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Australia To Tighten Tax Practitioner Rules

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

08 May 2007

The Australian government has published a series of proposals that aims to codify rules and regulations governing the national tax practitioners' industry.

Yesterday, Peter Dutton, Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, released the draft Tax Laws Amendment (Tax Agent Services) Bill 2007 and associated draft Tax Administration Amendment Regulations for public consultation and comment.

“The draft Bill and Regulations will improve the registration and regulation of tax practitioners, providing benefits for both providers of tax agent services and people who use these services,” Mr Dutton said. “Tax practitioners will benefit from increased consistency in registration and appropriate, but flexible, regulation.”

“Taxpayers who use tax practitioners will be given greater certainty and protection. These reforms will improve the standard of services provided by tax practitioners across the country,” Dutton said.

The key features of the Bill and Regulations are:

  • the establishment of a national Tax Practitioners Board, replacing the existing State-based Boards;
  • a legislated Code of Professional Conduct that governs the provision of tax agent services; a wider range of disciplinary sanctions available to the new Board, including a civil penalty for serious misconduct by tax practitioners;
  • registration and regulation of Business Activity Statement (BAS) service providers; and
  • a ‘safe harbour’ for taxpayers from tax shortfall penalties for making false or misleading statements, where a taxpayer demonstrates that they have taken reasonable care by engaging a registered tax practitioner and providing the tax practitioner with all relevant taxation information.

Dutton added: “The package demonstrates the Howard Government’s commitment to providing protection and certainty for taxpayers, ensuring the integrity of the tax system and the tax practitioner industry. The draft Bill and Regulations have been developed following extensive consultation with tax professional associations.”

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