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21 May 2010 More on the aftermath of the change program

MEMBER 152 writes:

Here we go again!!! Monday morning sees the following:

  • New system of logging into the Portal  - Doesn’t work & when you finally get into the system is extremely slow & bounces you out
  • The Portal is offline most of the preceding week-end for “upgrades”.
  • Still chasing approx 10% of all lodgments between Dec 09 and Mid April 10 – assessments still missing despite escalation requests/hardship requests
  • The beloved ATO Compliance Section rings to-day urgently wanting a routine hour long meeting to discuss compliance issues in general which MUST occur the first week of June 2010 coincidently aligning with a lodgment crunch week.
  • Tax agents get a one week extension to bring 2009 lodgements up to date whilst dealing with the months long delays of the ATO Change System.

Where does it end - I’ve got to ask????

Is there some conspiracy between the ATO and Ken Henry to try & grind the long-suffering tax agent into the dust??

Does the ATO have any concept - ANY concept at all of commerciality or service delivery???

And, here is Ken Henry's Plans for Tax Agents

Had we lived,
I should have
Had a tale to tell
Of the hardihood
Endurance and courage
Of my companions
Which would have
Stirred the heart
Of every tax agent.

These rough notes
And our bodies
Must tell the tale.

Discovered on the remains of a tax agent
Circa Year of our Lord 2010.

[With acknowledgements to Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912)]

MEMBER 153 writes:

"I haven’t actually written about the poorly implemented ATO Change Program. However this is the absolute last straw.

According to the broadcast message sent by the ATO at 5.50pm (so after business hours) you would assume that the AUSkey upgrades were successful. Considering that I was not able to access the Portal AT ALL THE WHOLE DAY YESTERDAY [Monday 17 May 2010] and when I called the Portal Team on FKC33 were advised that they knew there was problem but couldn’t say when it would be fixed – exactly how successful could it have been. How exactly are we to lodge these deferral requests?

The absolute incompetence of the ATO in this implementation is beyond words. I had not considered the maladministration clauses of the Tax Act under which I could seek compensation however I am so over this debacle now that I will. If a private business acted with such contempt of its clients we wouldn’t have any. Can we cease to be clients of the ATO? I am still receiving audit requests with 14 day time limits (yes, 14 day!) but still don’t have refunds that were lodged prior to January. I read with amusement that 94% of all current lodgments are processed. Unless my clients are a complete abnormality I can tell you that our firm statistics are not supporting these numbers. It is actually closer to around 60% (and the bulk of those are the ones with bills – refunds are taking far longer). Now we have that fantastic new Portal request document where we can ask for priority processing. Considering that some of these refunds are now well over four months old priority is not the word for it.

Do the people in charge actually believe what they are writing in these inane apologies and ridiculous broadcasts? What about getting back in front of the parliamentary committees and other media outlets and saying, no it isn’t as rosy as we first said. When will this rubbish end?

MEMBER 154 writes:

"It is good to see the ATO has now got its act together with the new processing system and we can all lean back in our chairs and take it easy now the Commissioner has generously granted a one week lodgment extension, but wait, what’ s that in the mail today?

A client whose tax return is due on 17/5/10 has been assessed GIC from 1/7/09 to now, plus a letter of a demand for the same client? Another letter with a super con-contribution for the period 8 May 2010 to 31 Dec 1999?

Sigh, there goes another day sorting the ATO’s rubbish out. Thanks, Michael."

MEMBER 155 writes:

"We are still having issues with lodgments not being processed. The latest one being a very straight forward return lodged on the 22/03/10. As of today it is being escalated and we can expect the NOA to issue within 2 weeks. This is holding up this family of 8 from receiving their family tax benefit as well. If we are still having problems now how are we going to go once peak season hits, the start of which is only weeks away. I am very concerned that at our busiest time we will be let down again by the ATO. Can they possibly provide any credible assurances that things will run smoothly?"

MEMBER 156 writes:

"The latest ATO bungle is to issue amended assessments that are identical to original assessments with the exception of, obviously, the bottom line- "result of this notice". Isn't the ATO system upgrade absolutely wonderful (not). It is my understanding that this situation could not occur under the old system due to system checks in place.

Since the implementation of the ATO system upgrade, claims at item C1 for credit for interest on tax paid early have been totally ignored on original assessments. Requests made to the ATO to issue an amended assessment to correct the ATO error are now resulting in amended assessments that are identical to the original assessment (with the exception of the "result of this notice" which is obviously nil on the amended assessments). This is an absolute waste of time and resources and a great aggravation to the tax professionals involved. I am still pondering my next move; the ATO has got it wrong twice, what are the chances of them getting it right on a third attempt?

On another subject I hear that the ATO is currently issuing 1515 notices- variation of PAYG Witholding for the 2011 year to taxpayers who have not yet applied for a variation. The mind boggles.

Finally a huge thank you to Member 141 last week for the John Lennon classic "Imagine". I could not stop laughing. I wonder if Michael and David at the ATO might get to read that feedback. I reckon it has been the best in this whole 'changes' debacle."

MEMBER 157 writes:

"Hey Member 143 - why are you complaining - at least you are getting assessments. I have returns lodged as far back as December that don’t even appear as having been lodged yet – but they have been escalated so I shouldn’t have to worry – should I?????"

MEMBER 158 writes:

"Received a Notice of Assessment today for a return lodged 17 February 2010 (three months ago) – Refund $600 attached but no interest and therefore no Statement of Account – called ATO Accounts section – “too hard – no template in the system to ask for interest to be generated – will have to get a specialist to call you back” – total time 15 minutes gone (again).

Also, Can anyone there tell me or find out from the ATO for me which date is correct – In the eLink it said I had until 15 May 2010 and yesterday James O’Halloran said I really had until 17 May 2010 – I know the 15th was a Saturday so that is not an answer – all parts of the ATO should be telling me consistently what is required – There are now so MANY DATES to try to keep track of. Which one is correct?"

MEMBER 159 writes:

"Here are some good examples of The System that is ‘working well’.

A client lodged both their 2008 and 2009 ITRs a few weeks ago. The client received a $900 stimulus cheque for the 2008 ITR! Wasn’t there a deadline for lodging 2008 ITRs to get the $900???

A pensioner client received a NOA with a statement indicating that she wasn’t entitled to a tax offset because she hadn’t received a government pension. Half of her income was from the Aged Pension. Also, the Senior Tax Offset was shown on the tax calculation. The client was very upset and wants a NOA without this comment. The ATO said this was a known issue and the system is confused when a taxpayer has the option of both the Pensioner Offset and the Senior Tax Offset. The ATO weren’t sure whether a new NOA would be sent out.

The ATO sent a letter to a client wanting to know where to send their super co-contribution money. The client was confused because they have been retired for a few years and hadn’t put any money into super for some time. Also the amount the ATO wanted to pay was $0.00! The ATO advised there was once money in the account, hence the letter, but that was paid to an old super account, hence the $0.00 amount on the letter. The last super fund account the ATO knew about for this client wouldn’t accept co-contributions so the ATO went to the super fund account prior to that. Too bad the client closed that super fund account about 3 years ago. We now need to wait ‘a few weeks’ for the money to be returned to the ATO. Then we can request a direct payment to the client because they have retired / their SMSF is in pension phase. BTW – the co-contribution related to 2006 and was for almost $1,500!

I love this job."

MEMBER 160 writes:

"More time wasting confusion with the ridiculous ATO assessments and statements of account.
We received a 2009 assessment dated 13 May 2010 with no cheque attached along with a Statement of Account for the period 22 January to 10 May 10 showing a credit balance. The statement had a cheque attached for the 2009 assessment plus interest due to ATO delay. The cheque attached to the statement didn't equal the credit balance of the statement. Confusion arises as the statement of account included credits for amendments to the client's 2007 and 2008 tax returns. The amendments have not yet been processed but for some reason were included in the statement.
Here's one simple solution: If an amount is owing, refund it and if a transaction hasn't been processed as yet don't include it in the statement of account. A second is to make the period covered by the statement meaningful, and don't include items that are outside the period covered.
I spent 50 minutes on the phone to the ATO trying to have the position explained and when the "Personal Tax" area couldn't supply a satisfactory explanation I asked to be transferred to the Relationship Manger area. They however initially refused to take the call as they only deal with "system problems"!
Why does the ATO treat tax agents with such contempt? But more importantly when is the stupid system likely to be fixed?"

MEMBER 161 writes:

"Thank goodness TAXVINE exists for us Tax Agents to vent our anger. We have been struggling every day since December to cope with the changes to the ATO computer systems. The additional paperwork coming with the revised Notices of Assessment has placed an intolerable extra burden on our small practice, especially as the changes are totally unnecessary and an enormous waste of paper and our time photocopying it all. Whoever thought this up should be made to go and work in a small tax practice for a year. We receive the Notices of Assessment one day and the Statement of Account days later. It’s an absolute nightmare. All the Baby Bonus claims which didn’t get processed with the original Notices of Assessment and are now coming through for assessments we received in February. Then to cap it all off, the Tax Agent Portal closes down for “maintenance” the Saturday before the 17 May lodgment deadline. Don’t the people in the ATO realise this is just another working day for tax agents? And finally, the cherry on top, logging onto the Tax Agent Portal now takes three times as long as before the “maintenance” but at least I have time to go and make a cup of coffee whilst the logon occurs. I would telephone the ATO to complain but I haven’t got time to waste listening to the inane voice messages you get before you are allowed to select a FKC."

MEMBER 162 writes:

""The ATO Change Program problems are also affecting clients claiming Family Tax Benefit from Centrelink. Some clients have been told by Centrelink their tax return has not been lodged BUT it has and the client has the assessment notice!!!
We rang the ATO and they advised me that there is an issue with the link between them and Centrelink. He said it was high priority but had no idea when it would be fixed. In the meantime the client can try taking the NOA into Centrelink to verify their income. In most cases Centrelink will accept BUT in some cases they will not.
We have a client whose return was lodged 3/3/2010 and processed 3/4/2010 and assessment sent 8/4/2010 and Centrelink are saying it is not lodged. Another one we have the client called Centrelink and they advised they had her husband’s return but not hers. She received her assessment and called Centrelink who are now telling her we have yours but not your husbands!!??"

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