The average working person might never have heard of a tax agent; you usually don’t until you really needed one. You’ve heard of an accountant, a bookkeeper and even a debt collector. Tax agents work in a niche field and are invaluable sources of help when the time comes.
What does a tax agent do?
Tax agents work in a dedicated firm or in a section of an accountant’s office. The Australian Tax Office defines the role as:
A registered person for tax purposes, hired to help a person with their tax affairs.
That’s the most clear-cut explanation. When someone comes to a firm, or to a contractor, with a tax problem, the agents are the ones to step in.
Tax agents have a multi-layered role. They must know the basics of accounting and certain tax laws to do their job efficiently. Like accountants, they must hold a bachelor’s degree in business (accounting) and preferably have completed a master’s course.
The Tax Practitioners Board requires agents to take certain courses before they can receive recognition. These courses teach more than how to ‘crunch numbers’ correctly. Students must pass classes in commercial and tax laws, basic accountancy, and the Code of Professional Conduct (this is set out in the Tax Agent Services Act 2009). The Code requires tax agents to act with honesty, integrity and in the best interests of their client. It also requires them to respond to the Tax Board when called and follow their directions.
How agents help their clients
As you’ve read above, tax agents are highly qualified. They should be because their job takes them into some specialist and technical areas of law.
Agents help their clients understand their liabilities and obligations, help them file statements, and more. They can even install software on computers to help calculate GST particular to a client’s business.
Business owners mightn’t know their liabilities or entitlements under tax law, and this is when they must engage an agent. Getting this right in the early stages of building a business will prevent headaches later. It’s helpful to know what declarations to file or how much tax to withhold.