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On Friday 10 August 2012, Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes ATI attended a meeting of the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF). Many issues were discussed as put forward by both the ATO and the ATPF’s external members. A short summary of the main issues discussed follows:

  • Tax Time 2012 - The Professional Bodies requested an update from the ATO in relation to Tax Time 2012 and in particular in relation to the processing of returns that had been lodged to date, any systemic issues that had arisen and any common mistakes that were arising in returns that had been lodged so far. This update was requested in addition to the Weekly Tax Time 2012 updates received from the ATO (which are published each week in TaxVine).
  • Refund Integrity Checks – The Professional Bodies requested an update of the progress of any 2012 income tax returns held up for refund integrity checks during Tax Time 2012, including the number of returns held up and the sorts of common issues arising causing returns to be held up. The Professional Bodies also requested information regarding 2011 income tax returns that were still held up at the end of the 2012 financial year and how they were progressing.
  • Foreign source income letters – The Professional Bodies raised concerns in relation to a suite of letters that had been issued to taxpayers who were thought to have received foreign income which had not been reported. Issues raised concerned the confusion caused by the suite of letters issued which seemed to be conflicting.
  • Transfer of Information between Government Agencies and Pre-fill Issues – The Professional Bodies raised concerns regarding the timing of receipt of information from other government agencies used to populate ATO pre-fill reports. The ATO gave members an indication of the likely timeframe for receiving certain information from certain other government agencies. 
  • GST Governance and Risk Management Guide – The ATO advised members about the availability of a new tool  to assist SMEs to assess their GST governance and risk management processes and procedures and determine if these are working well. There are two interactive checklists to assist SMEs to make this assessment. The tool can be accessed here. Members who have feedback on the tool they would like passed on to the ATO can send their feedback through to Tax Policy.
  • Changes to ATO Register of Intermediaries – The ATO provided members with information regarding the updates that will occur to the Register of Intermediaries. The upgrade is planned to occur in January 2013 and will result in the Portal being unavailable from the evening of 25 January 2013 through to the early morning of 29 January 2013.
  • Telephone and Electronic Channels – The Professional Bodies raised concerns with some issues that had been experienced with the ATO’s telephone services and made a suggestion towards future electronic interactions with the ATO. 
  • Retaining refunds for verification – ATPF members discussed the ATO’s administration around refunds held for verification since the legislation was passed in June 2012 to provide the Commissioner to hold refunds for verification.
  • Update to the Australian Business Register (ABR) – The ATO advised ATPF members that the second stage of the upgrade to the ABR website will occur on 26 November 2012 and will reinstate the ability to apply for certain tax roles such as GST, fuel tax credits and PAYG withholding at the same time as applying for an ABN. However, certain functions, such as the ability to save a draft application and the pre-filling of tax agent information into an application (where a tax agent has logged into the ABR site), will not be available after the November upgrade. These functions will be added to the website in a later upgrade to the site – no date for this upgrade has been set.
  • Lodgment Program Update  - The Professional Bodies requested an update in relation to the Lodgment Program and the ATO advised that factsheets and guides will be issued in the next couple of weeks to illustrate:
      • What will count toward on time lodgment;
      • How to calculate the performance rate;
      • Best practice tips for removing  former clients; and
      • Reports that inform progressive performance standings throughout the year.

In relation to the pre-fill issues noted above, Members are reminded that the pre-filled information is available to assist tax agents to complete tax returns and should just supplement information gathered during the tax return preparation process. Members requiring any further information in relation to any of the above items should contact us at Tax Policy.

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