"As the end of what I think has been the worst year of my career as a tax professional approaches, it's an appropriate time to review the year.
The ATO's change program was a disaster and 12 months later what benefits can we see for all nightmares we have had to endure? They now tell us they are starting to migrate the systems across, I thought that's what they have been doing for 12 months?
The decision of the ATO to change their lack of service standard for processing time for ELS tax returns from 14 to 30 days without discussion or advice (apart from some vague email from the Commissioner) was disgraceful.
Their decision to ignore taxpayer's advised preferred postal address and use their residential addresses instead, again without discussion or notification, is unprofessional at best and ignorant at worse.
The Tax Agent's Portal seems to have more bad days than good with difficulty accessing it. Processing times are worse than ever, with one 2010 tax return lodged in July still not being processed despite all requested copies and information being made available immediately it was requested. An amendment to a prior year tax return lodged early September 2010 still not received despite many "escalations" and referral to the "priority processing" area.
The ATO's GST review process is poor. They demand information to be supplied within 14 days but then can take weeks to actually do anything with it and then take still more weeks to begrudgingly tell us they don't intend to do any adjustments anyway.
The ridiculous new style notice of assessments and statement of accounts are hopeless and there is no sign of improvement any time soon.
The expectation that agents will provide private information on the phone to contract debt collectors and automated phone calls to clients regarding outstanding debts are other examples of ATO waste of time.
Benchmarking letters are a joke, for example one has been sent to a client referring to his former company with which he has had no involvement for over 5 years. If the criteria used in arriving at the benchmarks is as good as the ATO's selection process, God help us and our clients.
The continuing flow of self congratulatory puff from the ATO is just a joke. Their attitude to tax professional is obviously one of contempt and this now seems to apply from the commissioner down to the call centre operatives.
Finally, it's not just the ATO that needs to take a good hard look at itself. The professional bodies have unfortunately failed their members in my view. All of the above problems experienced with the ATO have been allowed to occur and our professional bodies have been completely unsuccessful in achieving any improvements to processing or change in attitudes. The ATO has gotten away with it. They now have a huge job ahead of them trying to convince me they are serious about working with us, at the moment it is an "us and them" situation with a big gap between the two.
Merry Christmas or should I say Bah Humbug!!"