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‘Stealthy’ TPB investigation tactic could catch accountants out

Arthur Athanasiou
Jotham Lian
28 February 2020 — 1 minute read

A design feature of the Tax Agent Services Act could see practitioners face registration termination by the Tax Practitioners Board without being informed they were being investigated, according to a senior practitioner.

Thomson Geer partner Arthur Athanasiou believes that while practitioners might be aware that the TPB must notify the agent in writing if it decides to investigate them under subsection 60-95(2) of the TASA, practitioners might not be aware of a note in section 60-125 which lists out outcomes of investigations.

The note states that “the Board may terminate an entity’s registration under Subdivision 40-A without investigating conduct under section 60-95”.

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“In other words, section 60-95 which mandates that the TPB act transparently by giving notice to a tax agent beforehand, can potentially act with impunity by stealthily investigating the fitness and propriety of a tax agent, forming a decision and then unilaterally terminating a tax agent’s registration,” Mr Athanasiou said in a LinkedIn post.

“Needless to say, if such events were to occur, it would come as an appalling shock to the tax agent involved.”

Speaking to sister publication Accountants Daily, Mr Athanasiou believes the little-known fact of the TPB’s investigative powers means practitioners need to take a proactive approach to ensuring they are complying with the Code of Professional Conduct and the TASA.

“The takeaway message is, obviously, you’ve got to comply with the fit and proper person requirement as well as all of the requirements of the code,” Mr Athanasiou said.

“But more importantly, I think you got to have processes in place to ensure that any potential for any form of breaching the good fame, integrity and character test or any potential breaches are quickly identified and dealt with, but more importantly to notify the TPB.

“I think the golden rule is that it’s always better to go to the TPB before they come to you.”

Mr Athanasiou also believes multi-partner practices should have adequate processes in place to identify possible risks with each partner.

“Have processes in place so that any agent who has a partner can be satisfied that everybody is doing the right thing, because it only takes one partner to be caught up with the TPB that might jeopardise the entire firm’s registration,” he said.

‘Stealthy’ TPB investigation tactic could catch accountants out
arthur athanasiou smsf
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