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30 Mar 12 On ATO accountability?

MEMBER 71 writes:

"When is the ATO going to be held accountable for their inactions and incompetence? I have become so frustrated with the 'ATO system' over the last 2 is broken! If it wasn't so serious the matters would be laughable.

- The ATO are hiding behind the 'service standard' line. The typical response on any matter is 'you need to wait until the XX day service standard time frame has passed. You then wait and follow up again because the matter in almost ALL cases hasn't been attended to within the required service standard time then be told that your matter/query will be escalated...and you guessed it...another XX days service standard for the escalation response...then starts again after no response from the escalation. Nobody is accountable, it just goes around in circles and we spend hours of wasted time trying to sort out ATO problems.

- We always now request a reference number, name, team and location from ALL our ATO enquiries. They promise to ring back...but it NEVER happens...ever! Even when you ring back armed with the required reference number, name, team and location of the original ATO officer, the person who answers the call will not transfer you but instead requires you to go through the whole query process again. Then we spend wasted time whilst they look into it, query with their supervisor then usually come back with the dreaded 'I will ring you back'! Once again, it NEVER happens.

- The ATO continually don't return telephone calls or follow up on promised actions. In many cases after we have phoned them back again we find that the matter under the reference number has been closed - all done and finished, they have just wiped their hands of the matter, met some internal KPI and closed the case/query!

- We can get no response from the ATO about refunds not being processed or issued. Even for simple tax returns. No notification or even indication of a review being undertaken, just the refund cheque has not been issued. No one can tell you why or give any indication when the refund will issue. One we have been trying to get since January...the return is processed, the refund is sitting on the system but it just hasn't been issued. Once again, lodge request, standard service standard delay response, no response received, request again and then further service standard response delay and then find out that they have no idea why it hasn't issued. Sorry that's it... we can't help you anymore!

- Don't even get me started on the '12 week review process'. Once again a complete shambles by the ATO, complete inaction on lodged tax returns, no indication of a case officer having been appointed, no one can tell you anything...the client is just left hanging in the wind waiting...waiting...waiting on their $345 refund. A complete joke and once again impossible to get any action or get anybody to be accountable. The clients are completely stressed and also seem to think it's some issue with us, the tax agent.

- Data matching letter received for a client for a considerable amount of foreign income. We respond to the letter within days of the letter receipt with explanation (it's mostly inheritance money). Contact the case officer, discuss the issues, forward more documentation after queries and think that's the end of the matter. All goes quiet for 4 months...then bang $1,000,000 of amended assessments received in the mail. No ATO position paper, no contact, nothing. We telephone and get advised that the case officer we were dealing with has left, there are NO notes on the file or system that we had responded to the initial letter or any of the documentation that we had sent in. So the ATO issued default assessment notices based on the data matched foreign income. The ATO response...lodge objection notices!

- Amended assessments issue for client with shortfall interest. The amended assessments are incorrect and reversed by the ATO with reversal of the shortfall interest...but wait, the full shortfall interest is not reversed because the ATO computer can't seem to calculate the amount correctly. We have been trying for weeks to get the correct shortfall interest credited but to no avail. Final ATO response after weeks of trying to get it fixed - lodge a request via the Portal with all the details...which then starts another service standard time frame. It shouldn't be this hard...your system...your computer stuff fix it and STOP wasting my time!!

Something has gone horribly wrong in the ATO over the last 2 years. I have been a tax agent for 26 years and have never seen anything like it. So frustrating for me and my staff. I read the weekly TAXVINE comments and it appears that it is happening everywhere but it appears that the ATO doesn't accept that something is wrong, otherwise they would do something about it.

Maybe it's time for a collective action by aggrieved tax agents?

Yours in frustration."

MEMBER 72 writes:

"Again I write concerning ATO inefficiency or rather negligence with our tax dollars and needlessly causing our clients unnecessary angst. Firstly, we have been lodging tax returns for the last two years for an immigrant, the tax returns and BAS are all up to date and all debts where applicable have been paid. Clients report substantial overseas income at the appropriate labels. Nonetheless, we receive today an 'educational' letter from the ATO to the client about disclosing all sources of income!! This is ludicrous. The client has engaged us to make sure their affairs are correct and information disclosed properly to the ATO. If the ATO has any information that in any way casts doubt on the details in the tax return then advise us/client so it can be dealt with, otherwise leave us alone to do real work.

Secondly, we received a letter for another client concerning potential overseas income (this time an Australian resident). Our client and her partner have a joint bank account, the partner returned income from overseas at the appropriate labels far above the amounts reputedly not declared by the client. The client and her partner are shown as spouses on each other's tax return. Surely the you beaut computer systems could eliminate these "fishing" expeditions when it is a joint account and the other person returns the income in the relevant year.

Come on Tax Office get it together.

Can The Tax Institute keep a 'scorecard' of the number of letters to them like this, rather than putting them in Member Feedback as it makes one despondent on a Friday when I read TAXVINE that we are all having these issues and the ATO just keeps on ramping up these dumb campaigns which are affecting them as much as it is us.

PS. I groan again...we had an issue where through the data matching system a PAYG Summary for a client was found not to match with the ATO system, the tax return was completed early in the season before Tax Portal information was available. Anyway, to cut a long story shorter the ATO data was found to be incorrect due to bad scan or whatever, once we had spent the time getting the matter corrected we then had to get the funds returned. One of those situations where the 'ATO must be right' and the small debt of $248.50 was paid to placate the ATO. We had the amendment processed and now we get two cheques on different days - one for the tax and one for the interest. Can the ATO not process these matters one time only. In checking the Portal I note the ATO description line is 'Cheque Refund for Income Tax for the period from 01 Jul 11 to 30 June 12'. However, it is for the 2009 year and apart from a deceased estate I have not completed the 2012 for any living clients - c'mon ATO this is just not good enough."

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