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28 Nov 14 On inappropriate ATO comments - the ATO responds

In 2014 TAXVINE No 41 (7 November 2014), Member 174 wrote about what they regarded as inappropriate (critical) comments made to them by ATO officers about the payment of client refunds and the quantum of tax agent's fees. 

THE ATO NOW RESPONDS

"The ATO takes client service and the professionalism of our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) very seriously. To that end, we maintain multiple levels of investment to ensure our staff provide the highest level of support through our contact centres. Our training programs are thorough and all CSRs are assessed against a number of key performance outcomes through a rigorous quality framework.

The investment we make to meet client expectations means mostly, ‘we get it right’, however we cannot guarantee that 100% of the time.

During the Tax Time period (July to October 2014), 94.3% of all assessments (18,401) met or exceeded our quality benchmarks.

Staff are encouraged to promote online lodgements and advise customers that myTax and etax are free, convenient and secure services. This does not involve commenting on the commercial arrangements that taxpayers have with their tax practitioners.

A taxpayer’s financial institution details are only updated when requested by an authorised contact. The ATO is not in a position to decline this request from customers when the request is in relation to their own account.     

Our CSRs strive to provide quality service to all customers and we appreciate feedback that assists us in improving the customer experience.

TAX COUNSEL THILINI WICKRAMASURIYA COMMENTS: The issue of clients of tax agents changing bank account details after the tax agent had lodged the relevant return but before a refund is paid was discussed at the meeting of the ATO Tax Practitioners Advisory Group (ATPAG) on 21 November 2014.  At this stage the ATO is trying to gauge the extent of the problem and potential solutions. They noted that they cannot tell from the ATO system whether bank account details belong to an individual or to a practitioner’s trust account. They are also aware of cases where clients have legitimately changed their bank account details and would not want to prevent those clients from being able to do so. Members proposed solution whereby changes in bank account details could be locked for 14 days following the lodgment of the return, or until the refund on a return lodged by a tax agent is paid. Please contact us at TaxPolicy@taxinstitute.com.au if you are experiencing this issue and/or have a proposed solution.