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06 Jun 08 More on ATO debt collection

MEMBER 2 writes:

"Just had an intriguing phone call from the ATO. It went something like this:

My receptionist transferred a call through saying it was a person from the ATO regarding a certain company client. The ATO person identified herself and said she was ringing regarding an outstanding balance on a company client’s integrated client account.

She asked me who she was speaking to. I asked why she didn’t know as she had called me. I was informed it was an automated dialling service.

I then asked why she was calling as the day prior to lodging the BAS we sent a payment request in to the ATO via secure messaging on the portal - the ATO’s preferred method. She then said she would check. She then located our request and said the client had indeed been paying instalments in accordance with the payment request. It just hadn’t been actioned yet as there was a backlog.

Surely the collection teams with their automated diallers could check payment requests prior to calling a number randomly?

MEMBER 3 writes:

"I too have recently been the recipient of a debt collection notice for one of my clients from a Debt Collection Agency. In this instance the print quality was so poor I actually discarded it as a fake notice (junk mail).

I subsequently received a call from the said Agency. I responded with the fact that I wasn’t willing to discuss matters with them as I didn’t know their credentials. I had not received notification from the ATO that someone from an Agency would be contacting me and refused to give the agency any information for fear of breaching the Privacy Act with my client. In addition, the ATO has warned us to be on the look out for fake notices requesting payment of or details of bank accounts. How do we tell the difference anymore if the ATO is outsourcing debt collection?

Could someone please ask the ATO to confirm how we can tell the difference between a fake notice and a legitimate outsourcing of debt collection? Shouldn’t the ATO be obliged to inform us and the client that the debt collection is being outsourced?"

MEMBER 4 writes:

"Today we received an overdue payment reminder for "income tax" for a client. Upon review of the client's "income tax account" we could see that the taxpayer had been given credit for two PAYG income tax instalments rather than the three that had been paid (that could clearly be seen in the taxpayer's "integrated client account")

A staff member telephoned the Tax Agent Phone Line FKC 1251 for "business clients explanation" to query this. The ATO's first response was that we should object to the assessment which my staff member queried because we were not objecting to an assessment but wondering why the client had received an overdue payment reminder.

The ATO officer then asked someone in "accounting" who had the same response and then spoke to an "income tax specialist" who could not shed any further light even though my staff member had gone through the integrated client account one entry at a time with the ATO officer where the three PAYG instalment payments could be seen.

After more than an hour the ATO officer put an escalation on the matter and was finally convinced that we were correct in querying the overdue payment reminder. I guess we will have to see what happens in the next 28 days.


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