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MEMBER 136 writes:

"Previously our practice received all activity statements via paper and used these forms to manage our clients’ obligations. Generally monthly IAS for wages were posted to clients to prompt them to forward / lodge their wages information. However quarterly BAS obligations were lodged by us as their agent.

Times have changed:

  • There are now three different methods for the receipt of activity statements. We are receiving some via paper, some via our ELS software and some via email. This creates an extra burden on us as the agent to cross check all clients each lodgment period to ensure our clients’ obligations are met.
  •   If an activity statement is lodged (or varied) over the Portal and there is no valid email address listed against the client then the following month/quarter nothing happens. The activity statement just falls into a blackhole with no notification that it exists. We have been advised that there is no way to lodge bulk updates to client email addresses and we are required to change each client individually.
  • There does not seem to be any understanding from the ATO that different methods of lodgment are used depending on the circumstances. A client who lodges their own paper form may require us to lodge a variation to an activity statement over the Portal. This does not mean that we wish to lodge the form electronically from here on.
  •  This new system may save the ATO money in printing forms. However it is easy to foresee that it will cost them much more when you take into account
    • the increase in phone calls with people changing lodgment methods. A change to paper lodgment can only be done over the phone and not over the portal.
    • the increase in non lodgment (and non-payment) of activity statements that are “lost” in the blackhole.
    • the increase in letters and administration chasing outstanding activity statements.
  • This change also requires an extra step in removing a client from our system to ensure that it is done completely. We need to change the clients postal address. If we do not wish to be harassed by ATO staff we need to change their contact phone numbers. If we do not wish to receive refunds into our trust account we need to remove the trust account from their financial institution details and now if we do not wish to receive email reminders for BAS we need to update their email details. Each of these need to be updated separately making the removal of a client more complicated than it should be."

TAX COUNSEL THILINI WICKRAMASURIYA COMMENTS: As you may be aware from previous editions of TAXVINE, TTI has been broadly supportive of the ATO’s switch to electronic activity statements. Please refer to this link to the ATO website which contains the answers to some of the specific queries raised above such as accessing activity statements via electronic channels and dealing with one-off electronic revisions