A group of advice and tax bodies has urged the government to begin a consultation process on legislative changes it claims will remove any protection from false allegations under a law requiring tax agents to report breaches of the Code of Professional Conduct in the Tax Agent Services Act (TASA) 2009.
Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, CPA Australia, the Institute of Public Accountants, The Tax Institute, Australian Bookkeepers Association, The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, Financial Advice Association of Australia and SMSF Association made the call after the government accepted amendments to the Treasury Laws Amendment (2023 Measures No 1) Bill 2023 in the Senate on 15 November without any consultation.
The amendments were tabled by the Greens on 8 November and will require registered tax agents to notify the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) of other agents they ‘reasonably believe’ have committed a significant breach of the code.
“While the joint bodies agree with the policy intent – to enhance community confidence in the tax profession and ensure high standards of ethical behaviour – serious concerns remain that the amendments in their current form may have devastating impacts for any tax practitioner falsely accused of misconduct,” they said in a statement.
“Unlike other laws, including the Corporations Act 2001, these amendments lack any protections usually afforded to those who are the subject of false or unfounded allegations, or for claims for lost revenues against someone who made an allegation.”
The six organisations noted the acceptance of the amendments bypassed the consultation processes with professional associations representing the tax and accounting profession that usually took place with changes of this nature and this could lead to unintended outcomes.
TPB Tax Practitioner Governance and Standards Forum co-chair Matthew Addison said on behalf of the join bodies: “The original amendments in schedule 3 to the bill are intended to improve the effectiveness and independence of the TPB, enhance community confidence and support high standards in the tax profession while streamlining the regulation of tax practitioners.
“While the government consulted widely on the original proposed amendments earlier this year, there has been no consultation with stakeholders on the Greens’ latest amendments, nor has an accompanying explanatory memorandum been provided to give further guidance on the changes.
“We strongly suggest that targeted consultation with key stakeholders be immediately undertaken to ensure the provisions operate as intended and include any resulting changes as part of the second tranche of legislative changes to the TASA, which are currently in exposure draft form.”