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12 Apr 13 Lodgment Working Group

On Monday 25 March 2013, Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes CTA attended a meeting of the Lodgment Working Group. The ATO has issued these key messages following the meeting:

Communication about the new Lodgment Program Framework

The purpose of Lodgment Working Group meetings is to co-design the strategies and initiatives to support the program of work. The key focus for the 25 March meeting was to update the group on the status of the project and to undertake further design on an agreed set of treatments to address non-compliance with the lodgment program performance standards.

Recent achievements include:

  • Work has commenced on two pools (Pool A and Pool B) of identified agents who are at risk of not meeting the performance standard and/or have risk indicators associated with their client base:
    • Pool A – 1704 tax agents with greater than 500 clients who are responsible for a high number of unlodged returns and are below the 85% performance benchmark are receiving a field visit. If geographic or exceptional circumstances prevent this, then a phone call will be conducted.
    • Pool B – 1702 tax agents with less than 500 clients who have performed well below the performance standard over a number of years are part of a targeted phone campaign.
    • The contact will include discussion on understanding the agents’ situation, discussion on their current performance, and the support and self -management tools the agents can utilise to improve their performance.
  • In June 2012, field visits were conducted with 113 tax agents with greater than 100 clients who lodge 100% of the returns they prepare by paper. We are now following this up with a letter to 3,300 agents in April 2013 re-iterating the electronic lodgment requirements under Lodgment Program 2013-14. The selected agents lodge returns exclusively by paper or are registered to use electronic lodgment and lodge more than 5% of their clients’ returns by paper. We are seeking responses from tax agents about their plans to move to electronic channels, or to inform us of any circumstances impacting their ability to lodge electronically. 
  • Marketing and communication – The ATO, working in partnership with the professional associations, is increasing agents’ awareness of the new lodgment program framework through a variety of channels, products and activities. An example of this is the professional associations facilitating the hosting of events for their members to hear information about the new lodgment program framework.
  • The first bulk client list deletion offer from 6 September to 15 December 2012, resulted in 5,021 requests received from tax agents and 456,212 clients removed from tax agent client lists.
    • A survey was undertaken involving 31 tax agents who used the service. All tax agents were satisfied with the service, helping practices to get back on track.
    • In mid-April the ATO will undertake a targeted campaign to re-engage removed clients and seek lodgment of their outstanding returns.
  • The bulk client list deletion offer was re-opened on 4 February 2013 and will end on 30 April 2013. As at 18 March 2013, 663 requests have been received, with 33,281 clients removed, there are 100 requests on hand, which has potential for another 6,000 clients to be removed.

Performance

  • The ATO has emailed tax agents their performance summaries, as part of the range of transition year strategies. The first email was received by agents in December 2012 and provided an annual performance summary for Lodgment Program 2011-12. In January 2013, the ATO emailed agents an interim performance summary for Lodgment Program 2012-13.
  • These summaries were to assist agents’ understanding of the new framework and, in particular, the performance requirements and ways to improve performance, including information about available support tools, such as the bulk client list deletion service offer. It is also expected that tax professionals will continue to self-manage their practices.
  • We have co-designed with tax professionals a ‘frequently asked questions’ document about the new framework, which will be available soon on the ATO website.

Treatments

  • An overarching framework for the application of treatment strategies has been developed. At the core of the framework is the principle that we will continue to support those practices that work with us and engage a range of treatment strategies encouraging compliance, to achieve a level playing field in the profession.
  • The treatment strategies operate on a ‘sliding scale’ for underperforming agents, in that there is an expectation that agents will be required to improve their performance each year. Where support activities/treatments do not result in improved performance, there is movement to a more stringent treatment strategy.
  • The ATO will take into account previous lodgment program history to understand any circumstances that may be impacting on the agent’s current level of performance.  Before applying treatment strategies, the ATO will contact agents to understand their individual circumstances, and the next steps in gaining improved performance. For example, support/assistance, guided program or in extreme cases lodgment program sanctions.

Members are urged to take advantage of the bulk client deletion offer that is open until 30 April 2013 to assist in clarifying their lodgment lists and are strongly encouraged to attend the free information sessions the ATO is running over the next few months. Details of sessions near you will be included in TaxVine once available. Members with any queries should contact us at Tax Policy.