TPB Consultative forum report – 13 March 2018
On 13 March 2018, Ian Taylor (Chair), Greg Lewis (Board member) and fellow Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) colleagues held a TPB consultative forum with representatives predominately from a number of TPB recognised professional tax and BAS agent associations.
In accordance with past practice, this report provides an overview of key issues; it is not intended as minutes of the forum, nor does it represent the final views of the TPB.
Registrations and compliance update
- The forum noted a summary snapshot of registrations and compliance activity and observed that, as expected, the spike in tax (financial) adviser renewal applications received (including for the final end-January 2018 tranche) has had an impact on weighted average registration processing times. In conjunction with streamlined processes, the TPB is continuing to make inroads towards having a minimal number of applications on hand by end-June 2018.
- The TPB continues to focus on processing new applications, noting that registered tax practitioners who lodge registration renewal applications on time (at least 30 days before registration expires) will remain registered until the TPB notifies them of the outcome of their renewal application. It was observed that the weighted average for processing new applications continues to remain within the 30-day service standard.
- It was noted that issues around the practice management of clients of deceased practitioners are dealt with by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), and that there is also further information on the TPB website regarding procedures following the death of a tax practitioners.
- As at end-February 2018, there has been a marginal decline in the year-to-date number of complaints and referrals (1,005 compared to 1,072 in the prior year); however, there has been a slight increase in the proportion of complaints from the public (732 compared to 661 in the prior year). It was also reiterated that the TPB takes all complaints seriously and is continuing to review and streamline case management practices to facilitate further improvements to case cycle times.
Annual declaration compliance
- It was noted that there has been an increase in surrenders since the annual declaration process was established.
- The TPB is taking a graduated compliance approach to appropriately address the small number of instances where there is recurring late lodgement of annual declarations.
- It was also observed that the annual declaration process commenced for tax (financial) advisers on 1 August 2017 and that while there have been small numbers due to this point, this is expected to change from next year on the anniversary of the renewal applications being processed.
BAS agent educational qualifications review by PwC (Skills Australia)
- The Forum noted that the Department of Education and Training had published qualifications (relating to the FNS Financial Services Training Package Release 3.0) on www.training.gov.au, with changes made following a review by PwC Skills for Australia (on behalf of the Financial Services Industry Reference Committee, endorsed by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee).
- It was noted that the new qualifications predominately affect BAS agents and payroll providers – in particular:
- a new merged Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping qualification supersedes the Certificate IV in Accounting and the Certificate IV in Bookkeeping, with no material impact on the TPB and BAS agents as the merged qualification is ‘at least a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping or Accounting’ (meets the Board’s primary qualification requirement for registration as a BAS agent).
- There are new course codes for the BAS agent skill set following editorial changes.
Diploma of Payroll Services
- This is a new addition to the training package, with the diploma and skill set developed to meet a gap in nationally-endorsed training in payroll skills.
- The Payroll Administrator skill set has also been added as elective units for the Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping.
- The Diploma includes the existing GST/BAS course skill set, although students may have to choose relevant units as electives to complete the GST/BAS course skill set as part of the Diploma.
- It was noted that the new Diploma of Payroll Services will be considered at a meeting of the Board’s Education Committee as to whether it meets the Board primary qualification requirement for registration as a BAS agent (that is, to be at least a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping or Certificate IV in Accounting) and whether it meets the Board approved GST/BAS course requirements.
- The TPB is continuing its commitment to communication and awareness activity, including a broad-based approach to Outreach that involves a rolling schedule of monthly webinars, speaking engagements, eNews, social media and media releases. The TPB also undertakes specific face-to-face Outreach activities as appropriate.
Conveyancers / Others
- The TPB continues to work with the ATO regarding foreign resident capital gains withholding, with the ATO reviewing forms as appropriate to ensure that completion does not constitute a tax agent service – in particular:
- The Purchaser Payment notification form has been amended to remove questions that met the definition of a tax agent service.
- The TPB is continuing to work with the ATO on the Clearance certificate.
- No amendments are proposed to the Rate variation form (can only be completed by a registered tax agent or legal practitioner).
- In regard to GST and new residential premises, the TPB is of the view that the work that conveyancers could undertake can amount to a tax agent service and the TPB is currently working on how to resolve this matter.
- The TPB is also in conversation with the ATO regarding the annual vacancy fee in respect of foreign owned unoccupied properties.
Legislative instrument for tax (financial) advisers
The TPB is progressing work on preparing a draft legislative instrument and accompanying draft explanatory statement, which will be distributed to members of the Consultative Forum and Financial Adviser Forum for further comment. The TPB is also liaising with the Office of Best Practice Regulation.
Professional associations – annual declaration process and governance related arrangements
- The first annual declaration round has been completed and the TPB is currently reviewing its forward work program scheduling to provide for a more staggered routine for subsequent rounds.
- It was noted that Information sheet TPB(I) 33/2018: Recognised professional associations - Corporate governance related requirements for recognition under the Tax Agent Services Regulations 2009, which employs a principles-based approach, was finalised on 27 February 2018. It was also noted that this guidance will be a reference point for considering new applications for recognition and for considering annual declaration responses from currently recognised professional associations.
- It was reiterated that the TPB will take a pragmatic approach in regard to associations implementing relevant changes to meet any particular undertakings and to align with requirements in the information sheet.
Outsourcing, offshoring and the Code of Professional Conduct
- It was noted that the TPB published the finalised Practice Note and accompanying media release on 27 February 2018 to assist registered tax practitioners to better understand their obligations under the Code in relation to the use of outsourcing and offshoring, including factors to consider and a useful listing of further reference information.
- Pursuant to Board consideration of feedback received on the Exposure Draft, minor changes were made to the document for clarity, including additional content confirming that the TPB will take a pragmatic implementation approach.
Inspector-General of Taxation review of the Future of the Tax Profession
- It was observed that the Inspector-General of Taxation gave a closing address to a Future of the Tax Profession symposium in November 2017 (hosted by La Trobe University and Edith Cowan University), outlining four clear themes (technological, social, policy and regulatory).
- It was highlighted that the profession currently faces a number of opportunities and challenges and that a focus on effective consultation and stakeholder engagement will be required.
- It was noted that stakeholders are currently awaiting the outcome of the review, including any relevant recommendations when a report is released.
Black Economy Taskforce
- It was noted that the Taskforce highlighted key areas of concern regarding compliance with the tax system and that the Government is currently considering the Taskforce’s report. It was reiterated that effective consultation and stakeholder engagement will be required, and that stakeholders are currently awaiting a Government response to the report in due course.
Notifiable Data Breach regime
- It was observed that the mandatory Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme commenced on 22 February 2018. It was reiterated that the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has relevant jurisdiction of the Privacy Act, is responsible for administration of the NDB scheme and has continued to release guidance on its website.
- The TPB has continued to raise awareness about the scheme (including in eNews, on the website, in webinars and other outreach activity) and has recommended that all tax practitioners review their practices, procedures and systems for securing personal information for adequacy. It was also noted that a failure to comply with the scheme may be considered in determining whether a practitioner has breached the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (with consideration given to the particular circumstances on a case-by-case basis) and that practitioners should consider for themselves and their business:
- taking steps to ensure all security software and controls are up to date, and to remove accesses from people who no longer require these accesses
- preparing / updating a data breach plan to ensure the ability to respond quickly to suspected data breaches
- providing training to relevant staff as to any role they may have in responding to data breaches.
The Chair thanked forum members for their attendance and continuing feedback. The next meetings are scheduled to be held on 10 July and 7 November.
Last modified: 23 May 2018