How do you identify a tax professional and what can he do for you?
I often advise tax payer not to attempt to “DIY” their tax affairs but to consult tax advisers. But who is qualified to act as a tax agent, tax consultant, and so on?
I have been told that for someone to do a tax return on behalf of another person, he/she needs to be qualified under Section 153(3) of the Income Tax Act 1967. If I want to employ a tax accountant to do my return, how can I check whether he/she is qualified? Can I obtain a list of qualified tax accountants?
You are right: Only qualified persons are authorised to act on behalf of other persons for the purposes of the Income Tax Act.
Who is an approved tax agent?
An approved tax agent is a professional accountant or person who is approved by the Minister of Finance. He must convince the Minister of Finance that he has sufficient practical experience in taxation. The approval process entails an application (furnishing all the requisite details regarding professional qualifications, education background and professional experience) and an interview to establish technical competence.
Having been approved, the tax agent will be obliged to keep abreast of current development in taxation through continual professional education (CPE). Chalking up the prescribed minimum CPE hours is essential for continued approved tax agent status.
Note that despite the requirement for approval by the Minister of Finance, professional lawyers are not hampered or precluded from acting in their lawful practice for their clients in tax matters. In other words, professional lawyers need not be approved by the Minister of Finance to act on behalf of clients in tax matters.
What can the approved tax agent do?
Only an approved tax agent is authorised to act on behalf of other persons. What can he do?
First of all, “act on behalf” of any person connotes representation of another person. Thus, an approved tax agent may perform the following functions:
Checking the status of the tax agent
- File clients’ annual tax returns (duly signed by the taxpayer client);
- Communicate with the tax authorities on tax matters relating to his clients. The communication may be written or oral. Hence, a tax agent may visit the Inland Revenue Board office on behalf of his client; and
- He is authorised to represent a client in tax appeal proceedings in the specialist tax court (Special Commissioners of Income Tax).
- In this regard, it is worth noting that the appointment of the tax agent should be evidenced in writing and communicated to the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) office.
To verify the status of any person purporting to be an approved tax agent, you may visit the IRB’s website, . Go to “Tax Information”, “List of Tax Agents” and select the relevant state.