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MEMBER 196 writes:

"Member 189 has raised an issue about how the ATO deals with unpaid (recently unpaid) small debts - see 2014 TAXVINE No 44 (28 November 2014).

One of my clients had a similar experience with Dun & Bradstreet, for unpaid June and September PAYG (total debt $1,706).

Neither the client nor myself (Tax Agent) received any notification from the ATO that there were any PAYG payments due. It turns out the ATO have been sending the notices to an address my client left 3 years ago – and the ATO was notified 3 years ago. June was the first PAYG notice for a number of years.

All Income Tax Returns since 2008 have my office as the postal address. Amazingly we have never missed an assessment or correspondence until now.

The Dun & Bradstreet officer was not only rude, but threatened to issue the client a court notice if the payment was not made in 1 week. Then they started providing tax advice by telling my client they were not preparing their tax returns correctly as they had not lodged a BAS for 4 years, even though the client informed them they had ceased to operate as a sole trader.

My client was less than pleased with me that they were being threatened with court action for something they were oblivious to. I requested my client ring Dun & Bradstreet to advise the amount was paid, lodge a complaint on the rudeness of their employee and ask what their Tax Agent Number was.

We should request the ATO return some of that $1b they received to upgrade their computer systems. Fundamental of any client management system is a single database. The ATO have not managed that.

MORE IMPORTANTLY – how does a client of a tax agent get to debt collection stage but the Tax Agent has never received notice there is an amount outstanding? Surely we are not expected to run regular reviews of every client ATO Account to make sure there is nothing outstanding? Even if the PAYG address is not the same - it is PAYG,  income tax payments in advance, so it is in the realm of the Income Tax Return agent. 

ATO – lift your game!"