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17 May 13 More on the requirement to lodge returns electronically

MEMBER 95 writes, in response to Member 91's comments in last week's TAXVINE - see 2013 TAXVINE No 16 (10 May 2013):
"I refer to feedback from Member 91 last week concerning correspondence received from the ATO stating that to continue to receive concessional lodgement dates under a lodgment program I must now lodge all returns electronically. I was once the principal of a tax practice where I lodged over 800 returns annually; however, since selling my practice, I now offer only to family (free of charge) to have their returns lodged by a tax professional (I have retained my membership of The Tax Institute and fulfil my PD requirements). To continue this service to family I must now fork out for software for a service for which I receive no financial benefit. As requested by Member 91, can somebody tell me where the law requires returns to be lodged electronically?"

MEMBER 96 writes:
"I agree with member 91 regards 'forced' ELS and take a further view that it would be most appropriate for the ATO to reimburse the software costs as we are doing the bulk of the work for them. I worked in the ATO back in the 'old days' when paper returns were input by one bank of operators and then edit checked by other operators. The cost saved to the ATO is significant so now that we do not have an option then why not reimburse us our costs - it all seems like a 'one way' street as far as the ATO is concerned by moving all costs back to us and then back to the client. Clients will resist the fees and then cease to lodge and the compliance burden on the ATO will increase due to non-lodgments. It all seems self-defeating in not providing all pathways."

MEMBER 97 writes:
"I am in a similar position to Member 91, running a tax consulting practice and lodging only a few returns. This year I will lodge 2 large corporate FBT returns and struggle to get them done by the 21 May deadline. I am granted no automatic extension of lodgment date because (a) I lodge less than 25 FBT returns and (b) I do not lodge electronically.
As a sole practitioner I would be lucky to get through 25 FBT returns in a year, let alone a couple of months! Why does the ATO discriminate against us 'one man bands' in this way? Yes I can apply for an extension but then I'd have to concoct a reason for needing more time. Being only human and able to fit only so much into each day is not on the ATO's list of acceptable reasons for an extension of time to lodge. Surely the large firms with teams capable of lodging more than 25 FBT returns are less likely to need the extension! ;
Similarly, why should I have to pay for software to lodge electronically? To do so means my small profit dwindles even further, spread across my 2 returns. I'd be very happy to lodge electronically if a free (or very cost effective) electronic lodgement option were available. How about a concession for small tax agents for once - let us lodge a PDF copy of our scanned returns via the TAP.
Thanks TAXVINE for the weekly chuckle!"

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