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17 Jul 09 On the lack of Member Feedback

MEMBER 1 writes:

"I have noticed that there has only been one, yes ONE, Member Feedback in the past three weeks of the TAXVINE, when usually the pages are full of Members' comments. How do we interpret this phenomenon? The ATO may interpret it that all accountants are happy, with nothing to whinge or complain about, all of their systems are working in perfect unison, communication between ATO and tax agent is at optimum levels. If the ATO think this, then they may also be getting those pigs ready on the runway, ready for flight.

I offer my humble opinion on why this has occurred - accountants are exhausted. The 08/09 year has been the most exhausting, stressful, pressurised, unreasonable and unfathomable year that I have spent as a tax agent. The reality is that the ATO has taken the relationship between it and Tax Agents for granted for too long. Even though we lodge over 75% of all returns, Tax Agents have been treated with such utter disrespect for the work we do. Every accountant I speak to has a story. Demands from the ATO to provide information by certain dates, requests for extensions of time denied, requests for remission of GIC denied, an endless stream of inane letters sent from the ATO, and don't get me started on the how the administration of the distribution of the Tax Bonus was passed off onto us. I seem to recall that the accounting bodies begged the ATO to use the "Residential Address" on an individual’s return instead of the "Postal Address" only to be told that the Postal Address was the most reliable method of getting the $$ out to eligible taxpayers.

Whilst I was trying to review the final group of personal income tax returns for clients that would be entitled to the Tax Bonus in the final week of the 08/09 financial year, I started to receive phone calls from clients who had received letters from the ATO in respect of claims for interest on rental properties, self education expenses, and so on. Four different letters I discovered all being sent DIRECT TO THE RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS!! There are two points to note here - firstly the fact that you use the Residential Address when it suits you is the biggest slap in the face I’ve received in quite a while. You could so easily have used this address for the Tax Bonus but made up excuse after excuse. Alas when it suits you, you access the Residential Address!! Secondly, thank you for insulting me as a Tax Agent that I may have made a mistake in claiming expenses on behalf of my clients. Despite my years of training, experience, and compulsory CPE hours, thank you for highlighting any possible deficiency in my technical knowledge direct to my clients, and thank you for scaring them into thinking that I had done something wrong. This was the final straw for me.

Despite all this, I'd like to think that I am a positive person and the 09/10 financial year will be totally different. Here's a snapshot of our firm will be doing in the next 12 months:

  1. We will not be returning phone calls to 1300 or 131 numbers; direct line please and your full name. I have instructed my receptionists to hang up on you if you do not comply,
  2. All requests for information will be logged, and responded to within our standard 28 day response time, except when critical lodgment dates are looming in which case the response time is 42 days,
  3. Do not ring our office chasing this information within the time limits noted at #2. I have instructed my receptionists to hang up on you if you do not comply,
  4. If you call chasing this information outside the time limits noted at #2, we will escalate your request. Keep calling, and we’ll keep escalating,
  5. All requests are to be made in writing or via email,
  6. We will not accept calls from Debt Collection Agencies, either within the ATO or outsourced,
  7. For privacy reasons, we will not provide telephone numbers of clients. You will need to look these up yourselves. And don’t even think about asking for mobile phone numbers, as I do not want to be sued by clients for handing these out without their express permission, and lastly,
  8. The Postal Address and the Residential Address from now on will be my office PO Box number. Send as many letter as you like, I need them for my chook pen.
As you can probably gather from the above list, we are going to shift the administrative burden that the ATO is imposing on us, back to the ATO. If you are a Tax Agent reading this and have a smile on your face right now, I suggest you do the same. In all seriousness, I hope that the 09/10 year is not as stressful for all Tax Agents, because the 08/09 was beyond a joke."

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