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MEMBER 174 writes: 

"In helping our clients manage their tax obligations this past few months, we have noticed an annoying trend where ATO call centre staff are making comments that relate to the commercial arrangements we make with our clients on the fees we charge. We have had instances where ATO call centre staff have made comment or have gone out of their way to interfere with fee from refund arrangements (or our decision not to offer fee from refund) and also make comments on the quantum of our fees for taxpayers who are receiving very small refunds. 

We raised a complaint with the ATO some years ago about the ability of taxpayers to change their bank account after lodgment of returns thus diverting their refunds away from our trust account and were met with a shrug of the shoulders and the comment that the ATO will not get involved in the commercial dealings between tax agents and their clients. Has the ATO stance on this matter now changed or are we dealing with maverick ATO staff exceeding the limits of what is appropriate?"

TAX COUNSEL THILINI WICKRAMASURIYA COMMENTS: This issue was raised by the ATO in a Tax Time meeting on 19 Augusts 2014. At that stage the ATO was trying to gauge the extent of the problem and we included a note in TAXVINE in relation to this on 22 August 2014. We contacted the ATPAG on 27 August 2014 based on the feedback we received. We are waiting on a final response from the ATO.