Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand has now publicly opposed the Tax Practitioners Board’s plan to raise continuing professional education (CPE) hours for tax agents, BAS agents and tax (financial) advisers to 120 hours across three years, starting from 1 July.
BAS agents will be subjected to the largest increase, with their minimum CPE requirements set to jump from 45 hours to 120 hours over three years, while their yearly minimum will quadruple from five hours to 20 hours.
The professional accounting body believes the increase in CPE hours will create a “very real regulatory burden” on BAS agents who have a narrower scope of service than tax agents.
“The proposed increases for BAS agents (being a tripling and a quadrupling) are unlikely to be achievable in practice, and in our view are unlikely to be necessary or appropriate for that category of tax practitioner whose area of practice, by definition, is significantly narrower in scope than that of tax agents,” said CA ANZ in its submission to the TPB.
“For this reason alone, we do not believe that there is merit or logic in imposing the same number of CPE hours and minimum yearly hours on BAS agents as tax agents.
“The same principle applies for tax (financial) advisers due to the relatively narrower scope of their services which also form a subset of tax agent services.”
CA ANZ also notes that practitioners will be forced to source additional CPE material that may not be beneficial to their clients in a bid to satisfy the 120-hour requirement.
“Some professional associations offer little CPE that would be directly and specifically relevant only to a BAS agent,” CA ANZ said.
“If a BAS agent had to seek out and undertake 120 hours, or even the current 45 hours, with ‘sufficient nexus’ to BAS services specifically, this may require going in search of external CPE from bookkeeping associations or other providers, even though this may add little value to the BAS agent’s services provided to clients.”
With the TPB proposing to roll out the new requirements from 1 July, CA ANZ believes the poor timing in the immediate wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will cause a “haemorrhage of competent advisers”.
“This is already happening because the regulators are developing each of their own administrative policies without sufficient regard to how they apply in conjunction with the professional bodies’ co-regulation,” it said.
“If the regulatory burden imposed by regulators and professional/industry bodies is too great, it will collectively weaken, not strengthen, the tax profession, which in turn will compromise consumer protection.”