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TPB Consultative Forum Report 31 July 2013

Tax Practitioners Board Consultative forum report – 31 July 2013

On 31 July 2013, the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) held a Consultative Forum (forum) in Sydney with representatives from a number of professional associations. This was the second forum with the current Board.

Board and TPB representation at the forum consisted of:

  • Ian R Taylor – Chair of the Board
  • Caroline Clarke – Board member
  • Yvonne Sneddon – Board member
  • Graeme Wilkinson – Secretary
  • Janette Luu – Senior Adviser to the Chair of the Board
  • 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 Bookkeepers Association Ltd
  • 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
  • Taxpayers Australia Inc Tax Practitioners & Advisers Ltd (TAI PAL)
  • The Tax Institute.

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.

Introductions

The Chair welcomed all attendees, including representatives from the following two recently recognised associations:

(i) Australian Bookkeepers Association Ltd – recognised BAS agent association
(ii) Taxpayers Australia Inc Tax Practitioners & Advisers Ltd (TAI PAL) – recognised tax agent association.

Update from the Chair

The Board provided an update and statistics on recent activities, including statistical snapshot reports in regard to Registrations and Regulatory assurance (RA) compliance activities. The following key points were noted:

Agent outreach

The Board has continued its activities to proactively engage with registered agents, including through an Outreach program, with over 700 people attending the Perth Outreach sessions held between 4 and 6 June (representing over 17% of the WA individual registered agent population) and over 120 agents attended sessions in Darwin in late July (representing approximately 45% of all registered individual tax and BAS agents across the Northern Territory). It is intended that the Board will continue with similar Outreach events elsewhere around the country, with the next event expected to be held in Adelaide in November 2013. Beyond that, the Board will endeavour to run programs in regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

On 9 July 2013, the Board released its first electronic newsletter (called TPB eNews) to all registered agents with an email address on the TPB system, which has been received extremely well. The Board will publish this newsletter on a bi-monthly basis

There has been a good response rate (approximately 20%) to the TPB module of the tax practitioner survey sent on 15 April 2013. The TPB will share results of the survey in coming months.

Regulatory assurance summary

There has been a continued downward trend in regard to the number of Regulatory assurance (RA) cases on hand, as well as a significant increase in the number of cases finalised in comparison to the previous year. As at 30 June 2013, there were 425 matters on hand. It was noted that provision of greater clarity in regard to differentiation of results, sources of complaints and trends would be useful in future reports that are provided to the consultative forum.

Legislative amendments to the TASA

Financial advisers update

While the start date has been deferred to 1 July 2014, the TPB has already commenced consulting with industry and stakeholders (including ASIC) and will continue its consultative approach. Key issues to be discussed include the following:

  • the registration process
  • what is a tax (financial) advice service
  • professional indemnity insurance
  • continuing professional education
  • education requirements (including relevant topics)
  • relevant experience
  • sufficient number
  • Code of Professional Conduct (Code).

The Board held separate meetings with financial association representatives and financial advice providers on 18 June and the next sessions are planned for the second week in September. Invitations to this event will be forwarded shortly.

The approach is yet to be determined in respect to education, noting that the Board is awaiting feedback from Treasury in regard to their June 2013 discussion paper. It was also noted that the Board is currently considering the submissions received in regard to the exposure draft proposed guideline (draft guideline), that was published on 21 May 2013, outlining the proposed requirements for a course in Australian taxation law.

Other legislative amendments

Professional indemnity (PI) insurance

It was noted that PI insurance is now a registration eligibility and ongoing registration requirement (effective from 30 June 2013), in addition to being an obligation under the Code. The online forms are currently being amended to reflect the amended law.

There has been no change in the Board’s policy position, with entities needing to maintain the PI insurance that meets the Board’s requirements (as outlined in the Board’s PI insurance
policy guideline).

Continuing professional education (CPE)

CPE that meets the Board’s requirements is now also an eligibility and ongoing registration requirement for individuals seeking renewal of their registration from 30 June 2013.

The Board is seeking to raise awareness of the CPE requirement in the first instance, given that the Board’s policy on CPE has only been in place as guidance since 1 July 2012.

Change in contact details

Registered agents are required to advise the Board in writing about any changes in their business address, email address or other details relevant to registration. The TPB will be issuing public messaging on this point in its next edition of TPB eNews.

Notifying professional associations

After conducting an investigation and making a finding, the Board may now notify accredited professional associations that the agent is a member of.

Declaring BAS services

The Board can now, by way of legislative instrument, declare that a certain service is a BAS service.

The Board is aware of a number of services that could reasonably be provided by BAS agents that are not specifically provided within the definition of a BAS service per se. Such services include: 

  • superannuation guarantee (SG) and superannuation guarantee charge (SGC) services (in a payroll environment)
  • superannuation contribution payments and reporting (in a payroll environment)
  • taxable payments reporting.

The Board is in the process of preparing a legislative instrument to have certain services declared as BAS services as a matter of priority.

Education update

Financial advisers

The Board is currently considering the submissions received on the Board’s exposure draft on a Board approved course in Australian taxation law for tax (financial) advisers, with the most consistent theme being in regard to the proposed topics and learning outcomes. The Board will wait for Treasury to finalise Regulations before finalising its approach.

The Board is also currently liaising with ASIC in regard to their recent Consultation Paper 212 – Licensing: Training of financial product advisers – Update to RG146 and identifying any interaction and possible overlap.

It was also noted that Treasury released a discussion paper on 12 June 2013 - Proposed registration requirements for registered tax (financial) advisers.

Board approved course in commercial law for tax agents

In regard to a Board approved course in commercial law for the purpose of tax agent registration, the Board has reviewed its position and is of the final considered position such a course should consist of three units. However, it was also confirmed that the Board will implement a transitional arrangement for applications made between 1 March 2013 and 30 June 2014 wherein tax agents have only completed two units of study in commercial law (reducing the commercial law requirement to two units, where those units cover most of the ‘core commercial law areas’ to a significant extent).

It was highlighted that on 17 June 2013, the Tax Agent Services Regulations 2009 were changed such that tax agents and former nominees of agents who were registered by a State Tax Agents Board (before 1 March 2010) will not be required to complete a Board approved course in commercial law to renew their registration (only applies to those renewing under items 203 or 205).

Professional practice work of the Board

Reasonable care

The Board has published (on 30 July 2013) the following two revised exposure drafts on reasonable care:

The Board’s professional practice committee considered the numerous submissions received in regard to the Board’s original exposure drafts on reasonable care, with the current revised versions of these exposure drafts employing a more principles-based approach and simplified structure. Some issues were raised in regard to discussion around the examples, which will be considered during the submission process.

The Board is accepting submissions for these two revised exposure drafts (available on the TPB website) until 29 August 2013.

Managing conflicts of interest

The Board also published on 30 July 2013 the Exposure draft TPB information sheet TPB(I) D19/2013: Code of Professional Conduct – managing conflicts of interest, noting that this was another issue wherein previous consultation and feedback identified that agents felt they would benefit from guidance upon.

This is the first time the Board has published an exposure draft on this topic and the closing date for submissions is 13 September 2013 (open for 45 days).

Future work - Confidentiality

The Board’s next item of focus for professional practice work will be to provide guidance in the form of an information sheet in regard to subsection 30-10(6) of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA) – an agent has responsibility to ensure that the confidential information provided to the agent by the client is not disclosed to another party without that client’s consent. This is particularly relevant in the context of the growth of outsourcing and offshoring in the Australian market for professional tax services.

Other items suggested by forum members

Difficulties opening a trust account

It was noted that some members are having difficulties in relation to opening a trust account with their banks. The Board will assess the significance of the issue and make relevant statements and representations as appropriate. The Board will report back at the next forum.

Close of meeting

The next forum is to be held in Melbourne (venue to be determined) and will be held in late October or the second week in November (specific date to be determined).