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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 7621

Senator FIFIELD (1:14 PM) —The opposition will support the passage of Tax Agent Services (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 through the Senate. I thought the ASADA legislation was a fairly dry piece of legislation, but I think the Tax Agents Services (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill does eclipse it. However, I do know that there are tax agents who eagerly await this sort of legislation, and to them we devote this legislation.

This bill contains a range of consequential and transitional provisions to the tax agent services regime legislation that was passed with the support of the coalition on 12 March this year. The new tax agent services regime will mean that for the first time there will be a single national regime governing the registration and regulation of tax practitioners.

This bill contains two schedules. Schedule 1 of this bill includes the ‘safe harbour’ provisions that protect taxpayers from administrative penalties that would otherwise arise from certain shortfalls or late lodgements. It will provide protection to taxpayers who provide their tax agents with all required information, and then their tax agent fails to take reasonable care by making a false or misleading statement or by failing to lodge a return. This will provide certainty and confidence for all those taxpayers who use the tax agents to manage their tax affairs.

Schedule 2 provides for the transition from the current state based registration system to the new national based registration system. Schedule 2 includes provisions to ensure that those tax agents that are currently providing tax agent services will be granted registration through the three-year transitional period. This includes certain entities that are not currently required to be registered.

This schedule also includes provisions to register those specialist tax advisers, such as those who provide R&D tax advice, regardless of their ability to meet the registration requirements. Schedule 2 also includes provisions to transfer all of the responsibilities and roles of the state boards to the new national Tax Agents Board. These provisions will ensure that the new board will be able to adopt all the functions of the existing state based boards. These provisions in schedule 2 will also ensure that the roles that the state boards are currently playing in legal proceedings and inquiries will be continued by the new national board.

This bill contains consequential changes to a regime begun under the coalition. It will provide protection for taxpayers and certainty for tax agents. The coalition supports the bill.