Disqualified trustee granted stay from TPB termination decision
A tax agent who was disqualified by the ATO from being an SMSF trustee has secured a stay on the termination of his registration by the Tax Practitioners Board while he appeals the decision, on condition that he disclose his previous disqualification to his clients.
Peter Ristevski, who had been a tax agent since 2010, had his registration terminated by the TPB in September after a six-month-long investigation found he had breached several provisions of the TPB code of professional conduct.
Following the decision, Mr Ristevski lodged an application for a review of the decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and for a stay of the decision until the review could be completed.
Mr Ristevski was disqualified from being a trustee of an SMSF in September 2016 when it was found he had not lodged income tax returns from 2010–2015 for either himself or nine different entities with which he was said to be associated.
However, he claimed he had not known about the previous disqualification and that six of the nine entities referred to by the Commissioner of Taxation had no tax return lodgement obligation associated with them as they were merely trustees or trading names of other entities, while the other three he had no controlling interest of.
In addition, communications from the TPB to Mr Ristevski’s solicitors revealed concerns he had been involved in the set-up of 20 SMSFs that facilitated early release of super for the associated trustees, as well as allegedly being registered as the tax agent and auditor of several SMSFs, in contravention of independency requirements.
In his defence, Mr Ristevski had told the TPB that it was not the case he had audited the funds as well as being the funds’ tax agent, and that most of the funds being referred to by the board had never been operational.
Mr Ristevski had also been involved as a director of at least three companies which owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax debt, according to evidence presented by the TPB.
In his application for a stay of the decision, Mr Ristevski argued that as the only registered tax agent in his business, Chan & Naylor Australia, it was highly likely that if he was deregistered the business would need to shut down, which would have adverse consequences for his clients and employees.
The tribunal found merit in this argument as well as noting that the loss of income from Mr Ristevski no longer being able to work as a tax agent would also make it difficult for him to fund the legal costs associated with the AAT review of his registration termination.
However, the tribunal also found that it was important for the public interest that Mr Ristevski’s clients, employees and business associates be aware of his possible breaches of the TPB code, hence their decision to grant a stay while also stipulating Mr Ristevski must disclose the negative findings of the Commissioner of Taxation as well as the TPB in relation to his actions.
The tribunal also stipulated a directions hearing must be held on the 10th business day following the publication of the decision to grant a stay, unless Mr Ristevski and the TPB could agree on an earlier date between them.