Thursday, 3 April 2014     

The Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) is advocating for the extension of legal privilege to tax advice provided by registered tax agents.

"It is time for legal privilege to be extended to tax advice and bring Australia in line with other progressive industrialised nations such as the USA, UK." said IPA chief executive officer, Andrew Conway.

In 2007, the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended the establishment of tax advice privilege to protect advice given by independent professional accounting advisors from the coercive information-gathering power of the Commissioner of Taxation.  In April 2011, the Government issued a paper entitled "Privilege in relation to tax advice" but has failed to make any recommendations.

"Seven years of inaction since the Law Reform Commission's recommendation is quite unsatisfactory.

"Consumers seeking independent and objective taxation advice must have access to legal protections and safeguards, whether they seek that advice from a lawyer or an accountant.

"Extending legal privilege would enable honest and open conversations between tax payers and their tax agents.

"The IPA recommends a model to extend legal privilege to registered tax agents who are members of professional accounting associations.

"These members are qualified accountants who have undertaken further studies, hold a practicing certificate and are held to higher professional and ethical standards than non-members," said Mr Conway.