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22 Jan 15 ATO interactions are great compared with Centrelink interactions!

MEMBER 2 writes:

"Happy New Year to your team and all readers. I am wondering whether the TTI has any potential influence with Centrelink in relation to improving the nominee arrangements that some tax agents have for their pensioner clients.

I have recently become correspondence nominee for an age pensioner. This means that I lodge and receive all age pension related correspondence on behalf of the client. Both the pensioner and I recently received a copy of a pamphlet from Centrelink which strongly encourages pensioners to update their income and asset details online. Great, I thought, I’ll just jump online and update my client’s details because he appointed me to take care of all his pension correspondence.

However, I discovered that the nominee is not given access to the updating function. I called Centrelink because the letter I wrote 10 weeks ago (with the pensioner's updated asset and income details) still had not been processed. During the call, the Centrelink officer confirmed that the only way for a nominee to update income and asset details of a client is to write a letter. I am seriously hoping that this can be addressed in the near future. It took me an age to set up the online access to my client’s letters, and it’s great that I can view his asset and income details online, but why not let me update those details online as nominee?

To call Centrelink to confirm the letter was received (yes it was, a couple of days after I sent it 10 weeks ago) and to then have the details immediately and quickly updated while I waited on the line on has just taken me 53 minutes on the phone. What a waste of time!

The ATO might have had some poor practices in the past, but that’s nothing compared to my experiences with Centrelink. This is a warning to all tax agents - be aware of what you’re letting yourself in for before offering to be your client’s pension correspondence nominee!!

I hope the TTI can help with getting Centrelink to give us tax agents a fair go."

TAX COUNSEL THILINI WICKRAMASURIYA COMMENTS: Thank you for your feedback Member 2. Unfortunately, there is only so much we can do with limited resources and we have our hands full with tax-related consultations with agencies such as the ATO and Treasury and relevant Parliamentary Committees.