In 2001 the Chartered Institute of Taxation ("the Institute") and The Association of Taxation Technicians ('the Association') 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 a 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 which was independent of the body establishing the rules. Therefore, the disciplinary arrangement, although established by the Institute and the Association, is administered through the independent Taxation Disciplinary Board Limited. Members of the various committees and tribunals set up by the Board consist of individuals who have no current involvement with the professional standards setting of the participating bodies.
The original Scheme covered all complaints received on or after 1 January 2001. In the light of several years' experience with the Scheme, changes in best practice and various court judgements affecting other regulatory bodies, the Scheme was reviewed by a firm of solicitors specialising in professional regulation. As a result, a new Scheme was introduced with effect from January 2008. This was accompanied by new regulations governing the procedures which apply to the processing of complaints and disciplinary matters. The new Scheme applies to allegations of professional misconduct, inadequate professional service, and conduct unbecoming a professional person. Although the arrangement originally applied only to members of the Institute and the Association, it was structured so that other tax bodies might join at a later stage. Early in 2011 the Institute of Indirect Taxation (IIT) joined as the third participating body.
Overall responsibility for the Scheme rests with a small Board. The Chairman is a joint appointee of the original two bodies. The other members are individual appointments made by the participating bodies.
The new structure involves an officer of the Board (the Reviewer) who undertakes the initial assessment and examination of complaints. Unless the complaint is regarded as trivial or out-of-time (in which case the complainant may request that the Reviewer's decision be examined by an independent assessor), the Reviewer will refer it to the Investigation Committee, which investigates complaints. The role of the Investigation Committee is to determine whether or not there is a prima facie case for the member to answer. Where the Committee finds that there is a prima facie case to answer, it will normally refer the case to a Disciplinary Tribunal (unless the Committee decides that the case is not sufficiently serious to warrant any of the sanctions available to the Disciplinary Tribunal). This Tribunal, normally sitting with three members, including a legally-qualified chairman, judges the case and, if satisfied that the member is guilty of a breach of professional standards, imposes the relevant sanction. If the member is found guilty of an offence, he or she then has a right to appeal to an Appeal Tribunal.
One of the many responsibilities of the Board is to appoint the members of the Investigation and Disciplinary Panels, from whom the Investigation Committees and the Tribunals are selected. In doing so the Board seeks 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.
The aim of the Scheme is to provide protection for the public and the right level of discipline over members, as tax practice continues to play an increasingly important role in fiscal affairs; but the Scheme must at the same time operate fairly for members and respect 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.