the client’s accounts to Mr Plaskitt’s stepchildren, the partnership, and various other recipients without authorisation. Mr Plaskitt did not employ written loan agreements to record the terms of the loan or take any steps to manage the conflict of interest from lending client funds to his own family members. Mr Plaskitt also did not accept any wrongdoing and showed a lack of contrition for his actions.

Accordingly, the AAT determined Mr Plaskitt had failed to act in in his client’s best interests by allowing the partnership and his family to gain benefits at the client’s expense. Further conflicts of interest also arose when the partnership intermingled its business interests with those of the client – these included instances where the partnership processed transactions for their ‘My Pony Party’ business via their client’s EFTPOS facility. 

Commenting on the case, Chair of the TPB, Mr Ian Klug AM, said, ‘Mr Plaskitt prioritised personal gains over his client’s best interests. Such egregious conduct warrants the use of the most serious disciplinary sanctions to send a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated.’

‘The TPB’s role is to protect the community, the reputation of honest tax practitioners and ensure confidence in the integrity of the tax system– we won’t let cases like this slip through the cracks,’ Mr Klug said.

Mr Plaskitt and the partnership were terminated and they are both prohibited from reapplying for tax agent registration for the maximum period of five years due to the serious nature of his conduct. To report a dishonest or unregistered tax practitioner, submit a complaint with the TPB.


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. Follow us on Twitter_@TPB_gov_au, LinkedIn and Facebook.
 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022