The Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA 2009) together with two other pieces of legislation known as “Regulations” and “Transitional Rules” make up the legislation or new laws that now govern the behaviour and business dealings of all bookkeepers, tax agents and now, the newly termed, “BAS Agents”. TASA 2009 was enacted on 1st March 2010.
TASA 2009 HISTORY
On May 7th, 2007 the exposure draft of the Tax Agent Services Bill 2007 and two related pieces of legislation often referred to as the “Regulations” and the “Transitional Rules” were released by the then Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Peter Dutton. After much consultation and discussion with industry professionals and the public, many amendments were made to the exposure draft and on 13th November 2007, the Tax Agent Services Bill and Explanatory Memorandum were introduced to Parliament. This introduction did not include the “Regulations” and the “Transitional Rules” as these were to come at a later date. The Bill was then referred to the Standing Committee on Economics for review. The Committee invited external professional feedback and discussion and on 6th February 2009 held a Senate Enquiry on the subject. On the 12th March 2009, the Senate approved the Bill in its entirety. The Transitional Provisions were introduced into the Lower House of Parliament on 24 June 2009 and were passed by Parliament on 29 October 2009 and then received Royal Assent on 16 November 2009. The “Regulations” were released in exposure draft form on 2nd August 2009 and included specifics on qualifications and level of experience required by BAS Agents, the applications fees for registration of BAS Agents and the requirements for Recognised Professional Associations wanting to register as BAS Agent Associations. These regulations were completed on 13th November 2009. The development of the new laws including the Tax Agents Services Act 2009, the Transitional Provisions and the Regulations were now complete. Nick Sherry, the then Assistant Treasurer, announced on 26th November 2009 that the commencement date for these new laws would be 1st March 2010. To access all three pieces of the legislation please visit the following links:
WHAT ARE THE NEW LAWS?
TASA 2009 has seen the introduction of the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) which is responsible for overseeing the registration and behaviour of all Tax Agents and BAS Agents. The TPB replaces the six individual tax agent boards which existed previously. Essentially, if a bookkeeper wants to provide BAS Services, then he will need to apply for registration as a BAS Agent with the TPB. Because of TASA 2009, it is now illegal to provide any BAS Services for a fee and there are heavy fines and penalties for those who attempt to do so! In order to become registered with the TPB as a BAS Agent you will need to “pass” certain criteria:
- You must be a fit and proper person
- You must satisfy an educational criterion, which at a minimum requires the attainment of a Certificate IV Financial Services (Accounting) or Certificate IV Financial Services (Bookkeeping)
- You must demonstrate that you have clocked at least 1400 hours of “relevant experience” in the past three years
- You must hold a Professional Indemnity Insurance policy
- As a BAS Agent, you are subject to proper behaviour under the Code of Professional Conduct as outlined in TASA 2009. See the components of the Code of Professional Conduct below:
Honesty and integrity
(1) You must act honestly and with integrity.
(2) You must comply with the taxation laws in the conduct of your personal affairs.
(3) If: (a) you receive money or other property from or on behalf of a client, and
(b) you hold the money or other property on trust; you must account to your client for the money or other property.
(4) You must act lawfully in the best interests of your client.
(5) You must have in place adequate arrangements for the management of conflicts of interest that may arise in relation to the activities that you undertake in the capacity of a registered tax agent or BAS agent.
(6) Unless you have a legal duty to do so, you must not disclose any information relating to a client’s affairs to a third party without your client’s permission.
(7) You must ensure that a tax agent service that you provide, or that is provided on your behalf, is provided competently.
(8) You must maintain knowledge and skills relevant to the tax agent services that you provide.
(9) You must take reasonable care in ascertaining a client’s state of affairs, to the extent that ascertaining the state of those affairs is relevant to a statement you are making or a thing you are doing on behalf of the client.
(10) You must take reasonable care to ensure that taxation laws are applied correctly to the circumstances in relation to which you are providing advice to a client.
(11) You must not knowingly obstruct the proper administration of the taxation laws.
(12) You must advise your client of the client’s rights and obligations under the taxation laws that are materially related to the tax agent services you provide.
(13) You must maintain the professional indemnity insurance that the Board requires you to maintain.
(14) You must respond to requests and directions from the Board in a timely, responsible and reasonable manner.
If you are a contract bookkeeper, you must make a decision – should I register as a BAS Agent or not? To best answer this question, you need to look at the types of services you are providing to your clients and the work that is involved. I discuss this further in my blog: BAS & Bookkeeping Services – Aren’t They the Same Thing?
Registering as a BAS Agent is a big undertaking and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly – do your research and find out if it’s for you first. Remember though, if you are providing BAS Services for a fee, you must register as a BAS Agent – you cannot operate your practice legally without doing so!