Debt collection issues are no longer the most common complaint the Inspector-General of Taxation (IGTO) receives, with delays to receiving COVID-19 payments from the ATO now taking the top spot.
IGTO Karen Payne has revealed that her agency has now received complaints relating to 214 issues around COVID-19, including 138 issues specifically on delays and other issues with receiving payments from the ATO.
Issues about the COVID-19 stimulus measures themselves, such as eligibility, make up 23 complaints.
Just eight complaints around the ATO’s debt collection actions have been raised, pushing it down to the second most common issue raised in the last quarter — the first time it has happened since the IGTO took over the complaints handling function from the Commonwealth Ombudsman in 2015.
Ms Payne said her office has since commenced investigations for 90 of those complaints, with most complaints resolved within a 30-day time frame.
The new complaint figures come after a number of professional accounting bodies and public practitioners had highlighted the backlog around the ATO’s processing of the cash-flow boost payments in May.
The ATO has denied any systemic issues, noting that a “very small number” of businesses had been held up to confirm their eligibility.
JobKeeper payment delays have also occurred, with the ATO recently acknowledging that there are applicants still waiting for payments.
“Reasons for the delay include the eligibility of business participants and integrity issues affecting a small but significant number of cases. The ATO is contacting applicants who have shown no sign of life or recent engagement,” said the ATO in its Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group meeting in late June.
Ms Payne has now encouraged practitioners and their clients to use her agency’s free investigation services around any COVID-19 taxation issues, acknowledging that taxpayers may have been initially confused as to which government department they should raise their concerns to.
“One of the issues around COVID is, which is the right agency to take your complaint to,” Ms Payne said.
“For example, a complaint about JobKeeper — is that a complaint that should go to the Tax Office, is it something that should go to the Fair Work Ombudsman or is it something that should come to us because it’s about a tax administration matter that concerns the Tax Office?
“Sometimes finding the right agency or the right spot to lodge your complaint is in fact part of the art.
“Essentially, if you have a complaint about COVID-19-related matters around the way in which the tax administration rules are operating, then that’s a complaint you can raise with us.”
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.