Issued: 1 August 2023
Last modified: 1 August 2023
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has upheld the Tax Practitioners Board’s (TPB) decision to terminate Ms Jennifer Clifford’s tax agent registration, after she misled the TPB and Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and had significant outstanding tax debts.
Investigations revealed Ms Clifford made false and misleading statements to the TPB on her renewal application. She stated she did not have any outstanding tax debts, when in fact she knew that she owed the ATO over $145,000 and had no payment plan in place.
Additionally, she misled the ATO and the TPB by lodging multiple self-managed superannuation fund annual returns without obtaining the required audits. She informed the TPB that she knew there were no auditor’s reports when she lodged the returns, and claimed she only did so to stop the ATO asking why she had not lodged her client’s tax returns.
This case was particularly concerning as Ms Clifford exposed clients to the risk of significant penalties under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993. A tax agent acting honestly and competently would not expose their clients to such a risk.
AAT Deputy President (DP) Molloy commented ‘I also take into account the seriousness of the applicant’s conduct including what I consider to be deliberate dishonesty. The applicant has not been open and honest in her evidence before the Tribunal. Her conduct has exposed some of her clients to possible prosecution. Even now she has not remedied some of these matters. I am not satisfied that that this conduct will not be repeated or prolonged. I do not believe the applicant has demonstrated genuine contrition or remorse.’
Accordingly, the AAT determined to terminate the registration of Ms Clifford with a non-application period of 18 months, rather than 2 years as was originally imposed by the TPB. DP Molloy amended the exclusion period to account for the time Ms Clifford had already been deregistered.
Commenting on the case, Chair of the TPB, Mr Peter de Cure AM, said, ‘Ms Clifford did not prioritise her clients’ interests, she acted dishonestly and demonstrated she was not a fit and proper person to be registered as a tax agent. This type of egregious conduct will not go unnoticed by us. Especially at tax time, this AAT decision is a timely reminder to all tax practitioners who need to act honestly and uphold high professional standards.’
‘We have terminated Ms Clifford’s registration to protect the public and to safeguard confidence in the tax and super systems. We are continuing to proactively target these higher-risk tax practitioners who are driving non-compliance.’
To report a dishonest or unregistered tax practitioner, submit a complaint with the TPB.
About the Tax Practitioners Board
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