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20 Aug 10 More on the ATO's performance (or lack thereof)

MEMBER 260 writes:

"We received on 27 July 2010 a number of IASs with a payment date of 28th July. The ATO confirmed that they would not apply penalties for late payment. We immediately sent these to clients with a full explanation. There is no issue date on the IAS to prove that this is not our fault but the ATO's."

MEMBER 261 writes:

"Who were the geniuses in the ATO I wonder who decided to do away with the self assessment system without advising tax agents? Probably the same ones that raised the 14 day lack of service standard to 30 days without telling agents? Or perhaps the ones that have decided not to concentrate on processing the back log of returns held up by ‘issues’ but instead process ones lodged more recently.

Love ya work."

MEMBER 261 also writes:

"The ATO has found yet another way to annoy tax agents.
When ringing to enquire about progress of slow assessments, we now have to tell the call centre operatives our tax agent number AND practice name. I thought they may have realised our tax agent number probably hasn't changed since it was keyed in to get through when ringing but apparently not.
They then put you on hold while they check the position. This can take around 3 minutes despite the wonderful(!!) new systems.
The return was lodged 28 days ago but because the new 30 day standard hasn't been reached they can't escalate it. You have to be put onto the complaints area, who then graciously do agree to lodge a complaint for you.
The process took around 15 minutes and I am still no clearer why there has been a delay or when the return will be processed other than "soon".
The ATO treatment of agents at the moment is I feel appalling, and is not improving. Thank God the Commissioner thinks we are an important part of the tax system, imagine what our lives would be like if they thought we were a nuisance!"

MEMBER 262 writes:

"Dear Members - You are all entirely right in your protestations about the ATO and its incompetence. Reading the ATO Media Releases is like reading Pravda back in the Soviet era – tales of amazing performances and bumper production, exhorting the proles to greater efforts etc when the reality was that Russian people were in some cases starving in the street and the economy was in ruins.

The funny thing is that the ATO keeps confidently expecting the tax agent (read prole) to lap this garbage up and somehow their woeful performance gets conveniently swept under the carpet never to reach the light of day. Perhaps Members who have politicians amongst their clients should overnight triple or quadruple the fee they charge them explaining the extra charge is a contingency fee to combat ATO incompetence – say like a fire brigade levy – nothing gets performance like a hit to the hip pocket.

I’ve been in the industry since 1987 and I agree the ATO/Tax Agent relationship is at its lowest ebb that I have seen it. The mindless time & money-wasting decisions by ATO mandarins and the shameful scurrying away from responsibility & denial of problems due to the “Change for the Worst” System always makes me wonder if the ALP Government Spin Team has editorial rights over all ATO communications. I now find myself yearning for the days of Michael Carmody (may my tongue turn black) not realising just how good the tax agent had it back then when the ATO was a reasonably professional outfit to deal with and the tax agent didn’t have to do all the ATO’s work for them.

Now the ATO not only doesn’t do the work expected of them they actively believe the tax agent should expect ongoing ATO errors and wait for it – correct them as they find them gratis for the ATO. Honestly, my three & half year old daughter is better than this because I don’t have to wipe her backside any more as a parent which is a lot more than I can say for the ATO."

MEMBER 263 writes:

"You would have all probably received that missive from James O'Halloran, Deputy Commissioner, Tax Practitioner and Lodgment Strategy. Dear James, don't bother about the TWO letters to confirm what we already know - that the ATO is in disarray and you can't even process simple tax returns. How about issuing statements to the press and ask them to publish front page articles that you are struggling to do your job. You might even ask for some of the Project Wickenby resources to be diverted to help your cause and you could then replace Paul Hogan's face in the press.

Just in case you haven't noticed most taxpayers want their refund quickly as it is their own little stimulus package to help meet the bills. Never mind the $900 "stuff ups" from last year. The taxpayers just want their money back.

By the way thanks for the letter advising us that you have now become aware that many PAYG -INB (we call them group certificates) have been incorrectly issued. It was the tax agents of Australia that told you what a mess that was and your response is to ask us to put what we thought should be the correct figure in our clients tax returns!

Like many fellow tax agents we are also getting fed up with your letters sent directly to taxpayers which imply that they are cheating the tax system. The most recent one I witnessed was your letter implying that the taxpayer's gross profit was not in line with your benchmarks. The trouble is that their business has multiple lines and your benchmarks cannot possibly cover all operations. If you had bothered to ask us first we could have told you where the issue was."

MEMBER 264 writes:

"Further absolute frustration with the ATO. I am on an absolute roll now and would love to know whether other Members are having these sorts of problems.

In the past two days (in addition to the earlier problems – still no resolution by the way to any of them, they are being ‘escalated’ the ATO magic term for ‘filed in the too hard basket and nobody will bother to ring me back’) I have received seven NOAs with two further problems:

  1. Resident Taxpayer, with Medicare levy exemption, with private health insurance coverage receiving a Medicare levy surcharge notice on his NOA. Contacted the ATO after 20 minutes discussion and being put on hold to ask supervisors etc, result is that we have to lodge an amending return noting it as an ATO error. Again, I ask how an ATO error can be entered on a return when there are only two options (department or client). So again, more wasted time and a further lodgment because the ATO system cannot process a very simple return.
  2. A prior year Notice of Amended Assessment for the 2009 year that was not asked for by us or the client and has no changes actually recorded on it. Helpfully though, there is a note about her not being entitled the baby bonus (maybe this is what predicated the issue of the NOAA, but because we didn’t claim for it in the first place I am at a loss as to why there was an amendment required).

Disregarding the prior year notice we had an accuracy rate of 5 out of 6 assessments. Pretty poor. And we still have a huge backlog of lodgments with no assessments yet. Who knows what the following few weeks will bring when the new, you beaut system of the ATO starts churning out some actual assessments. Checking these has never been more critical and time consuming."

MEMBER 265 writes:

"What a joke,

I lodge a SMSF client tax return in July for 2010, and get a statement of account back stating a balance at 7 August 2010 being the balance of tax for 2010. No mention that this is not actually payable till May 2011. How can my client’s account have a balance of tax payable when it is not payable for 9 months.

Further craziness is located on the 3rd page. The client paid their 2009 tax a little late and had interest applied which was reversed. The ATO transaction list shows the interest remission occurring on 17 June 2010 (both the process and effective date), yet scan down the page to the “net year to date amounts” and the interest remission is showing as total net assessable interest income for the current financial year. I must have missed the stage when 17/6/10 is in the same financial year as 7/8/10. They did manage to get the interest initially charged in the correct financial year. I am left wondering if I can use this precedent to all my clients’ income earned from 17 June through 30 June each year and defer recognition of such income to the next financial year."

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