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MEMBER 61 writes:

“I sympathise with Member 56 – see 2014 TaxVine 17 (23 May 2014) – in relation to the removal of the paper activity statements, and I am disappointed in the Institute’s response.

We at the coal face run efficient and productive systems to manage our practices; we constantly have to change to alter our productive systems in order to counter the Taxation Office transferring its poor productivity to us.

This transfer goes way back to the days when the ATO used to extract the statistical information from the tax returns. We now do this and the ATO get complimented on the quality of the data it provides. We won’t even talk about self-assessment and the ATO not having to send assessments to companies.

We used to take minutes to write a simple letter to the ATO who used to respond by mail; fast and efficient, minimal time taken by both parties, answer provided to client.

Then the ATO thought no, writing letters is not efficient, we will ring the Tax Agent with the answer, half the time telling the receptionist who never provided the right information because they were unaware of the technical details. This change has resulted in considerable more time taken by Agents having to finding out the correct ATO answer and conveying it to the client.

Now we ring to get $850 penalties removed and the ATO say they cannot deal with it over the phone (too efficient) we now have to write in electronically via the Portal. (I might add these penalties were introduced in 1997 when the Government reduced them from $550 to $220. They were increased when the ATO sneaked them through with the GST legislation in 2000 back to $550, now they are four times what they were originally).

What electronic response will we get from the ATO if we contact them in relation to remitting the penalty on a client who has lodged their BAS late because despite the best efforts of the Agent the return was missed or lodged late? Are the ATO aware that if this is the case the Agent normally covers the penalty because the client accepts and works with the system put in place by the Agent?

Will the ATO help us here (or the Tax Institute) or treat us like Luddites because we did not change our paper systems to electronic in the time frame that suited the ATO?

It’s ironic, really. At one time we used to send the ATO mail and they responded by mail. This stopped for decades. Now we need to send the ATO email and they will respond via email. No more phone contact. I guess we have gone ‘back to the future’ all because of an ‘E’. Is this a good thing? Probably, as it makes the ATO more accountable like it used to be.

Strange though, we still have to respond to the ATO in 14 days and they still have a 28-day standard. You would think with all the millions spent on systems the ATO could reduce its 28-day standard.”

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