Sydney, March 2: The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has upheld the Tax Practitioners Board’s (TPB) decision to terminate Richard Geoffrey Plaskitt’s tax agent registration after his partnership misappropriated approximately AU$330,000 in client funds amongst other wrongdoings.
Plaskitt was the sole supervising registered tax agent for the partnership and his wife was the only other partner and performed bookkeeping duties.
TPB investigations revealed Plaskitt allowed the partnership to use client money to make a series of unauthorised payments. This included transfers totalling over AU$84,000 to pay the partnership’s tax debts to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
Plaskitt argued that he had obtained the client’s authority for these payments via a letter, a claim which the AAT found was not supported by the letter supplied and was denied by the client.
Plaskitt’s wife, other family members, and the partnership itself were also the recipients of a series of payments and loans which were transferred from the same client’s accounts without their consent.
Notably, Plaskitt’s wife received transfers totalling approximately AU$60,500.
Plaskitt did not offer any explanation to the AAT for these payments to his wife and could not establish that they had been authorised by the client, despite his position as the supervising tax agent for the partnership.
Additionally, Plaskitt oversaw the use of client funds to pay fees relating to a professional association, totalling AU$1,292.
Plaskitt was also unable to explain a series of loans and repayments totalling approximately AU$184,000 which were transferred from the client’s accounts to Plaskitt’s stepchildren, the partnership, and various other recipients without authorisation.
Plaskitt did not employ written loan agreements to record the terms of the loan or take any steps to manage the conflict of interest from lending client funds to his own family members.
Plaskitt also did not accept any wrongdoing and showed a lack of contrition for his actions.
Accordingly, the AAT determined Plaskitt had failed to act in in his client’s best interests by allowing the partnership and his family to gain benefits at the client’s expense.
Further conflicts of interest also arose when the partnership intermingled its business interests with those of the client – these included instances where the partnership processed transactions for their ‘My Pony Party’ business via their client’s EFTPOS facility.
‘Plaskitt prioritised personal gains over his client’s best interests.
‘Such egregious conduct warrants the use of the most serious disciplinary sanctions to send a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated,’ TPB Chair Ian Klug said.
‘The TPB’s role is to protect the community, the reputation of honest tax practitioners and ensure confidence in the integrity of the tax system– we won’t let cases like this slip through the cracks,’ Klug said.
Plaskitt and the partnership were terminated and they are both prohibited from reapplying for tax agent registration for the maximum period of five years due to the serious nature of his conduct.
To report a dishonest or unregistered tax practitioner in Australia, submit a complaint with the TPB.
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