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29 Aug 14 Preamble - 29 August 2014

This week the Tax Institute gave evidence in relation to the overall operations of the Tax Office at the Inquiry by the House of Representatives Parliamentary Committee for Tax and Revenue

I appeared before the Committee to speak to our submission, which addresses some key issues raised by Tax Institute members. 

We acknowledge and welcome the unprecedented number of senior private sector appointments to the ATO in recent times. At senior levels, there is an increased emphasis on process improvement, risk management and early engagement in the ATO discussions with stakeholders. However, we appreciate that it will take some time for organisation-wide change to take effect at the ATO coal face.

Tax Agent Portal

The ATO is increasing its emphasis on electronic interactions between tax agents and the ATO. This will increasingly require tax agents to rely on the Portal and other ATO electronic systems in the future.

Members consistently tell us of their frustrations and concerns regarding the Portal.

To have constructive input into the ATO’s future electronic interactions, a post-implementation review by the ATO into the technology supporting the Portal would be useful. This would greatly assist the ATO to determine whether the Portal or a similar system should be delivered in the future or whether the functionalities offered by the Portal that are heavily relied on by tax agents should be delivered by alternate electronic means.

Until this review is completed, an interim solution may need to be found to ensure that the Portal is working at its optimum level. This is necessary to assist to manage the frustrations that tax agents will continue to experience with the Portal until it is completely upgraded or replaced by a new system to facilitate electronic interactions between tax agents and the ATO.

Lodgment Program

As members are well aware, the ATO has introduced a differentiated framework for the Lodgment Program, requiring tax agents to lodge 85% of client returns by the due dates.  

We consistently receive complaints from members about the need to meet the 85% rate. There is a concern that clients who have been late lodgers historically or who are recalcitrant, despite an agent’s best efforts, can compromise the agent’s own reputation with the ATO. 

It is essential that the framework be monitored to determine whether it is having a positive impact on lodgements and to ensure that it is working fairly. Accordingly, we are of the view that there should be a post-implementation review by the ATO of the framework.  

Debt collection

Members have provided us with details of their concerns about current debt collection strategies, particularly in relation to the activities of third party debt collection agencies who are employed by the ATO. An underlying cause of the concerns is a lack of real time access to relevant information by the debt collection area within the ATO or the third party debt collector regarding the debt outstanding and the correct client contact.  

The Hansard containing our evidence will be available on the Parliament House website in the coming days.

We look forward to again engaging with the Tax and Revenue Committee on future hearings into other important issues affecting members.

Kind regards

Robert Jeremenko CTA