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22 Aug 13 On need to quote spouse's income

MEMBER 181 writes:

"The requirement for us to quote a taxpayer's spouse's income details (essentially, it seems for purposes of the private health insurance rebate) is creating some real problems.

I submit the Commissioner's latest direction...'If it is difficult for your clients to accurately determine each income item when lodging their return, they can provide a reasonable estimate of their spouse's taxable income. Your clients may incur penalty and interest charges if the estimate is unreasonable and leads to a tax shortfall' is simplistic and unrealistic.

It is not only a spouse's taxable income that is required to be completed, but all the income test items - reportable payments, property losses etc, etc.

As tax agents we are charged with the responsibility to file accurate and correct returns on behalf of our clients (under the dark cloud of 85% lodgment performance standards); so, with respect, Mr Commissioner, an estimate of income that we may have no knowledge of is unworkable. Has it occurred to the ATO that a spouse may engage the services of an entirely different tax agent and the consequent difficulties that this creates for lodging a completely accurate return?

Some of my clients would have absolutely no idea what their spouse earns, often for very good and legitimate reasons and it is not my role or place to disclose such details (if known to me) by completing these details on a taxpayer's return. Sadly, not every 'marriage' is a happy, collective and co-operative affair."