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MEMBER 60 writes:

“Why does the ATO ask these questions?

I wonder why when requesting a payment arrangement, the ATO officer reads that we ‘should call them before the next instalment’ if the client cannot meet a payment.

So I did just that after my client informs me they had to repair machinery to the cost of $34,000 which makes them unable to pay their BAS on time. After speaking to an officer about my client’s predicament and advising them my client would like to at least renegotiate or pay the shortfall in the next 4 weeks while keeping the current payment arrangement in place, the officer then asked, can the client pay the entire balance today? (Why am I calling? – not to sound rude, but who calls to let the ATO know they will not be able to meet their payment arrangement instalment but they can somehow pay the entire balance today?) Then the officer says before they can renegotiate the payment arrangement, they would require at least double what the client is short by. I then explained that due to the unforeseen circumstance, they cannot – which is why I am calling. Asking going around in circles at my poor client’s expense, I later asked why then does the ATO encourage clients to call before breaching a payment arrangement, only to be advised of what they knew in the first place? The response – ‘Well some people are taking advantage of the system’. So what is the point of asking these questions which are more of an oxymoron than progressive? In the end I spoke to two more officers (you can imagine I was paid handsomely for that time) and managed to finally enter into an arrangement which the client can afford.

For a previous payment arrangement I negotiated, the ATO officer said ‘Please call if you are finding it difficult to make a payment, as we are human after all’. In the end the client feels they have to enter into an arrangement which from the outset they cannot meet. This dead-end ‘procedure’ asking for upfront payments is a waste of time. If I am missing a point here, I would like to know as I thought we as Tax Agents are on the same team. Thanks.”

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