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MEMBER 145 writes: 

"A client attended the office this morning in a panic; we are working on prior year business returns to be delivered belatedly (the ATO is well aware of our engagement) and were advised that the ATO had contacted the client directly to advise the client that unless returns are lodged immediately the client will be going to jail.

Firstly I’m not quite sure whether the ATO is really aware how much work goes in to processing and/or completing tax returns, particularly for business clients. Immediately just does not cut it in this business.

Secondly, I’m not quite sure when professional business courtesy flew out the door at the ATO, but the last time that I looked we were the agent for the client, and authorized to speak to the ATO on the client’s behalf in relation to the management of the client’s taxation affairs – the ATO has taken advantage of that authority in the past. I am tired of our clients, and this practice, being treated with contempt and disdain by ATO officers, and equally tired of our business services and client relationships being wilfully undermined.

Thirdly, intimidation and bullying is unlawful, if not illegal. Jail is just not an option – I am absolutely appalled at this latest tactic!

If people’s taxation affairs are not in order, there is often a legitimate reason, and more often than not, that reason is extremely personal and distressing to the person concerned. The number of clients who wilfully ignore their obligations, in my experience, borders on negligible."