"I have come across a problem with the pre-filling of information on the Portal. One of my clients received an "audit letter" stating that his income was incorrectly reported on his 2008 Taxation Return, instead of $79,000 gross wages only $69,000 was reported. So I looked up the group certificate – oops, sorry, the PAYG Payment Summary Individual Non Business - and saw quite clearly that his wages were in fact the $69,000 as reported. So I replied to this audit letter advising the ATO of their error as well as supplying them with a copy of the group certificate and telling them not to change our client's gross income and should they have any queries just to telephone us. Well, approximately 4 weeks later we received an amended assessment for that client showing the incorrect income, that was bad enough but a week later the client was advised by Centrelink that they had been overpaid their Family Payments because of this incorrect gross income being supplied to them by the ATO.
We rang the ATO who advised us that they would not accept a copy of the group certificate but rather the client (we on their behalf) had to get a letter from their employer advising their gross income for that year. I advised the ATO that I had a payment slip showing the correct year end gross wages but the ATO advised this was not good enough. I asked the ATO that when I proved to them that there was an ATO transposing error would the ATO then readvise Centrelink of the correct gross wages for my client, and was advised by the ATO that they would do so.
Now after wasting my time in rectifying the ATO stuff up (which by the way was not the employer's transposing error as the group certificate was completed manually) yes you guessed it 2 months later they still had not advised Centrelink of the correct wages figures. Then I had to waste more time in writing to Centrelink on behalf of the client and also had to get the client into the office to sign this letter (some 100km round trip for client). Now some 4 months later the client is still waiting for Centrelink to fix the problem. Imagine if the Tax Agent had made the transposing error - client would have been fined unless maybe if we got on bended knee to the ATO they might have remitted the penalty but not the interest, or worse with the new Tax Agent Services regime we could be charged with negligence and reported to the Tax Agent Board.
I was completing another client's tax return the other day and checked the pre-filling report on the Portal and when checking the group certificate against the Portal figures found another transposing error by the ATO, well no doubt I will get another audit letter in approx 12 - 24 month’s time and I will then again have to prove the ATO stuffed up. Maybe some of these transposing errors could have been avoided if the amount of instalments deducted written in words as well as figures was still included on group certificates. Still, the ATO suggests that people with ‘simple affairs’ do their own tax returns using this pre-filling information on the Portal or maybe, as per the yet to be released Henry Report, the ATO will complete the Tax Returns on their behalf - heaven help these taxpayers!"