How to choose a tax agent

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Why choose a tax agent


A registered tax agent is a professional who can assist individuals and business owners with completing a tax return. They charge a fee for their services but are often used primarily for convenience and to ensure all deductions and relative supporting documents are included with a tax return.

Who are they?


Tax agents are trained, qualified experts in Australian tax law. They use their knowledge of taxes and deductions to ensure:

While the main benefit of using a tax agent is to maximise a refund, their expertise in tax law also prevents any mistakes or misleading statements being included on your return. As the ATO takes any misleading claims seriously, using a tax agent can potentially save you from receiving a fine. 

Tax agents must be registered with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) and meet a professional code of conduct. Most tax agents are also accountants who are registered with the TPB, and you can visit the TPB website to find an agent in your area.


Tax Agent vs BAS agent vs Financial Advisor


Finding the right tax professional to assist with your return will vary depending on your personal circumstances. The three most commonly engaged experts are:

  • Tax Agents 
  • BAS Agents 
  • Financial Advisers

You can see how the services and capabilities of these three compare with each other in the table below. In most cases, a registered tax agent will offer the most complete and comprehensive range of services.

Tax Return Experts Compared

ServiceTax AgentBAS AgentTax (Financial) Adviser
Preparing and lodging tax returnsYesNo No
Preparing and lodging BASYesYes No
Applying for an ABN on behalf of a client YesYes No
Advice on registration for GST and PAYG withholding YesYes No
Fringe benefits tax YesYes No
Superannuation guarantee paymentsYesYes No
Dealing with ATO on behalf of a client YesYesNo
Personal advice on the tax implications of financial adviceYesNoYes

Tax Agents vs Accountants


Accountants can act as tax agents, but in order to do so they must be registered with the Tax Practitioners Board. Accountants are professionals that specialise in:


  • Expenses 
  • Financial audits 
  • Other finance-related information  

In comparison, tax agents are generally TPB-registered accountants, and ensure you get the most money back from the ATO in the form of a tax refund. 

When choosing a tax agent, you should consider the complexity of your situation and find an expert who meets your needs. This is particularly relevant if you:


  • Are running a business 
  • Have significant assets 
  • Require financial advice for future returns 

Will using a tax agent help with my tax return?


The short answer is: Yes.

A tax agent can help you prepare and submit your tax return, but their skillset offers so much more to both individuals and businesses in Australia. Tax agents assist in:

  • Maximising your deductions 
  • Ensuring compliance with documents and receipts 
  • Claiming for assets, investments, and other income  

Choosing a tax agent checklist


Now that you’re ready to find your own registered tax agent and maximise your refund, let’s look at some of the factors to consider when choosing an agent:



FeesWhat is their fee structure for individual returns or business tax returns?
Types of ReturnsCan they complete tax returns for SMSFs, small businesses, and sole traders?
CredentialsMust be registered with the Tax Practitioners Board
QualificationsRelevant university degree in either accounting, commerce, law, or a combination.
SpeedHow long will it take them to complete your tax return? How long will it take to receive your refund?
AccessibilityCan you engage the agent online or will you need to visit their office?
Hours of OperationIf you work outside standard business hours, find a tax agent who will be available when you need them to be.
ReputationHow long have they been operating as a tax agent? Do they have any reviews or referrals from others?
Specialist AreasSome tax agents may specialise in tax returns for students, working holiday makers, seniors, sole traders, small businesses and more.

Agreement on services provided by tax practitioners


When using a registered tax agent, BAS agent or tax (financial) adviser, you can discuss the following points with them to ensure you know what is expected of you and your tax practitioner:


  • How they will calculate your tax refund
  • Your financial situation 
  • How much their services will cost 
  • Where your refund will be sent 
  • Length of time until you receive a refund 
  • Their knowledge of deductions and tax law 

Summary


Choosing a tax agent can be a simple and easy way to maximise the amount of money you receive in your tax refund. Tax agents charge a fee for their services, but will completely take care of the tax return process on your behalf. You can claim their fee as a deduction on the following year’s tax return.

Pros and Cons of using a tax agent

Pros Cons
  • Ensures maximum refund on your tax 
  • Removes stress from tax return process 
  • Saves time 
  • Tax agent fees are deductible on your next return 
  • Using a tax agent allows for delayed submission beyond the normal deadline 
  • Advice on tax law and deductions you didn’t know you were eligible for 
  • Will lodge your return for you 
  • Fee for services 
  • Generally only provide advice related to tax 

Tax Agent FAQ

How much does a tax agent cost?


Well, it varies depending on the agent you choose and your personal financial situation. A small, straightforward tax return can cost around $100. More complex tax returns can occasionally cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars and up to thousands of dollars.


Can I find a tax agent online?


If you simply don’t have the time to visit a tax agent in person, there are many digital businesses that offer the same services in the convenience of an online setting. Tax agents not only allow you to submit your tax return online, but also provide email and phone support if you ever have any questions or problems.


What is the due date for a tax return using an agent?


Most registered tax agents have a special lodgment program and can lodge returns for their clients after the usual 31 October deadline. The due date will also depend on your personal situation. Contact your tax agent for advice.


Can a tax agent lodge returns for previous tax years?


Your tax agent can prepare and lodge prior year tax returns for you. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be able to extend the deadline for submitting your return when using an agent. However, you must be registered with a tax agent by October 31 to take advantage of this.


Why use a tax agent?


Online tax agents offer a convenient service which saves time and stress when completing a tax return form. They also help you to get the biggest tax return possible, as they are experts in tax law and can identify all your eligible deductions. You can also claim their fee as a tax deduction.