A closer look at the Tax Agent Services regime

As members will be aware, recently the Government introduced a Bill into the House of Representatives to finally subject financial advisers who provide tax advice to the Tax Agent Services Regime.

The Tax Institute has worked hard to ensure that these long sought after consumer protection measures are applied to financial advisers who operate in tax. In addition to our regular briefings of Members of Parliament, this week we issued a media statement and wrote to key independent MPs on the issue.

In yesterday’s second reading debate in Parliament, Rob Oakeshott MP, Federal Member for Lyne said the following:

And my good friends at The Tax Institute I think put it best of all—and The Tax Institute are hardly a friend of government. Arguably, they are the country's leading professional association in tax, with 13,000 members, including tax agents, accountants and lawyers. Fundamentally, they support the tax profession to work to continually improve tax law and administration. They are very passionate about [this change] and say that it is an important consumer protection measure in tax law. I think they will be bitterly disappointed that because of the lack of numbers in this chamber the government has had to omit [the measures] at the expense of consumer protection in Australia today.

The upshot of the debate is that the provisions in the Bill dealing with financial planners and the Tax Agent Services Regime have been excised, such that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services can examine them in detail next week. The Government is committed to reintroducing the measures in a separate Bill when Parliament resumes on 17 June, with the clear intent to pass them into law before 1 July 2013.

So how did we get to this point? – a combination of legislative delay, politics and a last-minute dummy-spit by the financial planning industry.

After three years of extensive consultation, these developments have unfortunately jeopardised giving consumers of tax advice the confidence they need and deserve.

We look forward to actively participating in the further Parliamentary scrutiny of the measures before they are passed into law before 1 July 2013.

Robert Jeremenko

Robert Jeremenko CTA is Senior Tax Counsel of The Tax Institute.

The Tax Institute is Australia’s leading professional association in tax. Its 13,000 members include tax agents, accountants and lawyers as well as tax practitioners in corporations, government and academia.


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