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TPB Consultative forum report – 12 July 2016

TPB Consultative forum report – 12 July 2016

On Tuesday 12 July 2016, Ian Taylor (Chair) and Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) colleagues held a TPB consultative forum in Melbourne with representatives predominantly from a number of TPB recognised professional tax and BAS agent associations.

The key points discussed at the forum are summarised below. In accordance with past practice, this report is intended only to provide an overview of the issues that were discussed and does not represent the final views of the Board, nor is it intended as minutes of the forum.

Update from the TPB

Registrations 

  • As at the end of June 2016, there were 75,436 registered practitioners, comprising of 41,227 tax agents, 14,715 BAS agents and 19,494 tax (financial) advisers. As expected, the number of registered practitioners has remained relatively steady since the last Consultative forum (where reported that there were 75,489 registered practitioners as at the end of February 2016).
  • The TPB is continuing to meet service standards as outlined in the TPB’s Strategic plan; however, it was noted that the weighted average processing time for new tax practitioner registration applications has increased and resources are being diverted as appropriate to focus on improving the processing times.
  • The known percentage of registered individual tax and BAS agents who are members of a TPB accredited recognised professional association has remained steady since the last consultative forum. As at the end of June 2016 the proportion was:
    • 88% of individual tax agents (compared to 87% at end-February 2016);
    • 61% of individual BAS agents (no percentage change since end-February 2016).

Compliance

  •  The number of complaints and referrals received in the 2015-16 year (1,656 from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016) was slightly higher than in the previous year (1,538 from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015). In addition, the number of cases on hand has also increased since the last consultative forum (649 as at the end of June 2016 compared to 439 as at the end of February 2016). These increases are largely attributed to the Annual declaration process.
  • Overall, there continues to be a very small proportion of registered practitioners on which sanctions are applied, with the increased number of written cautions, orders and surrenders arising from the Annual declaration process. In particular, 1,651 compliance cases were finalised in the 2015-16 year (compared with 1,200 cases in the 2014-15 year), with most finalised within service standards and the following outcomes arising:
  • a total of 317 sanctions (across 298 cases) were applied, including:
    • 26 terminations 
    • 4 renewal rejections
    • 3 suspensions
    • 20 orders
    • 264 written cautions.
    • 1,353 cases were finalised without sanctions, including:
    • 591 with no breach
    • 135 resolved / withdrawn
    • 432 involving education / change of behaviour
    • 192 surrenders
    • 3 with no sanctions applied, having regard to the particular circumstances.
  • The recent May 2016 Federal Court of Australia (FCA) judgment in the matter of Delis v Tax Practitioners Board [2016] FCA 570 was briefly highlighted, observing that the FCA dismissed the tax agent’s appeal from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision (Delis and Tax Practitioners Board [2015] AATA 820) and affirmed the TPB’s decision to refuse to renew the tax agent registration of Mr. Delis and Delis Enterprises as tax agents because the tax agent was not a fit and proper person pursuant to non-compliance with taxation laws.

Unregistered BAS service provider project

  • It was highlighted that the TPB is continuing to be active in this area, with a dedicated project team undertaking activity to target providers of BAS services who are not registered practitioners. The TPB is keen to promote the importance of compliance with the registration requirements of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA) whilst creating a level playing field for registered practitioners who do the right thing.
  • The Board has endorsed continuation of the project, including expanding scope to include a review of BAS transitional applicants that are no longer registered (did not renew under standard registration requirements).
  • The TPB is appreciative of associations’ support with this activity, including in relation to providing the TPB with intelligence on unregistered entity behaviour and supporting key messages.

Annual declarations for registered tax and BAS agents

  • Since January 2016, over 20,000 registered practitioners have submitted an annual declaration (due on the anniversary of the practitioner’s renewal date, other than in the year that registration needs to be renewed) to demonstrate they are meeting their ongoing obligations.
  • There has been a good response rate, with the TPB appreciative of associations supporting key messages, including reinforcing that annual declarations are a formal request from the TPB and that a failure to respond could result in the TPB imposing a sanction pursuant to finding that there has been a breach of the Code of Professional Conduct in the TASA.

Communication activities 

  • The TPB is continuing with a broad base approach to Outreach involving a combination of webinars, attendance at speaking events, involvement in ATO Open Forums and some face-to-face events later in the year.
  • Webinars continue to be well received, with a good level of attendance and interaction. There will continue to be a rolling schedule and ongoing development of webinars pursuant to feedback (including suggestions for topics). It was reiterated that details about upcoming webinars are available from a dedicated link on the TPB’s home page at www.tpb.gov.au
  • A number of face-to-face events are also being scheduled for tax agents, BAS agents and tax (financial) advisers in Sydney (18 and 19 October) and Melbourne (25 and 26 October). Details about these events will be made available from the TPB’s home page at www.tpb.gov.au
  • The TPB is also continuing to progress work on website improvement activity, with a new website expected to be made available in the near future.

Regulatory reform agenda update 

  • It was reiterated that in addition to deregulation savings, the TPB was required to establish Regulator Performance Framework (RPF) self-assessment metrics to report on performance against six outcomes-based key performance indicator (KPI) metrics to assess an aspect of regulatory performance concerning the administration of regulation. The first reporting period for the annual self-assessment metrics is for the year ended 30 June 2016, with the report to be provided to the relevant Minister for information and to be published to the TPB website in due course.
  • The forum considered the TPB’s initial self-assessment for the year ended 30 June 2016, for the purpose of providing feedback and validation of the report, with minor suggestions made to incorporate additional information.

Policy matters

Cloud computing and the Code of Professional Conduct

  • It was noted that the Board considered all the submissions received in relation to Exposure draft Information sheet TPB(I) D30/2015 Cloud computing and the Code of Professional Conduct and resolved to revise the style and content of the document and refer back to the Consultative forum and Financial adviser forum for further guidance and feedback.
  • The Consultative forum noted that the revised Practice Note document employs a less technical and more concise educative format (raising awareness of relevant considerations when entering into Cloud arrangements) instead of being a technical information sheet.
  • The forum provided some suggestions in relation to the revised document for the purpose of providing further clarity. It was confirmed that this feedback would be referred back to the Board for consideration prior to publishing the updated Exposure draft Practice Note (providing for a 45 day comment period) and subsequently referring back to the forum as appropriate prior to finalisation of the document.

Payroll service providers

  • The forum noted an updated Exposure draft information sheet to assist payroll service providers to understand the operation of the TASA regime and their requirements to register with the TPB as a tax agent or BAS agent. This included incorporating relevant information pursuant to the BAS services legislative instrument and inclusion of further reference information in relation to education and relevant experience requirements.
  • The forum supported releasing the Exposure draft for a 45-day comment period and noted that submission feedback will be referred back to the Board for consideration prior to determining the next steps.

Code of Professional Conduct guidance for tax (financial) advisers

Next meeting 

  • The Chair thanked forum members for their attendance and continuing feedback.
  • It was confirmed that the next meeting will be held on 9 November in Sydney.

Last modified: 30 August 2016