BAS Agent Legislation and what it means to you

From 1 March 2010, new legislation known as the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 took effect.

The laws have seen the introduction of a national Tax Practitioners Board who, among other things, oversee and regulate the supply of BAS Services to the public.  Only bookkeepers who have applied to the Board for registration as a BAS Agent are permitted to render BAS services to their clients.  The laws impose a range of civil penalties ranging from $5,500 to $137,500 (per offence) for bookkeepers illegally providing BAS services.  Bookkeepers performing BAS Services and who are not registered, are required to have their work overseen by a registered Tax Agent or BAS Agent.

Benefits of the new law include

  • A Code of Professional Conduct which imposes a range of obligations, one of which is the compulsion to hold Professional Indemnity Insurance to a Board-specified level.
  • A range of administrative sanctions and civil penalties.
  • Clients of BAS Agents benefit from so-called safe harbour provisions which provide relief from penalties in the case of error or late lodgement by the BAS Agent.

In order to become registered as a BAS Agent under the Tax Agent Services Act, a bookkeeper must satisfy the Board that they meet certain criteria.

  • Firstly, the applicant must be a “fit and proper person”.
  • Secondly, the applicant 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).
  • Thirdly, the applicant must demonstrate a required number of hours of “relevant experience” in the past three years.

Before the introduction of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 Regime,a bookkeeper was able to complete a MYOB or Quicken course and start charging for their services.  Inexperienced bookkeepers and clients suffered communication difficulties, mistakes and unfair fines and penalties on businesses.
Lack of nationally recognised standards and government legislation exposed business owners.  Without appropriate legislation,the Australian Government was limited in what they could do to protect consumer rights and it opened the “flood gates” to a litany of basic BAS mistakes.  These mistakes potentially left the client unknowingly exposed to a high risk of fines and penalties from the ATO. Inadequate training or inappropriate education was identified as the major contributor to the high level of mistakes so check the qualifications of your current bookkeeper.