Taxation Disciplinary Scheme
The Chartered Institute of Taxation and The Association of Taxation Technicians have established an independent Taxation Disciplinary Scheme, to handle complaints made in regard to the professional conduct of members and students of the two bodies.
One of the objectives was to ensure that there was a common approach to procedures and philosophy in handling disciplinary matters with consequent improvement in efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, there was an awareness of the concepts of the Human Rights Act and in particular the need for complaints regarding alleged breaches of professional rules of conduct to be considered by a tribunal that was independent of the body establishing the rules. Therefore, the disciplinary arrangements, although established by the Institute and the Association, are administered through the independent Taxation Disciplinary Board Limited. Members of the various committees set up by the Board consist of individuals who have no current involvement with the professional standards setting of the two bodies.
The new arrangement is now in force and handles all complaints received on or after 1 January 2001. Although the arrangement currently applies only to the Institute and the Association, it is structured so that other tax bodies may join at a late stage if they wish.
Overall responsibility for the Scheme rests with a three man Board. The Chairman is a joint appointee of both bodies. The other members are individual appointments of the two participating bodies.
The new structure involves an Investigation Committee, which investigates complaints referred to it by the participating bodies. The role of the Investigation Committee is to determine whether or not there is a prima facie to answer; in minor cases it has power to impose a level of sanction. Where there is a prima facie to answer, a report is made to the relevant participating body. That body then presents a case at the next level of the Scheme, to the Disciplinary Committee. This Committee, normally sitting as panels of three members, judges the case and, if satisfied that the member is guilty of a breach of professional standards, imposes the relevant sanction. If the member who is the subject of a complaint is a member of the Institute, the Disciplinary Committee panel will always contain at least one member of the Institute. Similarly, if he or she is a member of the Association, the panel will include at least one Association member. If the member is found guilty of an offence, he or she then has a right to appeal to an Appeal Committee.
One of the many responsibilities of the Board is to appoint the members of the three Committees. In doing so they are trying to achieve a balance between lawyers, tax professionals and lay (ie non tax technical) members. This is to ensure that there is appropriate review of the issues from a legal, technical and practical viewpoint.
This is a major step forward for the Institute and the Association, one which endeavours to provide the right level of discipline over members as tax practice continues to play an increasingly important role in fiscal affairs but which at the same time operates fairly for members and respects their rights. If other tax bodies join the Scheme at some later date, it may provide a model for the whole of the tax profession.