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MEMBER 13 writes:

"It is scary to see the increase in the number of complaints being logged by practitioners in this forum. The ATO has spent $850 million on computers and systems which are getting worse and not better. Unfortunately it is becoming more evident that ATO is using practitioners to deal with the 'stuff ups' as the ATO service delivery does not meet its own appalling standards. If the ATO was a business in the private sector it would have been put into receivership a long time ago with its main issue being bad management.

The ATO staff don't care and simply log a further note on a file to leave it for someone else deal with after the usual 28 day cycle has expired.

We have two long outstanding matters.

1. It started in July 2011 with a letter from ATO claiming that a client was liable for Medicare levy surcharge in the 2009 year. I won't bore you with the time line but we immediately objected, received an amended assessment, continued our objection by persistently chasing the ATO. Of course the 2011 return was lodged and the assessment issued minus the ATO amendment for 2009.

We checked the TAP and identified that the 2009 amendment had been reversed and our client then had a credit on his account.

Now we are back to square one as it is impossible to get anyone in the ATO to simply issue the refund for the credit which should not have occurred in the first place.

It took 2 hours to prepare the original 2009 tax return and it has now taken 4 hours to date with the ATO to object and point out the ATO errors. How do we get paid for the ATO 'stuff up' which is not our client's concern?

2. We lodged 2010 and 2011 income tax returns for this client in late September 2011. We were informed that these returns were to be audited. Mind you in each year the taxpayer has one group certificate from his employer, less than $300 in deductions and a spouse rebate. Audit is a minimum of 12 weeks as advised by ATO. The 12 weeks expired in mid December 2011. We rang ATO in mid January 2012 and told it would be escalated. Rang complaints and told that we would receive a return call in 72 hours. To date we have received an email to advise that a case officer will contact us when appointed to this case.

Some years ago at a Tax Institute function the then IGOT commented that if the ATO paid peanuts it would only get monkeys. I somehow suspect that even they have escaped the ATO and that it is relentlessly grinding to a halt. If the ATO cannot process and get even the most simple of tax returns processed efficiently then no amount of complaining by the Commissioner will garner any sympathy when he refers to the mounting losses in the courts.

There are supposed to be some 18,000 employees in the ATO and about 25,000 registered tax agents. The tax agents are doing all of the work and the ATO staff need to lift their game a very long way. Perhaps if the ATO was disbanded and all tax agents were paid a 10-15% handling fee for the tax returns lodged and tax paid then we would have a very efficient collection and processing system. Just think of the savings in paper alone!"

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