The ATO has released its annual report for the 2017–18 year, with community satisfaction with tax office performance at 71 per cent, four percentage points lower than the 2016–17 result and the target of 75 per cent.
According to the ATO, the result was driven by users of online services, with 66 per cent of clients who use online services satisfied with its performance.
The measurement of availability of the Tax Office’s digital systems found that availability ranged from 99.67 per cent (ATO online) to 98.68 per cent (SBR2).
Planned maintenance is not factored into the measurement of availability, despite the disruptions it causes to tax and BAS agents’ workflow.
Speaking to Accountants Daily, Institute of Public Accountants general manager of technical policy, Tony Greco said that despite the lack of outages, public perception of previous major outages may have played into the low ratings, while reputational damage from the Four Corners report this year may have contributed to the dip in ratings as well.
“Certainly the portal outages of the past – these are things that play on people’s perceptions going forwards but the portal has been solid of late and they’ve learnt some valuable lessons in trying to maintain the stability,” said Mr Greco.
“The Four Corners report did a lot of reputational damage but they were isolated incidences. They sort of go into reputational damage when they’ve got lots of media coverage on certain instances of that nature.”
In response to the dip in satisfaction, the ATO has committed to “work hard to improve the online experience for tax professionals, business users and individuals”, with the new tax agent portal – branded as online services for agents – a high priority for the tax office over the next 12 months.
Mr Greco believes the new online services will go some way in repairing ratings for the ATO but is critical of the time it has taken to get it running.
“The ATO has spent a lot of money on retail at the expense of practitioner so you’d expect they are well suited to the retail end but more than three quarters of the population and 95 per cent of businesses go to a tax agent so you’ve got to also invest in the practitioner support and maybe the practitioner side of things is dragging the overall percentage down,” said Mr Greco.
“Finally, we’ll get a product that is better suited to the modern age – I call the portal a dinosaur because it hasn’t kept pace with what you’d expect – it is outdated in its functionality and it looks very clunky and old fashioned so the new online services will be a major step forward.
“We’re very much looking forward to this new online service but we’ve been waiting for such a long time since the commissioner first promised us many years back.”
Last month, ATO assistant commissioner Andrew Watson confirmed that the beta test group for the new online services had expanded to 600 agents since it first began testing in December 2017, hinting that it would move to public beta testing by this year-end.