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19 Oct 12 On a client's ATO saga

MEMBER 208 has, with their client's permission, copied TAXVINE with their client's email seeking their assistance. Member 208 comments: "I consider the client to be educated & savvy enough to realize that her husband did not have a liability to the ATO." The email reads as follows:

"Here is the scenario as played out today.

[My husband] had previously phoned the ATO in late June 2012 to explain that he would not be liable for future PAYG tax because of not having business operations any more. The person he spoke to said yes that's fine, they would ensure that he was removed from it and to NOT pay the PAYG instalment amount and all would be OK. No further was heard and we assumed that all was as it should be.

Today, he received a letter from the ATO saying he was overdue in paying an amount due of $957 and if it wasn't paid by 16/10/12 recovery action would take place.

So he rang the ATO and after a fruitless 20 minutes handed the phone to me. The person he spoke to said many various contradictory things, read by rote from their book of rules, no doubt, and stated categorically that even though he had opted out, that he had actually been credited through the PAYG system with this $957 (even though we hadn't actually paid it) and therefore now it was still due.

We got to the stage of initiating a payment plan when I pulled out the ATO Notice of Assessment and asked the woman we were speaking to where exactly it was credited because I couldn’t see it and the credit amount on the assessment notice matched the amount of tax withheld by the employer and nowhere was there any mention of a PAYG credited amount. Oh, hang on, she said I will check that (oh dear she actually hadn't previously checked anything, just made assumptions). Ha ha - lo and behold, no, it hadn't been credited to [my husband], oh, and actually, there was some sort of 'wash up' notice on the file BUT she said 'We must have put our tax return in during July which is why it had not been recorded in the overlap period'. NO, hang on, I said our lodgment was in early August and the ATO assessment notice was dated 18/8/12.

Basically she had no response except to say verbatim 'Well I don't know why that has happened but do you want to start the payment plan or do you want to leave it. I can put a notice on it and 'hope' that someone reads it and investigates further before they refer it to the debt recovery office'. My response was 'Why would we want to pay for tax in advance that a) we are not liable for and b) we have not been credited for? Surely there is someone who can just clear this off for good now and avoid any further drama. Why on earth would this go to a debt recovery office when we have no debt with the ATO and if so would it affect our credit rating etc'. 'Oh no, she said, the agencies they use don't damage your credit rating for an ATO debt' and then she read me the by rote spiel about their credit collection policies. I can't believe she answered me that way, as if we actually did still have a debt we were refusing to pay.

I cannot believe the total waste of time and money, not to mention the stress caused to us and the poor silly person on the other end of the phone, who was absolutely totally hopeless. Unbelievably she had gone through 20 minutes of telling [my husband] he was liable for the money without actually fully checking the figures. No apologies when the mistake was pointed out and every time it became obvious that the ATO was stuffing up even further she tried to make it seem like our fault. Go figure.

Anyway our fear now is that we will have some sort of recovery action started when we don't even owe any money. No promise at all was made that this won't happen even though it was admitted that there was no credit ever made to [my husband] for that PAYG instalment.

I just gave up in the end and said well make your note on the file and we will see what happens. It did not seem as if there was anyone senior...that we could refer the matter to.

Your thoughts??? (besides the fact that they are obviously [uncomplimentary description deleted], how do you deal with these people on an ongoing basis?!)".

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