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26 Mar 2020 Member feedback

Regarding Senior Tax Counsel’s article on ‘MyGovID: SHORT TERM PAIN, LONG TERM GAIN’

Editor’s note: Bob Deutsch’s recent article can be found in TaxVine 10 (19 March 2020).

Member 85 writes:

Whilst your comments apply mainly to Tax Agents - there is also a big issue for taxpayers who have signed up to myGov for “communications”.

Instead of simply emailing the relevant document, myGov sends an email that there is a new message in the myGov inbox. But - as you have noted, the myGov inbox is more like a locked box than a postbox.

Especially in my case, as we have very poor mobile coverage here and often can’t get any mobile messages for hours and days on end.

Recently, my Tax Agent called to advise I was overdue for a QPT payment. We agreed that I should authorise all communications to be passed through the Agent, but this will have a cost and should not be necessary.

Of course, I made the QPT payment immediately but now wait to see whether I have incurred an interest penalty - resulting from inadequate communications from myGov!

Member 86 writes:

In January 2013 the US Dept of Homeland Security warned all users to uninstall Java software from their computers, due to serious security weaknesses.

At that time, commentators described Java as being like ‘Swiss cheese.’

7 years later, we get myGovID and can belatedly remove Java and AusKeys from our systems.

Thanks to the ATO for showing outstanding leadership to the Australian business community in respect of these important cybersecurity issues.

Member 86 writes:

Our most 'frustrating' part of myGovID is the logging back in requiring your phone every single time. Some sort of 'remember me for 12 hours' would be so useful! Like what MYOB have when you log in.

Member 87 writes:

Just received and read the article of myGovID. Just a note on points 2 and 5. A good suggestion is to get an unused mobile phone, that is Wi-Fi enabled - no mobile connection needed. Keep it in the office on the office Wi-Fi and put the myGovID app on that. Then that phone can be left at work so the myGovID is secure at work.

I have it on my mobile phone and on my iPad - and there seems to be no issue having it on two devices.

Member 88 writes:

I am an Australian tax NON-RESIDENT living in New Zealand, working as an Australian & NZ tax agent in New Zealand. I don’t have any documents required to get to the standard identity, so after 27 March 2020, I will not have access to the ATO tax agent online service and lodging AU tax returns for my clients. I am the only director of the business, so no-one else can help to get to the standard identity.

I am not sure if the ATO is going to solve this huge problem before 27 March (or even noticed this problem?), as there is not much time left. I am extremely worried and frustrated, as the ATO should make sure that the new system fits for everybody BEFORE removing the old system, which works perfectly fine and all people.

Let’s hope the ATO can come out with a good solution around the 27th of March.

Member 89 writes:

I am a tax agent with my own practice, and I also work for another accounting firm (as an employee). 

Currently, with my AusKey, when I log into Online Services, I have the option to select either my employer’s tax agent number or my own practice’s tax agent number.

When I first signed up for myGovID last year and linked my practice with RAM, I did not encounter any problems accessing my clients in Online Services.  At that stage, I was using AusKey to access my employer’s clients on Online Services.

Since my employer linked his practice to RAM (a month ago) and set up my access using myGovID, I no longer can access my own clients.  When I log into Online Services using myGovID, I can only access my employers’ clients. I do not have the option to select my own practice’s tax agent number.

I have been on the phone to the ATO and RAM for the past month to resolve this issue.  On each occasion, my query was escalated to a higher level, but I am not getting any response.

I can confirm that per RAM, my myGovID is linked to both my practice and to my employer’s practice. My concern is that after 27th of March 2020, I will not be able to access my client’s information via the ATO Online Services site.  Further, I wonder if I will have any problems lodging tax returns via PLS.

Member 90 writes:

Thank you for your article regarding myGovID.

I am amazed that we, as tax agents, seem to accept that any systems that the Australian Tax Office implement will have problems and they certainly do.

Yet, when we go to a bank to carry out a transaction then we expect any new systems to work the first time. It’s the same with airline bookings and similar types of industries.

The ATO may say that their systems are complicated but airlines, banks etc. have to implement systems that comply with laws across many countries if they operate internationally.

Why is it that we accept that any new ATO systems will have lots of problems? Is it because it is the public service and therefore that’s acceptable?

This changeover to myGovID should be relatively simple and it should allow for older mobiles to use it.

A bank, airline or supermarket would lose business quickly if they put in a system that only accepted mobile phones that had operating systems that were less than 2-3 years old.

My mobile phone is 4 years old and uses Android Version 6.0.1, but myGovID requires the operating system to be Android Nougat 7.0 or above. Therefore, I have to buy a new phone before I try to download myGovID and then I can find out what other problems I encounter, but that will not be before 27th March.

Given the current situation, all governments and businesses are easing the burdens on people.

However, it appears that the ATO is in its own world and still demands that all Tax and BAS agents convert to myGovID regardless of the pressures they are under relating to the Coronavirus and all the problems and business shutdowns it is causing.

I think the Commissioner should take into consideration the state of the nation and extend the deadline for converting to myGovID.

The Tax Office should also extend the date for microbusinesses to convert to Single Touch h Payroll because quite a number of these businesses could be bankrupt within 12 months.

ATO Commissioner’s message regarding COVID-19

Member 91 writes:

This might sound petty in the current scheme of things, but the Commissioner’s message on the 24th March says, “I have always said that the tax profession is one of the ATO’s most trusted partners.”  That sounds very contrary to the propositions emanating from the Individuals Tax Gap discussions.

On another point, given much of the economic relief for small business is going to come through BAS lodgments, are TAGs going to be seen as ‘essential’ in terms of future imminent lockdown?

Costs of running an SMSF

Member 92 writes:

Recently the Tax Office drew my attention to an ASIC document – Self-managed super funds: Are they for you?

It basically is saying if you have funds less than $500,000 you should not have an SMSF, it is clearly designed to put off a person from having an SMSF.

Interestingly it states:

“The average cost of running an SMSF is $13,900 a year.”

I am a suburban accountant with some 50 SMSFs. I am an auditor auditing several small suburban accountants’ clients’ SMSFs.  I do not recall in all my years seeing an SMSF with fees that high, let alone on average.  I would estimate the average costs that I see around $3,000 to 3,500, maybe $4,000.  If an SMSF engages a managing broker for a share portfolio it can creep up higher.  But an average of $13,900?

There is no reference to where this came from, how it was derived, or what are the ‘costs’ being identified. The ASIC publication seems to be so misleading with an obvious purpose of discouraging SMSFs.  

Please help me ATO

Member 93 writes:

This week I have been hit with issues regarding Online Services. The first issue is that I am having trouble adding clients to my lodgment program. Not a big deal as I can request they get manually added, it's inconvenient but we can live.

The more important issue relates to BAS's. For some reason, I cannot lodge BAS's for clients. I have a lot of December BAS's due to be lodged and I have a few clients who are in arrears with lodgment and have been directed to get them up to date this month.

On the BAS's, no PAYGI or PAYGW fields are appearing, meanwhile the GST section appears on the Online Services site with only 1A and 1B figures. While I can fill in these figures, when I go to submit it produces an error "No active roles found". This is now across my client base and across different periods.

This is a big concern for two reasons. Firstly, FTL's will likely automatically apply and I'll have to waste hours seeking remission. Secondly and more seriously, some clients are desperately in need of their BAS refunds (given the economy has come to an almost standstill) and we cannot lodge their BAS's.

When they finally do get lodged, who knows how long the refunds will take and whether they will be reviewed...

Also, I have tried lodging using Xero's online system, no luck. I have also tried using my tax software, also no luck.

Deceased taxpayer and ‘the system’

Member 94 writes:

My client of 30 years was alive on 30 June 2019 (and on my Tax List – due date for lodgment 15 May 2020), but they died in December 2019.

The Assessment Notice addressed to the Executor has come to me with a Payment Due Date of 21 November 2019.

Apparently “the System” automatically treats a subsequently dead person as a self-preparer and therefore must lodge their return by 31 October and if they have tax to pay, pay it by 21 November.

My client and I should have foreseen their demise, lodged earlier and paid before they died.

Pension amounts in times of crisis?

Member 95 writes:

During the GFC, the government allowed self-funded retirees to draw a smaller pension, which was 50% of the normal rate rising to 75%.

This allowed for Trustees to sell down assets in an orderly fashion ensuring they did not lose too much money selling undervalued shares.

Given the current crisis, will these concessions be re-introduced?

Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes comments: As part of the Stimulus Package, the Government has introduced a temporary measure reducing the minimum amount that needs to be drawn by 50%. More information is available on the ATO website here.

Lodgment deferrals and the current crisis

Member 96 writes:

I am sorry I have just read the email from the ATO in relation to the issue of deferring the lodgment of Tax returns as advising there will be no blanket deferral.

This shows to me a complete misunderstanding and appreciation of the situation in the real world.

Our whole workplace has been displaced by staff (who remain employed) working from home, which has led to significant changes in how we go about working to achieve our lodgment programs.

We are also having to adjust to not meeting our clients face to face and having to rely on other methods of communication.  On top of this, some of these clients are over 70 and are at risk diabetics etc. with very little knowledge of how to communicate electronically.

It should be noted that the clients who have lost their jobs and in many cases their businesses are not ringing the Tax Office for advice (at least not the smart ones). We are fielding numerous phone calls in relation to press releases which (naturally) provide very little real detail.

It seems to me that the ATO should get out of their glass towers and understand what is happening, right now, in the real world. 

In the current circumstances, it is perfectly reasonable for the professional bodies to ask for and get a blanket extension of 3 months for the lodgment program.  For the ATO to refuse such an extension shows they are out of touch and are not “working for all Australians”.

Perhaps the professional bodies will need to seek a political solution to solve this very poor behaviour.

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