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11 Oct 2019 Regarding members 260 and 267’s comments on communications preferences and private beta

ATO response: 

Thank you Member 260 and Member 267 for your feedback on the ATO’s Communication preference solution. 

The Communication preference solution provides taxpayers with the ability to direct some electronic communications from the Commissioner to their tax or BAS agent. After consulting with the tax profession on its development, Communication preferences is now being tested and refined in a private beta. To date, about 2300 agents have been invited to participate and provide their feedback. We will continue to invite more agents to participate in the private beta throughout the remainder of the year with a view to have the solution available to all agents in Online Services for Agents in early 2020. 

Agents are authorised to act on behalf of their clients to the extent of the agreed engagement between the agent and client. It is important to note that each time an agent sets or changes a client’s communication preferences, the agent is lodging an approved form to change their preferred address(es) for service. As such, an agent must obtain written authorisation from the client each time they change their communication preferences. This is not a new legal requirement but something that applies to the lodgment of all approved forms. 

You can obtain written authorisation by contacting your clients directly to set up preferences or waiting until your next engagement with them,noting that you cannot preference to receive a client’s communication until you have their written authority. 

One of the cornerstones of the taxation system is that the ATO will serve a client’s documents to their preferred address for service. In addition to legal requirements, it is the ATO’s policy that clients authorise any change to their preferred address for service. This recognises the importance that a client should have ultimate control over where communications relating to their tax affairs are sent. 

As part of the beta we will continue to work with the tax profession, as well as the stewardship groups, to identify opportunities to streamline the way Communication preferences is built into your business processes. Tax professionals taking part in the private beta can provide feedback via the email address provided in their invite, or via the feedback function in Online Services for Agents.

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