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16 Apr 10 More on the aftermath of the ATO change program

MEMBER 88 writes:

"In the past two weeks we have received 2 emails from the ATO on the new assessments situation. One dated 1 April 2010 stating that incorrect due dates were on debit assessments dated 23 March 2010. The second one was dated 6 April 2010 advising that assessments had been issuing stating refunds had been paid to the nominated bank account when no bank account details had been provided. Both emails said the ATO were working to fix the issues but I want to know why they were not spotted before the assessments were issued. Where are the quality control procedures at the ATO?

On top of this during the last few days we have received a number of refund assessments without the cheque being attached. On querying these with the ATO we were told that this was another system glitch that needs to be rectified. God knows when the cheques for these refunds will be issued and we will have to spend more time chasing the ATO.

Also, we have now started receiving statements of account for clients showing nil balances. What a complete waste of our time and the ATO’s paper. If we need to access a statement we can do that through the Portal!

You would have thought that with all the bad reports the ATO has been receiving regarding their new system they would have got quality control as a priority going forward. Apparently not! As Tax Agents we all need to make as much noise as possible regarding the situation so that the powers that be become aware of what is going on and how frustrated we all are.

I wonder what issues next week will bring with these assessments?"


MEMBER 89 writes:

"We recently lodged a number of tax returns for clients and had advised them that their due date for payment of outstanding tax was to be 5 June 2010 (based on notification from ATO of due dates for payment when lodgment was made by certain dates). Assessment notices were then issued by the ATO for these customers and detailed a payment due date of 21 April 2010 (directly against their previously published advice). One of my team then spent 40 minutes on the phone to them regarding the date for payment during which the ATO confirmed that the due date should be 5 June but have “refused to confirm” what date the customer should actually pay the assessed amount. They have escalated the situation but that will take our clients over the date due for payment as detailed in the erroneous assessment notices.

This is an absolute debacle as our clients have budgeted to pay their tax payables in June and the ATO appears to have arbitrarily changed the dates – this is placing our clients in an invidious cash flow position. By effectively shortening the payment period by 7.5 weeks with no reason, they are creating difficulties which should not exist.

I know what will happen – for each and every client affected, we will need to get on the phone to the ATO and argue the case regarding payment dates which will take about 1 hour per client. Who is going to pay for this?

What’s going on in there? They had improved in recent times but, my God, have they taken a massive step backwards!"


MEMBER 90 writes:

"A comment on lodgments. We are having trouble with lodgments being recorded by the ATO. We lodge, get a confirmation back, yet 3 weeks later the ATO has not recorded the lodgment. Is any other Accountant out there experiencing the same problem?

It is still taking forever to get an assessment back and when they are received they are so hard to understand.

I believe this is a flow on from the 'Simplified Tax System' whereby the objective of the new system is to make life as difficult as possible."


MEMBER 91 writes:

"Clearly the problems that we are all experiencing have been costly and confirms our views of public administration/ATO.

Could we please seek and publish a response from the ATO re all the Member Feedback on the problems. The ATO's deafening silence on the problems encountered (as opposed to how good they have been) is building a ‘we and they’ attitude which in the last few years was becoming less antagonistic as it appears to be getting now.

We know the ATO reads our comments/feedback so how about a response from them to Tax Agents?"


MEMBER 92 writes:

"We are now getting a flood of refund cheques and Notices of Assessment. One client will be happy with their cheque for $5,854.19 which includes ATO interest of $1.21 which they will have to include in their 2009/10 tax return. What extra fee are we going to charge them for including this interest? $10, $20 or $50? It is certainly going to be greater than the $1.21 received. I just hope my fellow tax agents are not stupid enough to say that they are going to absorb this extra cost. I am certainly charging my clients extra with the explanation that it was caused by the ATO and that I am spending it on my next skiing holiday."


MEMBER 93 writes:

"The shambles goes on despite reassuring waffle from a Second Commissioner. Yet another weekly promised deadline missed.

I phoned the ATO this morning [Monday 12 April 2010] and received a recorded message along the lines of they have been experiencing problems with assessments and 'no further information is available'. Obviously the ATO couldn't care less about the mess they have created and clearly no one is doing much to alleviate the time wasting problems being encountered by agents.

Returns lodged in December 2009 are still not processed and the only response from the Relationship Manager area is that they are in the system and we can't tell you anything more.

It's really just not good enough. Clearly the new system was under tested before being implemented and it seems that the ATO have insufficient people working on the aftermath. If it was done by contractors then they certainly wouldn't get another one and should be facing penalties; if it was done by staff, then they should be all looking for other jobs after having been sacked.

This has now become urgent and needs to be addressed urgently.

PS If we are lucky enough to have a tax return processed it now takes at least 8 days to receive the paper assessment after refunds have been deposited into our trust account. Is this the new ‘service’ standard or can we look forward to getting back to what the old system could achieve? If this is as good as it gets, God help us in the busy tax season."


MEMBER 94 writes:

"When did it become ATO policy to blame the Tax Agent?

I lodged a tax return for a client on 4 January 2010 with a substantial refund owing and the taxpayer is eager to receive it. I have been receiving calls from the taxpayer regarding the refund nearly every week.

I have phoned the ATO and faxed the ATO to have my client’s assessment escalated with the promise of 14 days.

Yesterday when I received the taxpayer’s call I explained that I have done all I can from this end and suggested that she contact the ATO direct. She did this and was told that her tax return had not been lodged.

I have a validation report for the lodgment and when I have spoken to the ATO they acknowledge the tax return has been lodged.

Who do you complain to in the ATO when the taxpayer did not obtain the tax officer’s name?

The hassles with the assessments not being issued has been caused by the ATO, but now to escape the wrath of taxpayers they are passing the buck and blaming the tax agent."


MEMBER 95 writes:

"It is with great regret that I announce the demise of the Australian Taxation Office – they have broken the system and given the obscene scramble to cover backsides with ATO Media Releases of “Problem? What problem??” and our glorious political leaders at the head of the scrambling pack – Please everyone – just cancel your membership with the ATO and try to get your membership fees back – this crowd has no interest in helping or supporting the Australian taxpayer let alone tax agents. Surely ATO mandarins at the highest levels should lose their overpaid jobs for this debacle foisted on the Australian taxpaying public and tax agents. I have simply lost faith with the ATO and its administration and the stench of incompetency is enough to make me gag!!!!!"


MEMBER 96 writes:

"It is now apparent that the Change Programme is a failure. It is time now to turn the system off.

I suggest that the high level ATO officers who are in Canberra get out of there towers and into the real world. Do not believe what you are being told. No one with knowledge of what is going on can defend this position.

We are now waiting one and a half hours on the Tax Agent telephone lines only to find the system hangs up with no response after this time. Clients are getting the message do not ring now we are too busy whenever they attempt to call the ATO.

Assessment notices are being issued without refund cheques despite the Portal advising that the cheques have issued. Of course some are being paid into nominated bank accounts which were never provided.

You have tried the new system. It has failed. Fix it, including the notice of assessments, and reintroduce it next year when it works.

If we go into the busy season with the current system be prepared to process all debit assessments manually because I for one will not be lodging them electronically."


MEMBER 97 writes:

"My fortnightly update on the challenges facing us lately thanks to our friends at the ATO.

I have spent over 5 hours today [Tuesday 13 April 2010] dealing with:

1 A 2009 tax return refund of $35K wrongly transferred to an Integrated Client Account in anticipation of a December 2009 BAS liability – which was not yet due. Taxpayer paid the Dec 2009 BAS on time – alas the account was in credit well before the Dec 2009 BAS liability was due. I thought the new ATO system was meant to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Nevertheless, I put that behind me and rang on 10 March requesting a refund – I was advised – ‘yes we have made a mistake, we will ESCALATE this (word of the month at the ATO) and the refund will issue on 25 March 2010. Well guess what – it’s 13 April 2010 and a 45 minute phone call later, I still don’t know:

a. Why the 25 March 2010 deadline was missed – mainly because the ATO didn’t know
b. When this will be resolved.

But I do feel much better! The issue has been ESCALATED again!!! Mind you – no-one knows what that means either.

2 We have received a huge number of ‘Assessments’ – but no refund cheques. The NOA states – ‘The result of this notice (ie the refund) has been applied to your Income Tax Account’. Look at ATO Portal – the refund was issued 7 days ago. Where is it???? In ATO cyberspace??

3 I won’t even mention the debacle with clients having their refunds ‘deposited’ into their bank accounts when they didn’t request this.

4 By some huge miracle however, every single payable assessment has managed to be issued with a payment slip and the amount outstanding and the due date. Wow!!! Must be a huge coincidence, surely. I am also sure the GIC will somehow be calculated quite accurately as soon as the payment date is not met.

5 On top of it all – the ATO since yesterday (12 April 2010) changed its friendly recorded message to tell us that the refunds which did not arrive will issue ‘shortly’. No definition of what shortly is. Yesterday the message was they will be issuing the refunds on 12 April.

Our clients are screaming at us – literally!

This, combined with the tax lodgment deadlines, is fast becoming an unworkable solution. Can all of the bodies combine a submission on this and present it to the ATO? All the accounting and tax bodies worked so well on the ridiculous trust/Division 7A ruling recently – surely we can do it on this one?"

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