Date of this Version
[Extract] That all taxpayers have the right in Australia to lodge a return is a privilege. However, many find it a heavy burden and favour simplification. Professional bodies and individuals have proposed alternatives that allow for tax withheld at source to be a final tax, eliminating the need for filing a return. There are also proposals to limit the delivery of welfare through the tax system. The aim is to remove large numbers of low-income earners from the tax net. This could have implications, however, for monitoring of welfare fraud and aspects of the cash economy. In the context of the questions that are being raised at this symposium, I believe that all proposals so far put forward in Australia do retain the right of a taxpayer to file a return should the taxpayer so wish, or should it be to their advantage. The complexity of the Australian tax system means that tax agents are now essential to its operation. The registration of tax agents ensures taxpayer protection and there are current proposals to develop a new legislative framework to further define the role of tax agents in a legislated Code of Practice. However, this has taken over ten years to develop and is still under discussion. The basic reason for the delay is that with the very close working relationship that has developed between tax agents and the Australian Taxation Office comes the danger that tax agents become agents more of the government than they do of their clients. Australian tax agents are extremely concerned not to cross that line. However, it is a line that is becoming increasingly blurred.