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Tax professionals: Protecting your clients and practice

How to protect your clients and practice from tax avoidance and evasion schemes and manage promoter penalty risks.

Last updated 6 August 2023


We recognise the important role played by tax advisers and other tax professionals in the Australian tax and super system.

In our dealings with tax professionals, we adopt and maintain a collaborative approach. We want to have a strong relationship with you and a shared commitment to support and protect the community.

Tax professionals are well positioned to recognise potential tax avoidance or evasion schemes. If you encounter an arrangement that appears suspicious, let us know.

If you have clients who are caught up in a tax avoidance or evasion scheme, encourage them to talk to us. This allows us to work together to resolve any problems.

By reporting tax schemes as early as possible, you can prevent other people getting caught out and facing significant penalties. This also helps remove dodgy promoters from the profession.

Find out more on how we'll work with you to support voluntary compliance in our tax and super systems.

Your practice

If your practice has any of these indicators of suspect schemes, then we recommend you revaluate your approach and report this to us to mitigate your exposure to significant penalties.

Things to check:

  • When buying a new business from another entity, check their processes and practices to assess the legality of any tax planning arrangements.
  • Talk to your employees about their attitudes towards risk to make sure they align with the services you provide.
  • Check for fees inappropriately paid to related parties and not the practice.
  • Ensure you have strong governance and internal controls to protect against risk, including
    • remuneration methods and fee structures
    • secondary oversight of tax advice services
    • the marketing materials you provide to potential clients.

We take strong actions under promoter penalty laws against promoters or advisers, who encourage clients to implement unlawful arrangements.

It’s not worth being ordered to pay a civil penalty and the risks to you and your practice’s reputation.

Managing promoter penalty risks – good governance

Tax planning arrangements

If you provide tax planning advice to clients, you need to consider what level of risk you'll accept and what processes you have in place. This protects you and your practice from inadvertently breaching the promoter penalty laws.

You should be cautious about any arrangement you recommend.

You must:

  • recognise when an arrangement may be a tax avoidance or tax evasion scheme
  • know the potential risks for facilitating a scheme.

To avoid breaching the promoter penalty laws, you must offer balanced and independent advice.

You should not facilitate or advocate a tax avoidance or tax evasion scheme in any way.

You should ensure you have a reasonably arguable position on an arrangement by:

  • identifying accurate relevant and material facts (not just accept assumed or instructed facts without prudent questioning)
  • analysing relevant legal authorities for points of law, including both
    • ordinary provisions and anti-avoidance rules
    • appropriately considering both positive and negative positions.

The promoter penalty laws are not restricted to widely offered schemes. They can even apply where there is only one client in an arrangement.

The promoter penalty laws guide will help you understand the promoter penalty laws further.

Practice staff

The behaviour of your staff may increase your exposure to promoter penalty risks.

It is important to ensure staff give balanced and independent advice to clients. They also need to explain the tax risks and consequences of an arrangement.

Case study

Alex is a registered tax agent. He has provided tax planning advice for many years to Carl, a plumber with his own business.

This year, Alex tells Carl they have identified an area of the law where there is room to manoeuvre. Alex states they can design a structure for Carl, to minimise his tax, for an extra fee.

Alex has transitioned from merely providing advice to advocating an arrangement. If Alex is considered as having designed and sold a tax exploitation scheme, we may now consider Alex to be a promoter and exposed to promoter penalty laws.


Clients who have an appetite for high-risk arrangements and tax avoidance or tax evasion schemes may increase the level of risk to you and your firm.

You may need to reconsider your connection with any clients who:

  • insist on entering arrangements where the risk is one you are not comfortable with
  • won't take your advice and insist you make claims in their return that deliberately avoid or evade tax.

You should consider whether these connections are worth the potential penalties, and risks to your reputation and integrity.

If a client asks about involvement in a scheme

Your clients may ask you about minimising tax through tax-effective schemes or structures. They may ask you to complete a tax return based on advice they obtained from another adviser or scheme promoter.

You can help your clients avoid penalties or tax debts by explaining the difference between legitimate tax minimisation and abusive tax avoidance and evasion schemes.

You should advise your clients that:

  • it is their responsibility to take reasonable care in complying with their tax obligations
  • if involved in a tax avoidance or evasion scheme, they will be liable for the tax they avoided, plus penalties and interest
  • as a professional registered tax agent, you have a responsibility to exclude any false or misleading claims from their return.

If you think a client may be involved in a scheme, either inadvertently or otherwise, you should encourage them to make a voluntary disclosure to us. This may help them to avoid or minimise potential penalties for any tax shortfalls.

For more information, see: