A guide for the public to the disciplinary process applicable to members of the Irish Tax Institute
One of the important factors in preserving public confidence in a profession is the establishment and maintenance of appropriate professional standards of conduct for its members and the exercise of professional discipline over those who do not comply with those standards.
The Institute has powers to issue professional rules and best practice guidelines for members and to update those rules as required. Copies of these Rules (Code of Professional Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines & Bye-Law No. 1) are available on the Institute website.
The Institute also has the power to enforce these Rules through the exercise of disciplinary procedures.
To undertake this the Institute has appointed The Taxation Disciplinary Board Ltd ('the Board') to review complaints lodged against members of the Institute. The function of the Board is to undertake the fair and expeditious handling and investigation of a complaint on an impartial and independent basis. When the Board has completed their investigation it will submit a case summary with all relevant documentation and a recommendation to the Investigation Committee. The Board is empowered to deal with complaints alleging breaches of professional standards and guidance, the provision of inadequate professional service, and conduct unbefitting a professional person.
This Guide outlines the disciplinary process and gives guidance to the public in the event that they have a complaint about the activities of a member of the Institute. It is not intended to provide definitive legal advice. In the event of any conflict between this leaflet and the Rules, the latter take precedence. The Code of Professional Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines & Bye-Law No. 1 can be found elsewhere on this website.
Making a complaint against a member is not a substitute for seeking damages or other redress through the courts. The Institute is not in a position to give you legal advice. If you feel that you have a claim in law against a member of the Institute you may wish to seek independent legal advice. The Institute is not in a position to offer legal advice or intervene in fee disputes, as it considers that the courts are the proper forum for such matters. Nor can the Institute advise on what is a reasonable sum for work done. The Institute can, however, advise on whether their members have complied with professional conduct regulations relating to fees.
Because the Institute expects their members and students to maintain standards of work and conduct which are compatible with the importance of the tax profession and which meet the expectations of the public, the system allows a person to make a complaint if they believe these standards have been breached.
Any member of the public can at any time approach the Secretary to the Investigation Committee about the standards of conduct which apply. A complaint about the professional conduct of a member or student can be made to the Secretary to the Investigation Committee.
The Institute has established the following process for dealing with complaints that it receives.
If a formal complaint is made to the Secretary to the Investigation Committee it will be referred to the Taxation Disciplinary Board for investigation. In order for a complaint to be considered a formal complaint form, available at www.taxinstitute.ie, must be completed and submitted with relevant documentation backing up the complaint.
The Board will appoint a Reviewer who will consider whether your complaint falls within the jurisdiction of the Board, and that the complaint has been submitted within twelve months of the events which form the subject matter of your complaint.
Provided that these basic criteria are met, the Reviewer will forward the complaint to the member about whom you are complaining, and give you an opportunity to make any observations on the response received from the member.
If the matter is deemed to be trivial or vexatious the Secretary to the Investigation Committee or the Reviewer will inform you of that position.
If you object to that decision, you are then entitled to request that the matter be considered by an Independent Adjudicator, who is an independent person appointed by the Institute. In most cases it is likely to take some three or four months before a decision is reached as to whether your complaint is being referred to the Investigation Committee.
The role of this Committee is to investigate all matters referred for examination in order to determine whether or not a prima facie case has been made out against the member who has been complained about. (A prima facie case means that there is an arguable case to answer.) The Committee comprises between four and twelve members who are appointed by the Council of the Institute. Two of the Committee members must be qualified lawyers for at least 10 years and must be non-members of the Institute. The Committee will be chaired by one of the non-members. Neither you nor the Member is invited to attend and all the consideration is based on the documentary evidence submitted.
The Committee will have before it a report prepared by the Reviewer and include the correspondence which he has previously conducted in relation to the complaint. The Committee will examine the material submitted to it and, if appropriate, will request the Reviewer to undertake any further enquiries which it considers necessary to ascertain the full facts of the complaint and the evidence available to support the allegation. After full investigation and examination of the available information, the Committee may dismiss the complaint or find that there is a prima facie case to answer.
If there is found to be a prima facie case to answer, the Committee will refer the complaint to the next stage which is the Disciplinary Committee except for very rare cases where the Committee may decide that the matter is not serious enough to merit any sanction available to the Disciplinary Committee. Both you and the complainant will be advised of the Committee's decision and the reasons which led to that decision. The decision of the Investigation Committee is final.
If the Investigation Committee considers that there is a prima facie case to answer, it may refer the case to the Disciplinary Committee. The Disciplinary Committee comprises between 5 and 8 members, one of whom must be a qualified lawyers for at least 10 years and must be non-members of the Institute. The independent member chairs the Committee. If a complaint is referred to the Disciplinary Committee three members, including the Chairman, will be appointed to a Panel to hear the formal complaint. The role of the Panel is to hear the evidence presented to it by the Investigation Committee in order to determine whether or not the alleged conduct is proven and to make a finding accordingly. The member has an opportunity to give evidence, although he is not obliged to do so and may choose not to attend the tribunal. You may be invited by the Investigation Committee to appear as a witness at the hearing.
If a breach of discipline has been found, the Panel may impose such penalty as they consider appropriate in the light of the powers given to them, the gravity of the breach and the facts and arguments presented. The Disciplinary Panel has a wide range of sanctions available to it. These include the imposition of a fine or an admonishment through to the more severe sanctions of suspension or expulsion from the Institute. The decision of the Panel will be sent in writing to both the member and the complainant, with reasons given for the Tribunal's decisions. They will also normally be published, and the member has a right of appeal to the Appeal Committee (described at section 4 below).
There is a final stage available to the member, following a decision by the Disciplinary Panel. You are not entitled to appeal against a decision of a Disciplinary Panel, but the member may apply for a hearing before the Appeal Committee. The Appeal Committee comprises of not less than four members, one of whom must be a qualified lawyers for at least 10 years and must be a non-member of the Institute. The independent member chairs the Committee. The Appeal Committee may uphold, modify or overturn any finding of the Disciplinary Panel. Its decision is final within the process.
You are entitled to expect that all members of the Institute including students will conduct themselves in a professional manner both in the provision of their services and in their conduct. They are obliged to comply with the Code of Professional Conduct and Recommended Best Practice Guideline (the Code of Conduct) issued by the Institute. If you believe that a member or student has failed to meet the professional standards expected of him or her or has provided inadequate professional services or has otherwise demonstrated conduct unbefitting a member of his profession, you should contact the Secretary to the Investigation Committee.
Although you may initially make contact by telephone you will be asked to confirm the relevant details in writing. If you wish to complain you should complete the formal complaint form which is available at www.taxinstitute.ie and submit it together with relevant documentation/evidence relevant to your complaint.
After determining whether or not the alleged breach is within the rules and guidelines to which the member is subject, and having made contact with that member, the Reviewer will advise you how the matter is to be taken forward. At each stage of the process you will be kept informed, and time limits will be set for the exchange of correspondence in order to reduce delays in bringing complaints before the appropriate forum.
If the complaint is referred for detailed examination by the Investigation Committee it is possible that you will receive a request for further information to assist its investigation. You will be advised of its decision and, if the matter proceeds to the Disciplinary Committee, you may be invited to attend as a witness by the Investigation Committee.
The Institute is concerned to ensure that there is a fair and independent investigation of every complaint referred to it and also to ensure the fair treatment of any person against whom a complaint is made. The current procedures are also designed to enhance the standing of the tax profession by maintaining high standards of conduct and by ensuring that complaints are dealt with in an independent and impartial way.
This informal guide is intended to give brief information about the disciplinary process. Anyone who becomes involved in that process should also consult the Code of Conduct and Bye-law No.1 copies of which are available at www.taxinstitute.ie.
All correspondence should be addressed to:
The Secretary to the Investigation Committee,
Irish Tax Institute
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