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25 Jun 2020 Member Feedback

Deceased estates and accessing the prefill data

Member 250 writes:

Does the ATO realise that not every deceased estate requires a grant of probate? I have a new client whose husband has died. The Public Trustee was the executor of the will written 45 years ago. The Public Trustee wrote to the widow and said:

"Due to the size and nature of the assets involved in the estate as disclosed to the Public Trustee, and in order to save costs, it is not our intention to apply for Probate or become actively involved in the administration of the estate. When dealing with the assets of the estate and closing any applicable accounts or memberships, please show this letter, along with the certified copy of the will and the death certificate, to the financial institutions involved and ask them to deal directly with <> named as the sole beneficiary under the will dated <> December 1975."

The widow is not the executor and there is no grant probate. My guess is the tax return will involve some Government super, interest and dividend income. The deceased had previously prepared his own return and there is no copy. So the ATO is saying check the prefill reports so that returns are lodged correctly, in this case we cannot access the prefill data.

Query regarding SA Govt employees

Member 251 writes:

The SA Government uses Chris21 for payroll through Shared Services SA. They have an extension, not sure to when, for implementation of STP. I believe it affects all State Government departments and agencies.

Thank you Member 246 on flagging burnout

Member 252 writes:

A huge thank you to Member 246. This is exactly how I feel. When reading your list it just makes me feel sick thinking about it all and how we have survived. We also survived the GST and ANTS.

I could add a few more to that list, e.g. the QBCC in Queensland brought back reviews for builders, which hit us hard and fast with very little preparation. They went to great lengths to exclude us because we were once heavily involved in these reviews which cost the clients money. The letters issued were ambiguous and the information changed as each new letter was issued. The majority of my clients didn’t understand and didn’t know what to do. Add to this the push to go online where the website continually crashed was frustrating. This impacted from June to December, 2019.

Add to that losing close members of the family, and others being seriously ill, moving premises and all of the other normal issues we face daily, and it is no wonder we are so tired.

Each Friday when I read the TaxVine I think I should make the time to try to explain how our lives are being impacted, but I have deadlines to meet.

This is one of the hardest things that is not really understood by those not in the profession; our work life is just deadline after deadline. We never seem to get a break.

The threats hit home. I can remember hearing the ATO speeches at The Tax Institute conferences, which were so condescending towards us it felt like we were being slapped on the hand for being bad.

I do understand there are many in our profession doing the wrong thing, and I come against that regularly. I lost a very large client because the new accountant was ‘better at the pointy end’. This client created constant pressure to do the wrong thing where the dollar amounts were huge, and it takes a lot of strength on my part to resist this, which is why they left. So I know exactly what they are getting away with now. The good thing is I don’t have to worry about them anymore. This is another thing we deal with regularly. Thankfully, I have gathered clients who listen and want to do the right thing.

Another client on high wages also left.  A trust was set up and half his wages were converted to ‘consultancy’ fees and then shared with his wife in this ‘investment’ trust.  I knew because I did work for his employer and they were querying this. It is disappointing for me to belong to a profession where some people want to do the wrong thing, rather than structure everything to do well in business and get ahead.

So today I have made the time to confirm what Member 246 says. I could add so much more, but everyone reading this knows exactly what I mean. The returns for all of this work and stress are nowhere near enough to compensate. I am not sure why we continue to do this.

This has all confirmed for me it is time to retire. I love what I do, and how I can help the good clients on a daily basis as we have all just gone through Coronavirus issues, but it is not enough to continue to be so tired and feel so battered.

On a positive note, I have had some amazing help from the ATO recently. On the few occasions that I have needed them they have been understanding and helpful. I also value my membership with The Tax Institute and thank them for their help through this crisis. The webinars have been so helpful in confirming what we spent so much time trying to decipher over the early weeks. I haven’t found anything quite so challenging in a long time.

Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes comments: Thank you Member 252 for your feedback. The Tax Institute did its best to support our members through the influx of legislation passed in a short period of time at the height of the  pandemic by providing members with the Stimulus Package series of webinars and advocating to expedite the issuance of guidance on key issues with the new measures.  Ongoing support is provided through the Taxing Times webinar series. As always, members seeking advocacy support can contact us via the Vine Feedback inbox or the Tax Policy inbox

Member 253 writes:

I respect everyone's opinions and I hope mine is respected, too. I guess everything depends on the lens you look at it through. My lens is how incredibly lucky we are that we are in a profession where we will never be redundant. All these changes keep us in a job, and a pretty lucrative one at that. I know that I can comfortably grow old(er) knowing I will always have a job, a market for my services, no amount of technology will ever do me out of a job, and I will never get bored. #grateful

Regarding Senior Tax Counsel and Senior Advocate’s article on ‘HomeBuilder program - a well targeted plan?

Editor’s note: Robyn Jacobson’s recent article can be found in TaxVine 22 (11 June 2020).

Seek Further Clarification Re HomeBuilder Grant

Member 253 writes:

In the latest TaxVine, the link to both the Treasurer’s announcement and the Assistant Treasurer’s media release both reference the eligibility for the HomeBuilder Grant as assessable income. Whereas the Fact Sheets on the http://Treasury Coronavirus Economic Response website still references taxable income.

I note in the article by Bob Deutsch and Robyn Jacobson on June 12  that The Tax Institute has sought clarification on this issue with the Government. Could you please advise if there has been clarification on this eligibility criteria?

In the Commissioner's Crosshairs

Member 254 writes:

The above is part of the heading of an article I received this morning. Both the ATO and the TPB are sending aggressive messages of this sort. The day before, I got an email headed: “Take advantage of small business concessions”. The academics will tell us that there is a clear difference to the messages, but you need to ask the psychologists.

My psychological reaction as a tax agent is that I do not need more worries in my life. I will just not tell or help clients with JobKeeper, etc. Let them just go broke. This is weeding out the zombie businesses anyway. I get just as many fees helping to clean up the mess as I do helping clients to prosper. The clients in the worst position are the ones that need to take the greatest risk with JobKeeper and all the other ‘free’ gifts. I do not need the regulators breathing down my neck. I just will not participate.

Insulting Tax Agents?

Member 255 writes:

I've read the comments of Member 245 in TaxVine No 23. It seems the ATO has issued an incorrect Notice of Assessment. Perhaps Member 245 should consider lodging a simple Notice of Objection.

This pushes the re-work back to the ATO, where it belongs.

ATO not busy?

Member 256 writes:

What is going on at the ATO? It seems they claim to be too busy to answer the phone, even though a person has been asked to call them back. Instead, one has to listen ad infinitum to reasons why we should not be phoning them and how easy it is to use their ATO Online Services, on and on. How about the ATO people leave a real number if they want us to call them back? Stop wasting our time.

Then there are the strange new omissions showing up on the new ATO Online Services. Apparent non lodgements of Activity Statements going back years, omissions that were not evident in the past. Today they are asking for an IAS apparently not lodged in 2002! The client was not even ours then so finding out why is simply not feasible. Another seems to have missed a lodgment of a BAS return in 2013. Again, not evident on the older ATO Online Services, and again was not our client at that time.

It seems some of the ATO officers have nothing much to do. I and my staff are ignoring them.

Essential Services

Member 257 writes:

I rang The Tax Institute's office and asked whether accountants and tax agents had been officially classified as essential services, but have had no reply. Does anyone know the answer and, if we have been so classified, where can I find written proof?

Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes comments: The Tax Institute advocated for the tax profession to be recognised as an ‘essential service’ by the National COVID-19 Co-ordination Commission (NCCC) given the essential role tax professionals play in assisting taxpayers to understand, support and comply with all the new Stimulus measures.

In response, the NCCC published information regarding which businesses were regarded as ‘non-essential services’. Tax professionals were not included in this list, meaning tax professionals are an ‘essential service’.

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