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TPB Consultative Forum Report 18 April 2013

Tax Practitioners Board Consultative forum report 18 April 2013

On 18 April 2013, the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) held its 12th Consultative forum (forum) in Melbourne with representatives from a number of professional associations.  This was the first forum with the current Board.

Board and TPB representation at the forum consisted of: 

  • Ian R Taylor – Chair of the Board
  • Cynthia Coleman – Board member
  • Roger Cotton – Board member
  • Graeme Wilkinson – Secretary
  • Janette Luu – Senior Adviser to the Chair of the Board
  • Tina Chawner – Communications Director
  • Neil Pegg – Secretariat

Representation at this forum consisted of:

  • Australian Taxation Office
  • Association of Accounting Technicians Australia
  • Association of Taxation and Management Accountants
  • Australian and New Zealand Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
  • Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors
  • CPA Australia
  • Financial Planning Association of Australia
  • Institute of Certified Bookkeepers
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia
  • Institute of Public Accountants
  • Law Council of Australia
  • Law Society of New South Wales
  • National Tax Agents' Association Ltd (NTAA+)
  • Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
  • Self-Managed Super Fund Professionals’ Association of Australia
  • The Tax Institute
  • Taxpayers Australia.

Apologies were noted from the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants.

This draft report summarises the key points discussed at the forum. In accordance with past practice, it 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.

1.     Introductions

The Chair welcomed all attendees and gave a brief synopsis of the background and experience of the current sitting Board members.

Forum members agreed that the Draft report from the previous forum meeting held on 11 October 2012 could be adopted without alteration.

2.     Update from the Chair

The Chair recognised and acknowledged the work of the inaugural Board in establishing its national registration and regulatory assurance function.

The Chair noted that the Board is keen to further engage with associations and tax practitioners to understand key issues and how the TPB can better support registered agents. In this regard, the Chair set an agenda to meet with the recognised associations in his first few months and this has largely been completed. Further, the Board is considering outreach activities.

It was noted that since it has commenced, Board number two has been involved in a number of key activities, including in regard to commercial law, financial advisers, proposed legislative amendments to the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA), Australian National Audit Office activity, assisting agents and applicants as the BAS transitional option ended on 28 February 2013, and agent outreach and increasing awareness.

Registrations and Regulatory assurance activity

Forum members noted statisticalsnapshotreports in regard to Registrations and Regulatory assurance (RA) compliance activities. Key points noted were the TPB has:

  • received over 2,000 BAS agent transitional registration applications by the deadline of 28 February 2013
  • completed over 1,140 compliance cases so far this financial year
  • investigated or commenced investigating over 500 cases where registered agents have not notified the Board the details of their professional indemnity (PI) insurance
  • suspended over 20 registered agents and a further 53 have surrendered their registration following our investigations
  • terminated the registration of more than a dozen agents for not keeping up to date with their own personal tax obligations, such as not lodging numerous income tax returns and business activity statements when due.  

It was observed that the TPB is continuing to make further inroads in regard to registration applications on hand, noting that there was a peak in BAS renewals received in February 2013. It was confirmed that the TPB encouraged transitional agents to renew, with a significant proportion subsequently lodging their renewal applications accordingly.

There has been recent compliance activity in regard to investigating agents who have yet to notify the TPB of their PI insurance cover (following requests and reminders) and those agents who have not kept up to date with their personal tax obligations, with a focus on the highest risk cases using a streamlined approach.

Reference was also made to the positive feedback the TPB has received in regard to the Summary of penalties, sanctions and terminations booklet published on the TPB’s website.

A summary document listing recently issued TPB information products was also noted. Further, it was observed that the TPB is moving to a new separate Information and Communication Technology environment.

2013 Tax practitioners survey

The TPB is working with the ATO to coordinate a survey of tax practitioners, wherein a random sample of 2,500 tax and BAS agents will receive the survey. This survey is due to close on 3 May and results will be used to inform the TPB's future direction and work program and to understand how the TPB can better support registered agents. In this regard, the Board is appreciative of association support encouraging their members who receive the survey to take part. It is intended that the TPB will share results of the survey later this year, with a summary of results intended to be provided at the next forum for discussion.

Communications activity

It was noted that the TPB is reviewing its communication strategy approach, including establishing an outreach program as well as other channels to keep tax practitioners informed. In this regard, the TPB is in the process of developing a plan to visit different parts of Australia to host events with tax and BAS agents, association representatives and financial advisers who provide tax advice. The first event will be held in and around Perth between 4 to 6 June and the Board is appreciative of association support in promoting this event and encouraging attendance.

The TPB is also keen to provide associations with useful and helpful communications support to assist the TPB in reaching out to registered agents. In this regard, the TPB communication team is keen to establish a direct connection with a relevant person in each association that leads on communications or who would have a good insight into the topics of interest to association members.

3.     Board approved course in commercial law

The Board has reconsidered the requirements for a Board approved course in commercial law and presented an in-confidence draft proposed transitional model to the forum for discussion.

It was observed that the TPB has not received submissions in regard to topic coverage as noted in the TPB guideline TPB (PG) 02/2010: Course in Commercial law approved by the Board (initially issued on 30 April 2010 and further revised on 13  September 2012), with education providers noting that current product offerings necessitate the need for three units to ensure appropriate coverage. However, it was noted that the Board is flexible in regard to considering innovative products that comprise equivalent topics as noted in the guideline.

Representatives from the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (ICAA), CPA Australia and the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) expressed a different view, espousing that the requirement should only entail two units. In this regard, ICAA, CPA Australia and IPA noted they will progress this matter separately, articulating their views in writing.

There will be ongoing discussions in regard to this issue and reporting back to the Assistant Treasurer as soon as possible.

4.     Financial advisers

On 8 February 2013, Treasury released exposure draft legislation and an accompanying short paper outlining the framework for the proposed regulation of tax (financial product) advisers by the TPB. Over 30 submissions were received and it was noted that the TPB is working with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and Treasury.

As part of the consultation process, the TPB has published an exposure draft proposed guideline (draft guideline) outlining the proposed requirements for a course in Australian taxation law for tax (financial product) advisers. The draft guideline is open for comment until 21 May 2013 and includes an appendix of key issues on which the TPB is seeking specific feedback.

Feedback was also sought from the forum on what the TPB should consult on. In this regard, it was suggested that consultation be undertaken in relation to education and experience requirements when more formalised.

It was also noted that the TPB is preparing a registration system and is looking to pre-populate information as appropriate to ensure that the notification process is not onerous. Further, a new enquiry management team will be assisting callers with their questions and work is progressing on the development of responses to frequently asked questions. ASIC and the TPB are working closely together to ensure business readiness.

5.     Professional practice work of the Board

Reasonable care

The inaugural Board received a number of submissions and comments in regard to the two exposure drafts published in September 2012:

The Board has considered these submissions and resolved to revise the exposure drafts, including employing a more principles-based approach and a simpler structure. Following revision, they are expected to reissue as exposure drafts for further review and comment.

Other topics

Other professional practice topics in the future Board work program include:

  • conflicts of interest (in preparation)
  • offshoring/outsourcing (in preparation) 
  • the impact of technology and obligations under the TASA.

6.     Other items suggested by forum members

No additional items were suggested by forum members.

7.     Other business

No other business was raised.

8.     Close of meeting

  • The Chair thanked forum members for attending and participating in the forum.
  • The next forum is scheduled for 31 July in Sydney (venue to be determined).