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11 Nov 11 ATO Tax Practitioner Forum

Last week we included a short report on the agenda items for discussion at the November 2011 ATO’s Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting, in which we noted that a more detailed summary would be provided after the meeting. A detailed summary follows.

Last Friday 4 November 2011, Tax Counsel Deepti Paton ATIA attended a meeting of the ATPF. A number of issues were discussed at this forum, at the instigation of both the ATO and external members, including:

  • The ATO’s approach to the recently announced reforms to superannuation, including discussion of the consultative framework to apply in respect of superannuation reform.
  • The ATO’s business reporting and registration compliance activities. The ATO noted that it was refining the systems used to apply for an ABN and undertaking enforcement and integrity reviews in relation to applications for and the use of ABNs. In particular, the ATO is concerned that ABNs may in some circumstances being used in order to perpetuate an incorrect classification of the nature of contractual relationships.
  • The ATO’s new property page which brings together ATO comments on CGT, GST and other tax issues that relate to property ownership. This site may be accessed here. Should you have any feedback on this site, you are welcome to send it to Tax Policy.
  • The ATO’s Tax Practitioner Research Program. Each year the ATO conducts a number of surveys in relation to tax practitioner satisfaction. The feedback on these surveys has been less positive over the past year in comparison to previous years and the ATO is currently working on further interrogating the data received in order to feed it into improvement processes.
  • The ATO gave practitioners an update on the SMS alert program it is trialling in order to inform practitioners of problems with the portal.
  • The ATO’s refund integrity checks (as noted in previous editions of Taxvine). The Professional Bodies have put a number of questions to the ATO in relation to the types of returns that are being subject to refund integrity checks and the extent of subsequent adjustments. The ATO noted that returns are stopped when flagged by their fraud systems and that in most cases an adjustment is made to the tax return. The ATO also noted that in a high percentage of these cases, an agent has been involved in the lodgment of the return. The ATO will be providing detailed statistics in response to our questions in the coming weeks. We will of course publish these statistics in Taxvine when they are available.
  • The Professional Bodies had submitted a question to the ATO in relation to the ATO’s data matching activities. Specifically, the Professional Bodies were concerned about the degree to which ATO were guided by data mismatches in conducting its compliance activities, especially as third party data is not infallible. The ATO noted that pursuant to its systems, contact is initially made with the relevant taxpayer/tax agent to seek more information in order to clarify/resolve the mismatch, and where the third party data is found to be incorrect the ATO updates its systems so that the data is automatically updated for future years. Where such a data mismatch occurs, adjustments are made in 9 out of every 10 cases. Nonetheless, we encourage tax agents to continue to check pre-filled information against other sources prior to lodgment.
  • The ATO gave practitioners an update on its compliance procedures in respect of the implementation of its recently expressed view (see ATO ID 2011/75) in respect of the availability of FITOs to offset against liability for the Medicare levy. The ATO noted that 2009 and 2010 returns had been reviewed to determine the number of taxpayers potentially affected. The ATO will now be publicising the issue and contacting the relevant employers to try and identify all the affected taxpayers. The ATO will also be developing a streamlined process to ensure that amended assessments can be issued as quickly as possible to these taxpayers.  

Members who seek additional information in relation to any of the above are encouraged to contact us at Tax Policy.