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01 May 09 On disaster relief assistance to tax agents

MEMBER 6 writes:

"We are a small practice in a Victorian rural area close to some areas which were affected by the Black Saturday fires. The town our practice is in was not directly affected. We have quite a few small business clients and the bulk of these do their own BAS returns and we have arranged for the statements to be mailed to them directly each quarter. We noted that taxpayers in disaster areas would be given extra time to lodge and pay their BAS. We did not realise that this meant none of our clients would receive their March statement (and still haven't) regardless of their location and they, of course, have no idea what is going on. We have taken literally dozens of calls from clients wanting to know where their BAS is. Some have rung the ATO directly with a variety of responses. One Townsville business was told their mail had been held because their letter box may have burnt down (several have had this response) Another told me she went into Dandenong Tax Office and was told by the officer there that lodging on time was her responsibility and because she was past the due date she would be fined, causing the level of distress one would expect. When we have rung the ATO we were told to supply a list of clients whose BAS has been withheld by checking every one of our clients on the portal (which would only take about a week of someone's time at our end). Good on the ATO for trying to do the right thing. Pity they didn't give a bit more thought to the application of the policy, or at least told their customer service staff about it."

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