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A couple of years ago, the regime for the registering of tax agents in Australia underwent major changes. It was changed from a state based system to a federal system and the Tax Practitioners Board was created to administer the new law. Now all tax agents register with the Tax Practitioners Board, generally, every 3 years.

In addition, two new categories of tax agent were created. These are BAS agents and conditional agents. Broadly, BAS agents are permitted to prepare and lodge activity statements. Conditional agents are those that have conditions placed on their registration. An example of this type of agent are quantity surveyors who provide information related to the capital allowance provisions in the tax law.

In my view, the changes that have come with the new tax agent services regime have been beneficial for agents and, importantly, the consumers of their services. Yes, there have been some hiccups, but that is to be expected with such a major change.

One of the important aspects of the new regime is its emphasis on agents maintaining their skills. As a person that has advised on tax matters for nearly 30 years, I know how challenging that can be. Tax agents want to provide accurate, compliant services to their clients and this is essential to maintaining public confidence in the taxation system.

On the 4th of June 2012, the Tax Practitioners Board released an explanatory paper on continuing professional education or CPE. Compliance with the principles set out in this paper will be one of the factors the Tax Practitioners Board takes into account when determining whether an agent’s registration should be renewed after, generally, 3 years. The key details are that tax agents are required to complete 90 hours of CPE over the 3 years of their registration period. Not more than 25% of that can be professional reading. So this means that at least 67.5 hours of CPE must be CPE activities other than reading.

The range of activities that can qualify as CPE is broad and the Tax Practitioners Board has not decided to be prescriptive in relation to what tax agents must study. The Board will leave it to the professional judgement of each agent as to what is studied or learned. There is a list of approved types of CPE activities in the Boards’ explanatory paper. That list is too long to repeat here but it includes seminars, workshops, structured discussion groups, computer based training, DVDs, audio tapes and so on.

Each agent must complete at least 10 hours of CPE per year while ensuring they reach the goal of 90 hours over 3 years. BAS agents and conditional agents must complete 45 hours of CPE over a 3 year period. There will be allowances for extended sickness, leave, natural disasters and so on.

The Tax Practitioners Board has also said that it will not specifically accredit any particular course.

The CPE requirements of the Tax Practitioners Board commence from 1 July 2012, so if your registration becomes due less than 3 years after that date, you must satisfy a pro-rata CPE hours requirement.

For agents that are a member of a recognised tax or BAS agent association, meeting the CPE requirements of those bodies will generally satisfy the Tax Practitioners Board requirements, provided the requirements of that association meet the minimum standards set out by the Board. And, there will be a need to keep records of the CPE you have undertaken. Some professional bodies already provide methods of recording CPE and the Board will not require duplicate records to be kept.

 

The above is not advice and is subject to the terms of the disclaimer. Click here to read the disclaimer.