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MEMBER 4 writes:

"Warning: New ABN applications for Australian registered companies with foreign directors and shareholders are proving a headache for all concerned.

For all ABN applications from 2 December 2013, the ATO requires two forms of certified identification for all foreign individuals who are directors and/or shareholders. The requirement for this information is not stated on the application, nor on the ABR or ATO web sites. The ABN application will not be processed until the ATO’s 'Non resident registrations team' requests this information from the applicant.  This is causing delays as any enquiries to the ATO about the status of the registration will not be looked into until 20 ATO business days have passed. This was previously 28 days, (including non business days), which is a large increase especially over the Christmas/New Year period.

Copies of the identification documents have to be certified by an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate and where access to these services is not available the documents can be certified by a 'Competent Authority' if the relevant country observes the Hague Apostille Convention.

All documents must be in English and if documents are translated into English, an authorised translation service must be used to certify the translation. Details of authorised translation services can be provided by an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The original copy of the document and the translated copy of the document must then be certified by an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate, or a 'Competent Authority' under The Hague Apostille Convention."

MEMBER 5 writes:

"We have a new office record for the amount of time it has taken to get an ABN out of the ATO. Seven Months. Yes, seven.

Here’s a summary of events from my admin staff:

08/07/2013 – original application lodged.

26/09/2013 – chased up, ATO to get back to us. They didn’t.

11/10/2013 – chased up again, ATO have no record of the application, submit again. We did.

Between 11/10/2013 and 20/11/2013 – left five messages for the officer to get back to us on the status of the ABN. It seems that the only person who was able to respond to us was a lady who worked part time, and she did not return any of our calls. Everyone we spoke to about this matter said this lady was the ONLY person who could deal with the matter.

24/11/2013 – client receives a letter at his home address, informing him that there was a problem with his wife’s Proof of Identity. Why a letter was sent to his home address is beyond me since we as TAX AGENTS, submitted the application. At this point the client was quite angry at us, and thought that we had botched the job.

12/12/2013 – chased up again, after 10 minutes on the phone we were told that the ABN system was down and to call back later.

20/01/2014 – chased up again, was told that the ABN had not been processed because our client had not yet provided her POI documents. When told that the client HAD provided the POI documents, we were told the matter would be escalated.

30/01/2014 – chased up again, after 30 minutes on the phone we were told that the ATO officer who processed the POI documents had done so incorrectly, so the POI information had not yet filtered its way through to the Super Fund area. An Official Complaint was recorded, and a case officer assigned.

03/02/2014 – chased up again, after 34 minutes on the phone, after refreshing the screen several times, we were informed that the ABN had issued. Halle <expletive deleted> lujah.

This is just plain unacceptable. We have a list of names, dates, reference numbers, and it took seven months to get an ABN for a mum and dad Super Fund. My observation of this matter is that no one in the ATO takes ownership and responsibility for an issue, and runs with it to its natural conclusion. Our client is now happy with us for all the perseverance and tenacity to get the ABN, but to issue a letter instead of returning five phone calls to me is the lowest form of service I can imagine. Really poor form ATO. Really poor form."