Perth-based Jessa Van Stroe (also known as Jessa Layola) has been ordered by the Federal Court of Australia to pay $230,000 in penalties for providing tax agent services for a fee while not registered with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB).
Ms Van Stroe illegally charged clients fees to lodge returns on their behalf and in May 2022 the Federal Court declared Ms Van Stroe had engaged in 531 contraventions of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA) and granted a permanent injunction restraining her from providing further tax agent services.
This case is particularly concerning as Ms Van Stroe exploited vulnerable taxpayers, in circumstances where they had sought and paid for legitimate advice on their tax obligations. Ms Van Stroe caused genuine harm to her clients. Many were found by the Australian Taxation Office to have excessive and unsubstantiated deductions, exposing them to penalties and unpaid taxes which they are liable to repay. In addition, Ms Van Stroe was aware she was operating in breach of the law by virtue of the TPB’s cease and desist letter.
In assessing the penalty to be imposed, Justice Banks-Smith stated ‘It is readily apparent that Ms Van Stroe invested significant time in what was in effect a business of providing quick, unsubstantiated tax returns. This was not a case of casual advice given from time to time, or of 'helping out' a few people. It was a steady, deliberate and repetitive course of conduct.’
TPB Chair, Mr Peter de Cure AM, said ‘Ms Van Stroe’s behaviour is unacceptable, she put taxpayers at risk for her own financial gain and has consistently shown brazen disregard for the law by continuing to provide illegal tax agent services despite knowing she was violating the law and at risk of court proceedings being pursued.’
Mr de Cure went on to say, ‘Unregistered preparers who undermine confidence in the services and reputation of the tax profession will not go undetected – the TPB are using proactive methods and data-driven technologies to find them.’
‘It is important for anyone who has used the services of an unregistered preparer to review their tax returns. Unregistered preparers do not have the necessary skills or expertise to provide tax advice and by using their services taxpayers have no protection against penalties which could be applied for mistakes, as seen with Ms Van Stroe’s clients. In this case the TPB has worked closely with Curtin University’s Curtin Tax Clinic, who offered free tax advice to people, including those impacted by Ms Van Stroe.
Taxpayers seeking professional tax advice should engage a tax practitioner registered with the TPB by checking the TPB register.
About the Tax Practitioners Board
The TPB regulates tax practitioners in order to protect consumers. The TPB aims to assure the community that tax practitioners meet appropriate standards of professional and ethical conduct.
Wednesday, 13 December, 2023