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TPB Consultative Forum Report 13 December 2010

Tax Practitioners Board Consultative Forum - 13 December 2010

On 13 December 2010, the Tax Practitioners Board (Board) held its fifth Consultative Forum (Forum), at the Board’s Canberra premises with representatives from a number of professional associations.

Board and Secretariat representation at the Forum consisted of: 

  • Dale Boucher – Chair of the Board
  • Russell Smith – Board member
  • Professor Gordon Cooper – Board member
  • Mark Maskell – Secretary of the Board
  • Janette Luu – Senior Adviser to the Chair
  • Erin Lockley- Adviser to the Chair
  • Lesley Ziukelis- Director Legal

ATO representation at the Forum consisted of:

  • Paul Southwell – Assistant Commissioner

Professional representation at the Forum consisted of:

  • Association of Accounting Technicians
  • Association of Taxation and Management Accountants
  • Australian Association of Professional Bookkeepers
  • Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors
  • Australian and New Zealand Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
  • CPA Australia
  • Institute of Certified Bookkeepers
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia
  • Law Council of Australia
  • National Institute of Accountants
  • Royal Institute of Quantity Surveyors
  • Self-Managed Super Fund Professionals Association
  • Tax Institute of Australia

The following Board member and professional associations sent their apologies:

  • Professor Gordon Cooper – Board member
  • Australian Association of Professional Bookkeepers
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
  • Taxpayers Australia

This Report outlines the key points that were discussed at the Forum. This Report is only intended to provide an overview of the issues that were discussed. They do not represent the final views of the Board on any particular topic and are not intended as detailed minutes of the Forum meeting.

1. Report from the Chair and overview of the work done by the Board

The Chair welcomed all attendees, in particular, representatives from the recently recognised tax agent associations - Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, Royal Institute of Quantity Surveyor and Self-Managed Super Fund Professionals Association.

The Chair provided the Forum with a brief overview of the key updates since the Forum meeting on 24 August 2010. In particular the Chair noted the following:

  • Amendments to the Tax Agent Services Regulations 2009 dealing with coverage of the tax agent services regime to exclude specific services from the regime.
  • That the Board is making good progress on working through registration backlogs.
  • Finalisation of key exposure drafts dealing with the tax agent education requirements, Code of Professional Conduct, fit and proper person requirements and professional indemnity insurance.
  • Publication of two exposure drafts dealing with course providers of Board approved courses and assessment aspects of a basic GST/BAS taxation principles course.
  • The feedback received through focus group meetings indicates that the BAS agent community want to comply with their obligations and to understand the educational requirements under the TASA.

2. Report from the Secretary

The Secretary of the Board provided the Forum with an update on the operations of the Board, in particular registration processing and streamlining procedures and a review of the website to improve layout and accessibility.

The Secretary distributed an outline of the Board’s registration figures for the previous three month period and noted that all BAS agents notifiers had been processed (over 15,000 applications) by the Board.

A Forum member enquired as to the time it will take for a standard BAS agent registration application to be processed. The Secretary advised that if an application contained all the necessary information, it should be processed within a month. Where further information is required, processing may take 2-3 months to process.

The Chair advised the Forum that the Board was regarding applications as complete only when all the information required has been received. The Chair also advised that the Board intends on publishing service standards for processing registration applications in the 2011.

A Forum member suggested that the Board could publicise common issues in applications to assist people in knowing what they require before starting their application. The Secretary advised that such steps had previously been taken, but agreed that more work should be done to assist agents.  

There was a brief discussion on the sharing of information between Associations and the Board. The Secretary agreed to look into whether the registration application form could ask applicants whether they authorise the Board to contact their professional associations to receive information, if necessary.

3. Update on education requirements for tax and BAS agents

The Chair provided an update on the progress the Board had made in respect of educational requirements for tax and BAS agents. Key updates included:

  • a letter that the Board had sent to all TAFEs in Australia and University Deans and Heads of Law and Business Schools. A copy of these letters were distributed to Forum members
  • the Board is engaging in a large number of activities to communicate the Board’s educational requirements, including;
    • notifying all BAS agents of the course content of a course in basic GST/BAS taxation principles (letters have been sent to all registered BAS agents);
    • finalising the exposure drafts on Board approved courses in commercial law, Australian taxation law and basic accountancy principles;
    • publishing decision trees and frequently asked questions on the website;
    • presenting to State TAFE conferences; and
    • issuing Chair’s messages and Board media releases.
    • the content for a basic GST/BAS taxation principles course had been settled through Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA) and the requirements had been published on National Training Information Service (NTIS) website.
    • noted that the Board was writing to the State authorities seeking the timely introduction of the basic GST/BAS taxation principles skill set.
    • advised that in respect of recognised prior learning (RPL), RPL completed after 1 October 2010 will be required to have a Statement of Assurance. This Statement would need to be completed by a relevant officer of a RTO, TAFE or University that certifies that applicant has gained their qualification through independent assessment that has rigour or authenticity. Several Forum members expressed their support of the Board’s approach
    • an exposure draft on the approval process for courses and assessment aspects of a basic GST/BAS taxation principles course would be published, with comments to close at the end of February 2011.

The Chair thanked all Forum members for their assistance in communicating these education requirements to their members.

Several Forum members sought clarification on the Board’s approach to continuing professional education (CPE) for registered tax and BAS agents. The Chair noted that the Board has not settled its position on CPE, and its preliminary view was that 15 hours of CPE should be undertaken per year. This figure is based on the CPE hours requirement of voting members of a recognised BAS agent association. The Chair further advised that CPE would be a focus for the Board in 2011 and that he expected to say more on the topic at the next Forum meeting.

The Chair distributed a hierarchy list of all the Board’s information products. The document explained the various information products published by the Board, their status as either binding or informative and purpose. The Forum welcomed the clarification.

The Chair also distributed copies of proposed Board Guidelines (TPB(PG)s) on:  

  • course in Australian taxation law that is approved by the Board;
  • course in commercial law that is approved by the Board; and
  • course in basic accountancy principles that is approved by the Board

4. Update on professional practice matters

The Chair updated the Forum on the professional practice matters the Board is currently considering. He sought input from Forum members on any matters they believe the Board should be considering. Suggestions from Forum members included:

  • disclosure in situations of offshoring and outsourcing;
  • Code of Professional Conduct obligations in relation to third parties;
  • privacy and confidentiality; and
  • use of contractors.

5. Professional indemnity insurance coverage requirement

The Chair updated the Forum on the Board’s progress on the professional indemnity insurance (PII) coverage requirement. The Chair advised that one of the common suggestion raised with the Board during the exposure draft period was that low volume preparers (that is low turnover) should be exempt from the Board’s PII requirement.

The Chair advised that the Board had considered this and that while the Board understands that the PII requirement will be an added expense, through external consultation, the Board expects that premiums will be affordable. Moreover, it is important for consumer protection that these agents still be required to maintain adequate PII cover.

The Chair also advised that the written notice requiring agents to have PII cover would issue to agents in April 2011, giving them enough time to obtain appropriate PII cover if necessary. The Board would again seek the assistance from the associations to raise awareness of the requirements among their members.

6. Specialists and conditional registrations

The Chair provided an update on the categories of specialist and conditional tax and BAS agent registrations. The Chair noted that the list was not exhaustive and new categories would be added as and when they were brought to the Board’s attention.

Forum members did not comment further on this.

7. Coverage issues

The Chair discussed generally the recent amendments to the Tax Agent Services Regulations 2009 to carve-out certain services from the tax agent services regime. The Chair directed Forum members to the explanatory statement attached to the Regulations for further guidance.

A Forum member suggested that it would be useful to have this information on the Board’s website – the Chair agreed.

Another Forum member enquired as to the status of the regulation of financial planners who provide tax advice. The Chair directed the Forum to the options paper that has been released by the Treasury, and outlined the two options put forward by the paper.

8. Close of meeting

The Chair thanked everyone for attending the meeting.  The Forum agreed to meet again on Tuesday, 31 March 2011, in the Board’s Canberra premises.