The ethical roadmap: Do you set the pathway or just follow it? – The 2017 Queensland Tax Forum


Alice McCleary CTA (Life) and Aggie Maisano
As an adviser or practitioner, your personal and professional conduct is regulated in a number of ways – from the codes of the Tax Practitioners Board and the Accounting Professional and Ethical Standards Board to the 'fit and proper person' requirements of Institute membership.

The obligations of an adviser to act ethically are there because, in practice, we are often faced with situations that present ethical dilemmas. While our relevant codes of conduct detail how we are required to act, they can often seem more like lofty ideals than practical rules that can be easily applied to the situation at hand. As the vast majority of advisers strive to act ethically, these grey areas and lack of specific guidance add a further level of uncertainty to an already precipitous situation.

At the 2017 Queensland Tax Forum, a panel session will look at ‘Ethics in practice’.

Facilitated by Trevor Pascall CTA (Crowe Horwath), the panel will include Alice McCleary CTA (Life), Chair of The Tax Institute's Disciplinary Committee and Professional Standards Committee, Ian Taylor, Chair of the Tax Practitioners Board, Aggie Maisano (PwC) and Angie Hicks CTA (BDO). 

We spoke with Alice and Aggie about what attendees can expect from the session. 
Affiliated with The Tax Institute for more than 30 years, mostly at the national level, Alice is a former President of the Institute and now works as a company director of several listed and unlisted entities. Based in Adelaide, she was also Australia’s representative on the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants, helping set the ethical standards for the world’s 2.5 million professional accountants. 

Aggie Maisano is the Leader of PwC Legal's Risk & Quality team. With more than 25 years’ experience providing advice across risk, legal, regulatory and governance in the tax and legal practices of professional services firms in Australia and the Asia Pacific region, she is a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW.

Aggie told us: “In our session, we’ll be looking at ethics, morals, codes of conduct, and duty of care. How does a tax adviser navigate between these and the challenges in an environment of unprecedented scrutiny?”

Alice added: “Our panel will explore the range of practical ethical dilemmas which tax advisers face. Sometimes it can be very lonely in professional practice when a tough ethical dilemma arises. The people you would like to seek advice from may be conflicted, preventing them from getting involved, and there may be legal prohibitions on seeking independent external advice. We hope that this panel discussion will highlight some common ethical quandaries, and give participants some clarity on how to approach them.”

Covering the key ethical and legal obligations for everyone from registered tax agents and lawyers to chartered accountants and CPAs, the panel will offer some practical guidance on areas where there are more rigid requirements and where some flexibility exists. It will also look at circumstances where errors are found that are not the adviser’s fault (for example, in a file inheritance scenario), and how to deal with clients who are less than truthful or present fraudulent supporting documents.

Asked what attendees can expect to learn from the session, Aggie said: “Delegates will hear about the application of the spectrum of different considerations that impact an adviser’s tax opinion when refracted through a prism of ethics, morals, code of conduct and duty of care. We’ll look at the roadmap for advisers – Is the adviser responsible for setting the pathway or just following it?”

Looking at how the session would help advisers help their clients, Aggie said “advisers have an additional layer of risk to consider for themselves and their clients. It is no longer a question of technical advice only. Advisers have to consider questions of governance and risk management and provide the client the ability to apply those considerations – internally and externally – to their commercial affairs”.

Taking place on 24-25 August 2017 in Brisbane, the Queensland Tax Forum will open with a keynote address from Andrew Mills CTA (Life) (ATO) regarding ‘the tax administration continuum’. 

On day two, a presentation from Grant Wardell-Johnson CTA will be another forum highlight as he provides an insight into the future of taxation. 

The Forum will also feature a wide range of practical sessions, with technical content tailored across two streams for advisers to SMEs and to larger corporate taxpayers and advisers.

You can view the full program on our website.

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