"I think the Taxation Institute should start discussing with the ATO some form of mutually agreed communication policy, in that Tax Agents and the ATO will agree that communications between the two groups will be conducted according to agreed policies, with set time frames to respond (and not just a period where they hope to respond but if they don’t call back and they will escalate it and claim another 28 day period), an agreement that we are to be given direct phone numbers to call the relevant person back and that both sides agree to take and return messages promptly. At present it is too one sided in the ATO’s favour.
Having just spent the best part of an hour on the phone with the ATO, trying to find out why/when/if a client will ever get a refund that we have been chasing for 5 months now, I was put through to the Tax practitioners HELP line, and was promptly told that their systems were down and I should call back tomorrow. I asked for someone to call me back once the system was back up and running, and was promptly told they do not call tax practitioners back. Not sure how they can call themselves a Tax Practitioners Help Line, if they are unwilling to show practitioners the common courtesy of returning a phone call.
After much discussion, with the officer explaining that it was not ATO policy to call practitioners back, and me explaining that if they cannot call me back they should put a note on our file to say they we will never be calling the ATO back for exactly the same reason, “that it was now our policy to not return ATO phone calls”, they agreed to a “one off” exception and would call me back, (obviously they can do it as someone has just called me back and we are now one step closer, which happened within about 15 minutes of the conclusion of my first call).
There should be a simple policy for both the ATO and practitioners to make contact with each other in the agreed timeframes. If they state it will take up to 28 days to respond, that should be the timeframe the ATO gives us to respond to them (not the seven days we are usually given), if they want a shorter timeframe, then they should be prepared to offer us the same time frame for responses to our questions."