Some members may be concerned by the recent statement of the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) that it will be requiring tax agents, who have had a complaint made against them, to try and resolve the complaint within 72 hours of the tax agent being advised of the complaint by the TPB.
This announcement has created a good deal of concern for tax agents. The TPB said that the changed procedure would apply to about 15% to 20% of complaints to the TPB.
The Tax Practitioners Board has sought to clarify this announcement and further information will be forthcoming from it. In a telephone conversation Tax & Super Australia had with the TPB and other professional bodies, the TPB tried to allay the concerns of professional bodies over this change.
Despite the concerns, the TPB emphasised that the new procedure will be put in place. However, the new procedure will be trialled for six months and reviewed after this time.
It is important to understand the background to this action by the TPB. The TPB indicated that the number of complaints against tax agents is likely to double in the current financial year. This could be in the order of 3,000 complaints for the financial year and is, quite understandably, of concern to the TPB. Tax agents should also be concerned about this alarming rise in complaints.
Concerns were raised with the TPB that tax agents may not be able to respond within the 72 hour time frame, due to a variety of reasons. We were informed that tax agents should understand the TPB will implement this new process with due regard to the difficulties that tax agents may have in responding to the complaint.
An issue that was raised in the conversation related to what responsibility the tax practitioner would have to advise their insurance company if they were notified of a complaint by the TPB. Arguably, the 72 hour response procedure should not alter the existing need to communicate with the tax practitioner’s insurance company when a claim is made against the tax agent. However, the issue is a valid one to consider.
Tax & Super Australia made the point that the TPB, where appropriate, should adopt the policy that a complaint by a person against the tax agent should not be processed by the TPB unless the complainant has first contacted the tax agent in order to resolve the problem.
We also emphasised that the posture of the TPB in relation to the complaint should be one of a neutral party. That is, there should not be a prima facie view by the TPB that the tax agent has made an error or is at fault. The TPB emphasised that this is their approach.
Members can expect further information from the TPB on this issue shortly.
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