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Continuing professional education – Questions and answers

1 October 2021

Continuing professional education – Questions and answers

We have compiled some of the questions we received during our webinar – Continuing professional education (CPE).

CPE requirements

CPE and COVID-19

CPE activities

CPE changes

CPE hours 

CPE exemptions

Evidence of CPE

Structured and unstructured CPE

Rolling over CPE

CPE requirements

Are there a certain amount of CPE points required each year? If so, how do we know what points are gathered from the training we do?

Our CPE requirements are not based on points – it is hours based. 

Find out more about the hours required for your registration type.

With our annual CPE declaration is this something we’ll be prompted for when it is due or, do we have to submit the declaration ourselves?

Declaring that you are meeting your CPE obligations is part of the annual declaration process. You are also asked to make a similar declaration when renewing your registration. We will send you a reminder when both are due.

What are the minimum CPE hours for tax agents with a research and development condition?

Tax agents with a research and development condition should complete a minimum 45 hours of CPE over three years, with a minimum 5 hours of CPE to be completed in any given year.

More information about CPE for conditional agents is published in our explanatory paper on CPE for registered tax and BAS agents.

I have done all tax courses available with CPA Australia and I reached a stage where I can no longer find a tax course that is suitable to me. So how can I meet my CPE requirements?

You can complete relevant courses that are being provided by other organisations. There is no requirement for you to only complete courses provided by a recognised professional association. Any education activity relevant to the tax (financial) advice, tax agent or BAS services you provide that maintains, develops or promotes your skills, knowledge or attributes, is considered to be a CPE activity under our policy.

CPE and COVID-19

For tax practitioners who have now been in lockdown for extended periods how can they maintain CPE without the ability to attend external seminars?

We would encourage you to explore and undertake online CPE offerings. These online activities are becoming more readily available during this difficult time. You can register for our free webinars and similar events held by the Australian Taxation Office, including their Open Forums.

You can also take advantage of the temporary removal of our 25% reading cap (until 31 December 2021). 

If you are still unable to reach your minimum number of hours for the year you can contact us and we will consider appropriate relief from the minimum amount of CPE hours, provided you can demonstrate that you have attempted to use the flexibility of your CPE period to comply with our requirements.

What is considered a reasonable amount in relation to your health and wellbeing COVID-19 concessions?

We don't prescribe what is reasonable, but we advise that you can count a small amount of health and wellbeing CPE activities. Just remember that the vast majority of your activities must still be relevant to the tax (financial) advice, tax agent or BAS services you provide.

Over the last 18 months I have spent a great deal of time researching and extracting information to assist clients in claiming JobKeeper, JobSeeker and JobSaver payments. Would this count as CPE?

To make things easier for you, we’ve temporarily relaxed our CPE requirements, in response to COVID-19 circumstances. We are currently allowing activities which improve your knowledge and skills about the COVID-19 financial assistance packages being offered by the states and territories to be claimed as relevant CPE. This could include attending webinars or other learning events focused on the financial assistance packages.

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CPE activities

I have limited financial ability to attend paid courses to reach my CPE requirements. Does the TPB accept that some of us can only afford free webinars, ATO forums and relevant research to meet our requirements?

There is no requirement under our policy to attend paid courses. We accept free training as long as it is relevant to the services you provide and develops your relevant personal knowledge and skills. Further, they should be provided by persons or organisations with suitable qualifications and/or practical experience in the relevant subject area.

I am a BAS agent and have just enrolled in Cert IV in Accounting, can this be considered as CPE?

If you are already registered with the TPB and are not using the Cert IV to gain your initial registration with us then it is considered CPE providing it is relevant to the tax agent, BAS agent or tax (financial) advice services you provide.

How do we keep track of reading material, especially recently with Covid-19? 

The best approach is to maintain a CPE log. We have one available on our website.

I am a casual lecturer at university, can I count my lectures towards my CPE?

No, as the activity is not relevant to the tax (financial) advice, tax agent or BAS services you provide. However, CPE activities such as research or attending webinars to prepare material for lectures you deliver may count towards your CPE, providing the activities are relevant to the services you provide.

Is training in software like Xero or Reckon considered CPE?

It would be considered relevant CPE because effective and accurate use of this practice software assists you to competently provide services to clients. When considering particular activities that will count towards our requirements, the key principles to keep in mind are:

  1. Is the activity relevant to the tax agent, BAS agent or tax (financial) advice services you provide?
  2. Does the activity assist in the development of your relevant personal knowledge and skills?
  3. Is the activity provided by persons or organisations with suitable qualifications and or practical experience in the relevant subject area?

I have completed webinars to increase my Excel skills as I use Excel in my work. I have not counted this towards my CPE hours because they are not tax specific. What is the TPB's view?

While the software training sessions are indirectly relevant to the services you provide, it will be considered relevant CPE because effective and accurate use of the software improves on the skills you need to competently provide services to clients.

I lodged my application for registration with the TPB, can I include this as a valid CPE?

No, you can only claim CPE activities that have been completed after your registration has commenced.

If a company is registered with a research and development condition and there is a senior accountant overseeing the services they provide, is there a requirement for other staff besides the senior accountant to earn CPE points?

CPE is an ongoing registration requirement for individuals. Anyone registered with the TPB as a tax (financial) adviser, tax agent or BAS agent must meet their CPE obligations on an ongoing basis.

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CPE changes

How will the CPE changes affect conditional agents? For example research and development agents only need to undertake 15 CPE hours per year.

We did not propose any changes for conditional agents as part of this review, but we may review all conditions at some point in the future.

Why has the proposed new CPE hours for BAS agents increased so significantly?

We have undertaken extensive consultation on this matter and it is important to understand that the proposed CPE standard of 120 hours over three years equates to less than an hour per week. 

Some of the factors that we considered during the process include:

  • The expansion of BAS services: Since the commencement of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (in 2010) the scope of services that BAS agents can provide has expanded significantly. 
  • There has not been any change to the educational qualifications required for registration as a BAS agent, despite the significant expansion to their service offering. We anticipate that CPE will play a vital role in filling any gaps that may exist in a BAS agent’s knowledge, skills or competency.
  • When the CPE requirements commenced in June 2012, a lower CPE requirement was set for BAS agents to allow them time to undertake study to meet the primary education requirements for registration. 
  • CPE offerings for BAS agents have matured. Initially, the market for CPE relevant and designed to meet the needs of BAS agents was not yet mature or comprehensive. Since then, there has been a greater focus and drive towards the development of CPE activities by the professional associations and other organisations for the BAS agent profession. 

CPE hours

I typically do 120 hours of CPE a year to meet my requirements with the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority, my professional association and others. So, who determines what hours are relevant? I'm trying to determine if I can collect CPE hours from what I already do.

Registered tax practitioners must exercise their professional judgement as to what is relevant, but if the hours you are doing for your other requirements are relevant to the tax (financial) advice, tax agent or BAS services you provide, you can claim them for TPB purposes as well.

The current CPE hours for BAS agents is 45 hours over three years with a minimum of five hours each year. How does this add up?

What this means is that you need to get to 45 hours after the three-year period. But you can't do 45 hours in the last year – you need to do at least five hours in each year. For example you can do five hours in year one, five hours in year two and then in year three you must do 35 hours to complete the 45 hours in total.

How many CPE hours can I claim for the study I complete to become a tax agent?

You cannot count education you are undertaking to become registered as a tax practitioner towards CPE. Your CPE hours start from the date you are registered.

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CPE exemptions

Will there be any lenience on CPE hours this year due to covid lockdown and home schooling?

We would need to assess your circumstances on a case-by-case basis. You can contact us for assistance.

Our COVID-19 concessions may also be of help to you. 

Is there an exemption from having to do CPE?

We do have exemptions for extenuating circumstances. Examples of situations where it might not be possible to complete the minimum level of CPE include: illness; financial or other hardship; or natural disaster. See our explanatory paper for more information. 

Is there any consideration for tax practitioners who are not working full-time? For example, if someone is retired and only works as a tax practitioner one or two days a week are the CPE requirements the same as a full-time practitioner?

We do not have concessions for part-time practitioners as the level of knowledge and skills required is the same, regardless of whether you are full time or part time.

Are accounting practice staff exempt from undertaking CPE?  

All registered individual tax practitioners must complete CPE. It is a requirement under the law, in this case, the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and it is a renewal requirement for all individual tax practitioners. Complying with our CPE requirements, and ensuring you remain competent to provide tax services, is also one of your obligations under the Code of Professional Conduct. 

Evidence of CPE

I attend many webinars, most of these only provide an email which says, ‘thanks for attending’. Is this confirmation good enough?

Yes, we will accept this as evidence of attendance.

What's the reporting requirements for CPE reading? How do we quantify this?

Generally, you will count the number of hours you spend on technical or professional reading. It is important that the record you keep in your CPE log book demonstrates the relevance of the reading to the tax (financial) advice, tax agent or BAS services you provide. The technical or professional reading must not be more than 25 per cent of CPE undertaken in your CPE period. However, we have temporarily removed this cap until 31 December 2021, although you must first and foremost, explore and undertake CPE offerings. 

I am a member of the Institute of Public Accountants and I have logged my CPE through them. Do I need to print it off and send it to the TPB as my three years are up this year?

No, you do not need to send your record to us. Just make sure you keep a record of it for six years in case we ask you to provide it at any stage.

How often do we need to provide details of our CPE to the TPB?

When you renew your registration or complete your annual declaration you will need to confirm you have completed CPE in accordance with our minimum hours requirements. In addition, we may request you to provide evidence of CPE that you have completed at any time throughout your registration period. 

How do you show that you have watched the YouTube tax videos for CPE purposes?

When watching a recorded video that does not have a registration process, we would suggest providing a screenshot of the video. It is also important to provide detail in your log book that identifies the relevance between the activity and the services that you provide, so make sure you include a brief description.

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Structured and unstructured CPE

I use the CPE register run by ICB and there is an option to select ‘structured’ or ‘unstructured’ CPE. Can you give examples of what each one is and is there a requirement for a certain number of hours of structured CPE?

Structured CPE has a clear set of objectives, where the participant will seek or receive a specific learning objective and the CPE activity will provide a structured means to achieve that learning objective. 

Unstructured CPE on the other hand has no set knowledge/learning objective or structure, such as professional or technical reading.

Rolling over CPE

If a tax practitioner completes more than their required CPE in a three-year period can the extra hours carry over to count against the next period?

Unfortunately, you are not able to carry over or bank your CPE hours. To ensure relevant knowledge and skills are maintained, a minimum level of relevant CPE is required to be completed each CPE period. 

If you have your own CPE log can you enter all (including older) CPE hours completed into the TPB system – in other words backdate it?

We encourage you to record your CPE as soon as possible. However, if you want to use the TPB’s CPE log to record all your CPE hours you can. Make sure when you transfer the information you have the correct dates and evidence. You should also include details of the activities and the hours completed.

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Last modified: 1 October 2021