Tax Practitioners Board Consultative Forum – 31 March 2011
On 31 March 2011, the Tax Practitioners Board (Board) held its sixth 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
- Yvonne Sneedon – Board member
- Janette Luu – Senior Adviser to the Chair
- Carolyn Lamour – Director of Registrations
Professional representation at the Forum consisted of:
- Association of Taxation and Management Accountants
- 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
- 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:
- Association of Accounting Technicians
- Australian Association of Professional Bookkeepers
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
- Law Council of Australia
- Taxpayers Australia
- Australian Taxation Office
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 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 and provided the Forum with a brief overview of the key updates since the Forum meeting on 13 December 2010. In particular the Chair noted the following:
- Processing registration applications has been a key focus for the Board, with nearly all complete applications lodged in 2010 finalised or being processed. The Chair noted that a significant number, approximately 95%, of applications received by the Board are incomplete. The reason for most applications being incomplete is due to applicants not providing sufficient information and supporting documentation in relation to their academic qualifications and experience. The Board also recognises that the Board’s application forms may attribute to the high number of incomplete applications being submitted and are in the processing of reviewing all application forms.
- The Board have commenced working on a strategy to assist the 15,000 BAS agents who became registered under the notification option to renew their registration when it expires on 29 February 2012. As part of the strategy, the Board are considering an incentive strategy for those who have obtained the necessary qualifications and experience to renew early.
- The Board will be issuing new certificates of registrations to all agents who transitioned into the new regime as previously registered agents or nominees on 1 March 2010. Certificates will issue on or about 8 April 2011.
- The Board will shortly issue an information sheet that consolidates all of the registration requirements for BAS agents.
- The Board published in late 2010 a number of key documents, including
- three proposed Board Guidelines on a Board approved course in commercial law, Australian taxation or and basic accountancy principles;
- two exposure drafts on Board approved course providers and assessments aspects of a Board approved course in basic GST/BAS taxation principles; and
- three explanatory papers dealing with the Code of Professional Conduct, fit and proper person requirements and the Board’s professional indemnity
- The Board will be focussing more in 2011 on providing further guidance on the professional practice matters and sought suggestions from Forum members. Forum members suggested further guidance to agents about reviewing any conflicts of interests with their long term clients and the meaning of ‘reasonable care’.
- The Board has been involved in consultations with Government, Treasury and other stakeholders in relation to the Government’s announcements about the regulation of financial planners who provide tax advice
- The Board has received a large number of speaking requests and the Chair’s has been focussing on speaking to TAFE teacher networks to explain the education requirements, in particular the requirements for BAS agents.
A Forum member asked the Chair whether the Board would be giving special priority to those making initial applications and who are unable to practice until their applications are approved. The Chair confirmed that this should no longer be an issue as the Board has largely resolved the backlogs in processing applications for registration, but all applicants should allow some time for proper processing of registration applicants when they decide to commence a business. However, the Board will consider all circumstances on a case on case basis.
2. Report from the Secretary
In the absence of the Secretary, the Director of Registrations Carolyn Lamour provided the Forum with an update on the operations of the Board, in particular registration processing and redesign of online forms and the website. A document outlining the Board’s registration figures for the previous three month period was distributed and noted by Forum members.
The Board’s focus is on processing new applications received. The next priority will be to process renewal applications, noting that if an agent has submitted an application for renewal of their registration, they remain registered until the Board has made a decision.
The Forum discussed the registration processing time frames and the Chair confirmed that nearly all complete applications lodged in 2010 had been finalised or are being processed. The Chair also confirmed that the Board are looking at setting benchmarks for our business as usual environment. The Board are aiming to achieve, by the end of the 2011 calendar year, a one month turnarounds for processing registration applications and renewals, so long as all the necessary information for the Board to consider and approve an application is provided in the first instance. This will not apply where required information is not supplied or where the Board has to follow up with applicants.
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:
- Preparation of a draft information sheet that consolidates the Board’s approach and requirements to BAS agent educations. The Forum asked to be provided with a draft of this information sheet for comment and the Chair agreed to do so.
- The Board have published two exposure drafts on Board approved course providers and assessments aspects of a Board approved course in basic GST/BAS taxation principles. The comments close on at the end of February and the Board are currently considering the comments in relation to each.
- The Board are developing a committee to approve ‘Board approved courses’ and course providers.
- The Board are currently drafting an information sheet that explains the Board’s mix and match approach. With education requirements for tax and BAS agents, the Board has intentionally provided a degree of flexibly in terms of ‘mixing and matching’ the various requirements to given agents as many options as possible to meet the qualification criteria.
- The Board have drafted a draft list of education requirements for certain specialist and conditional agents. A copy of this document was distributed to Forum members for comment.
- The Board are developing an ‘qualifications’ advice service to applicants who want to know whether a course they have undertaken or proposing to undertake will meet the Board’s education requirements.
This service is not meant to be an application pre-approval process; rather it is to provide applicants with assistance where they are already studying, are concerned that their qualifications may fall short of those required by the Board and want to know whether to study one subject or another. The details of this advice service are still to be finalised, but the Board will be requesting that applicants send an email to the Baard with details of their qualification or course, including supporting documentation such as course outlines and materials and academic transcripts. The Board will announce further details in the mix and match information sheet or another suitable Board publication.
- As part of the tax agent and BAS agent education requirements, the Board considers that an essential part of the qualifications requirement for registration as either a tax agent or BAS agent is that applicants will need to be able to demonstrate their knowledge of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and the Code of Professional Conduct. The Board are considering how this knowledge should be obtained and will issue an exposure draft in due course, particularly seeking comment on how the knowledge should be taught.
- A new Statement of Assurance form to allow course providers to certify to the Board that the applicant’s course of study has been completed through a process of recognition of prior learning and has been assessed formally and independently in accordance with the certain applicable methods as required by the Board. This form is now available on the Board’s website.
4. Continuing professional education
Board Member, Yvonne Sneddon, updated the Forum on the Board’s progress in relation to developing the Board’s approach in relation to continuing professional education (CPE) for tax and BAS agents. To date the Board have developed a project outline, conducted preliminary background research and identified significant issues. The Board anticipates that it will publish its final policy in relation to CPE for tax practitioners in December 2011. An exposure draft for public comment is expected in July 2011. The Board decision to articulate an approach on CPE was well received by all Forum members.
Ms Sneddon raised the following areas in which the Board seeks specific feedback on:
- The minimum level of CPE for tax agents
- Minimum level of CPE for BAS agents
- Minimum level of CPE for conditional/specialist agents
- The appropriate level of CPE that all agents should completed in a given year
- Whether the restriction on the amount of technical reading that may count towards CPE is appropriate
- Whether the Board should further restrict unstructured CPE activities
- Whether any terms used are ambiguous or require further clarification.
The Chair confirmed that in coming months all Forum members would be sent a draft of the exposure draft paper for comment
5. Professional indemnity insurance
The Chair updated the Forum on the Board’s progress on the professional indemnity insurance (PII) coverage requirement. The Board anticipates sending letters, including the written notice, to all registered agents by the end of April. A draft copy of this letter was distributed to Forum members, no significant comments were made.
To assist agents notify the Board of the PII arrangements, an online notification will be available and can be accessed by agents logging into their account on the Board’s website. Further, the Board will have a facility in place to allow a responsible officer of a company or partnership to certify that a registered agent within that entity is covered by the company or partnerships PII cover.
The Chair noted the transitional arrangements that the Board has put in place. That is, during the implementation period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012, any new policies taken out by registered agents who are which are subject to the Board’s PII requirements must meet the Board’s requirements. However, if an agent has an existing PII policy that may not meet the Board’s requirements, that policy can continue during the implementation period, but once that policy lapses or by 1 July 2012, whichever occurs first, an agent must obtain a policy that complies with the Board’s requirements.
6. Close of Meeting
The Chair thanked everyone for attending the meeting. The Forum agreed to meet again on Thursday, 23 June 2011, in the Board’s Canberra premises.