24 Apr 1515 On mobile phones and privacy – the ATO responds
In 2015 TAXVINE No 13 (17 April 2015) Member 76 wrote:
“Has any member had clients having text messages reminding them of lodgment dates? My client is my wife who had a text message reminding her to lodge her Income Tax Return some 4 weeks ago. Her return was lodged in September 2013 with a refund issued on 1 October 2013.
Then this week she received another message advising her on the lodgment date of the Activity Statement, which is curious given she has not had such an obligation for years.
It does make you wonder about the systems & costs associated, but my anger is directed to the loss of privacy because neither of us have ever given her mobile number to the ATO. Perhaps those in the ATO who watch our posts can give us how they get these numbers & how do we get the ATO to remove our mobile numbers from their records.
In my case I get the usual portal message on the weekends even when overseas on holiday so even more costs. I was also subjected to a call on my mobile when I was a devil & took some time off late afternoon to buy some new clothes. I asked why did I get the call & was told that he rang the office but was told I had left for the day so he called my mobile. I asked where he got it from & he declined to comment. We in turn have to deal with flexitime & flexible working days. It is also interesting to speculate how I was going to answer a question if I had to refer to a file.
This whole issue can be added to the growing spectre of little regard for the taxpayer & even less regard for the tax agent.”
THE ATO NOW RESPONDS:
“In March, some SMS reminders about income tax returns were sent in error. We apologise for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused. Changes are being introduced that should prevent a repeat of that error in the future.
The ATO only uses mobile phone numbers supplied by taxpayers or their agents and recorded on the client record. Where there are multiple numbers recorded, and no voice contact is established by contacting one number, another may be tried. You can change or correct client contact details via the Tax Agent Portal or BAS Agent Portal.
In the case of SMS messages, as the ATO is not able to specify in the messaging the entity with the outstanding lodgment, the contact to a person may be in relation to something other than their own personal affairs, for example as the trustee of a trust, or public officer of a company.
We will be endeavouring to contact the member shortly to obtain information that may assist in identifying if errors have occurred and to explain the details of what has happened.”