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MEMBER 206 writes:

"The Bulk Deletions offer from the ATO and a visit from our ATO Representative throws up some interesting challenges for both the accountant and the ATO.

Our ATO representative gave us a (printed) long list of 'taxpayers' that had outstanding tax obligations and outstanding debts. I say 'taxpayers' as some are clients, some are not, usual story that many random taxpayers are attached to our list despite our best efforts to remove them. I have consistently ignored requests from the ATO to follow up taxpayers with outstanding tax obligations taking the view that it is up to the ATO to chase these up, not me. Don't get me wrong, we do chase clients for their tax work, but if our clients ignore us three times we don't chase them any further and we take the view that it’s up to the ATO chase them up. Let the ATO officers work back to 10pm issuing letters and making phone calls and I'll leave at 4pm - rather than the other way around. It seems NOW though with the introduction of the 85% criteria that we accountants are best to ditch these troublesome clients as they will now affect our Tax Agent Profile.

However in what appears to be a related matter, we reviewed another long report that reads RNN (Return Not Necessary) and it runs for about eight pages listing over 300 former clients that were ALL clearly Final returns in the year lodged, some back to 1992!! The ATO would now ALSO like us to Bulk Delete these 'taxpayers' from our Tax Agent Number as well!! So let me get this straight - the ATO provides us with a paper version of this report, they expect us to pay one of our staff to enter this data into an Excel spreadsheet, and then upload that spreadsheet into the Portal, so that (one day) the ATO can delete those clients from our Tax Agent Number? So the info goes FROM the ATO TO us and then BACK to the ATO for something the ATO already knows and can do themselves! But the 300 odd clients noted above are NOT taken into account to determine the 85% target!! So where is my motivation to instruct one of my staff to complete that Bulk Deletion spreadsheet?? I cannot fathom it.

I do take solace from our Tax Agent Profile Report though. It shows that for the years ended 30 June 2010 and 30 June 2011 our firm was above the national average for returns lodged to date. Yay us!! And we'll continue to strive to achieve this target by bulk deleting clients that can't get their act together. But to delete the RNN list as well, forget it. It is another feeble attempt at cost shifting from the ATO to us. Once an accountant lodges a Final return, it's just that - FINAL. What you do with it after it's assessed is up to you, but do not expect us to do your work for you to remove former clients from our tax agent number - that you can do yourself. It is for this very reason that we have not in over 22 years of our practice relied on any ATO client listing - we have maintained our own internal tax database of clients lodged and clients yet to lodge and managed that list on a yearly basis."

THE TAX INSTITUTE'S TAX COUNSEL STEPHANIE CAREDES COMMENTS: "The purpose of the bulk deletion offer from the ATO is to assist tax agents to clean up their client list and be ready for the start of the new Lodgment Program framework which starts on 1 July 2013. The 85% performance ratio in the new Program will be based on the client list for a particular tax agent that can be extracted from the Tax Agent Portal. It is therefore essential that tax agents now focus on ensuring the client list that can be accessed on the Portal is up to date and includes all current clients of a tax agent and no longer includes taxpayers who are not current clients.

The Tax Institute has been working closely with the ATO in the design of the new Program framework as well as on matters that need to be taken care of in the year preceding the start of the new Program (that is the current year) that are aimed at putting tax agents in the best possible position for the start of the new Program. Member 206, your comments raise some issues that we will ensure will be raised at the next Lodgment Working Group meeting that will be held in November and addressed in that forum.

The Tax Institute actively encourages Members to provide us with feedback on all ATO initiatives, including the new Lodgment Program framework, and will pass on Members' comments and concerns to the ATO as soon as possible. This will ensure that as many potential issues are identified and ironed out before, for example, the new Program gets into full swing next year. Please email all your comments through to TaxPolicy"

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