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09 Apr 10 More on the aftermath of the ATO shutdown, and on Statements of Account

MEMBER 82 writes:

"Thank you to the Taxation Institute and all Members continuing to state the obvious to the ATO so they get the message. Otherwise they would think it is all wonderful.

Given that the "new system" within the ATO has been a significant public administration failure, can the matter be the subject of an inquiry by the Commonwealth Ombudsman or the like?

I am sure the ATO will immediately say we should move forward/on (forget about their blunder). The bare reality is that there should be accountability when there is such a significant failure. The ATO needs to recognise they now have an enormous job in building bridges with TAGs."

MEMBER 83 writes:

"There were five pages of Member Feedback comments in last week's issue of TAXVINE - every Member should print them out and send them to their Local Federal Member and ask that they be sent to the Treasurer so he knows what is going on."

MEMBER 84 writes:

"Isn't it about time the professional bodies put pressure on for a ROYAL COMMISSION into the gross incompetence of the ATO and their "systems"?

Whinging about it among ourselves isn't getting anything sorted or make those who have messed up so badly pay for their incompetence by losing their jobs or having to reimburse the Revenue.

As well as the well documented delayed processing of returns, lost returns, delay in receiving assessments dated over two weeks prior, other issues we have experienced include :-

  • ATO issuing a refund of $40,000 cheque for a taxpayer when $114,000 was owing on the "other account" (the taxpayer made a payment into the incorrect account). Wasn’t the "new beaut system" supposed to address the "multiple accounts" issue?
  • In another case we received a $4,500 refund even though there was $8,000 unpaid PAYG from June 2009 sitting in the ICA.
  • On a delayed processing case which we have been trying to get to the bottom of, we received a call today from somebody at the ATO who left a message that the return was "lodged" today. The return was lodged on 15th January 2010 and we have a validation report to prove it. It was finally “found” within the ATO today, not "lodged" today.
  • And then today we receive a broadcast email from the Assistant Commissioner advising that incorrect due dates have been shown on assessment issued since 233rd March."

MEMBER 85 writes:

"The change project since implementation has been a debacle and ATO mismanagement nightmare.

It is accepted that when major systems upgrades occur, there will be issues and problems that arise that will need to be corrected. The “right” way to approach these issues and problems is to be upfront, open and candid about what has occurred and how long it is expected to take fix the problem. The ATO has instead bombarded us with self-congratulatory “slaps on the back” for managing a major change well, telling us (initially) that delays are fixed and everything will be fine. The original news was that the backlog would be cleared by end of February 2010, then came the “one more week” messages and here, on 1 April 2010, we are still waiting for about three quarters of the assessments relating to returns lodged between 23 December 2009 and the end of January 2010, with some returns still being listed on the Portal as being “Not Lodged” (which we are assured have been received).

On the subject of interest paid on refunds, given that there were further delays after interest was calculated and credited to the accounts, is the ATO taking any action to calculate further interest in respect of the additional delay? As the ATO systems would still have the original dates recorded, it would seem an impossibility for them to undertake this task, but it does beg the question as to why they would persist in sending out notices dated up to 3 weeks prior to their receipt. This also impedes Agent/Client relationships as we are then questioned as to why it took so long to receive given that it appears that we might have been the cause for the delay in forwarding.

In the spreadsheet (linked in last week’s TAXVINE) compiling the “Externals” feedback in relation to the new NOA/SOA format, the vast majority of the ATO response is “to be considered in redesign”, with what seem to be a patronising comment that “Note: complex clients will require more pages to ensure detail is included” in relation to the “too many pages” issue raised. This comment is merely a statement of fact that should be considered reasonable and would most likely be accepted as commonsense by most Agents (without the need to spell it out), but the issue of 8 pages (NOA and SOA) for a simple salary and wage income tax return is outside the realms of what should be considered reasonable. Was there any “External” input for how the information should be presented, who would be receiving the information and the manner in which that information would be explained, or was the entire design concept kept in-house? Given the extent of change undertaken, input should be sought from those affected by the change in order to garner their support and to provide the opportunity for feedback to be obtained to determine whether there are any possible problems with proposed change.

Looking at the issue of the cheque being attached to either the NOA or SOA, if the ATO are insisting on sending both the NOA and SOA, provided that they were issued and sent at the same time (preferably in the same envelope!), if the NOA could be considered an “information document”, the SOA could then be the “action document” to carry the cheque or payment slip. The cheque/payment slip would then always be in the same location, and there would be less confusion.

I seriously hope that the ATO undertakes a “post implementation review” of this project so that when someone suggests that the documents that are the key interaction between the ATO and taxpayers are changed in future, there will be a wide community consultation prior to the change being implemented.

Thank you for your efforts in keeping the ATO on track."

MEMBER 86 writes:

"You have to wonder what the ATO has got themselves into with their latest upgrade. I have just received a letter for a client from the ATO advising that if the client does not keep to their payment arrangement on their income tax account, legal action will follow without further notice and they will be charged interest. The only trouble is the repayment date is 28th June 2010 and the amount due is $0.00. This letter arrived a couple of days after receiving the 2009 tax assessment and refund of $11,000. The client has never owed tax having always received refunds. It’s just incredible. What a waste of resources, both the ATO’s and mine. Did anyone in the ATO do a carbon audit on the new upgrade? Enough said."

MEMBER 87 writes:

"The ATO is suddenly posting unsolicited 'Statements of Account' for clients. The balance is $0 but the ATO informs me GIC of less than $2 was charged but this amount has been fully remitted. This is a waste of my time.
Another 'Statement of Account' was for a client due for a refund of $6,500. This was followed by a debit entry as the credit was intended for an EFT refund. GIC was then raised from that date until the actual transfer into her bank account several days later even though the Balance was $0! The fact that the ATO does a debit entry to enable the EFT refund should NOT be a trigger for GIC. All GIC was remitted."

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