Challenges in the ATO’s online client linking system have been highlighted by issues with director IDs and the eventual result will need a “light touch”, says CPA Australia.
The system, which began a limited trial two weeks ago, should aim for ease of use and ensure there are options for the digitally naïve, senior manager of tax policy Elinor Kasapidis said.
“The benefits of digital are things are easier and more efficient, if you know what to do. One of the challenges is not to unnecessarily inconvenience those who are unable to interact digitally,” she said.
“We’re seeing some of the challenges through the director ID process, where individuals have to apply.
“The vast majority can do it quite alright but there are always some that don’t satisfy and the real question is, how many of those use their agents, how many of those can be supported by one of the options?”
The ATO’s online client linking system requires a taxpayer to authorise a specific tax agent to act on their behalf electronically. Once the online nomination is complete, the chosen tax agent has four days to add the taxpayer to their client list.
The system is being rolled gradually, with a pilot phase involving the largest businesses starting on 19 June, and then public consultation.
Ms Kasapidis said the ATO was shoring up the security of the system to safeguard personal information and changes like this were inevitable.
“Right now, there isn’t multi-factor authentication in place and that leaves the system open to fraud – both tax agents and taxpayers are vulnerable,” Ms Kasapidis said.
But she said there would be challenges for small to medium businesses, where there was greater client turnover and less digital know-how, and agents already had concerns.
“Particularly for clients who are not digitally savvy – they are concerned about the impact on those clients.
“Another one is with those structures where you have different controllers, how do you manage that?
“And then there’s just the administrative impost, an uncertainty about how easy this will be and what will be required.
“Relationships are consistent across a large group. The demographics as you go down into the small and medium market become messy.”
With the onus on the client to start the authorisation process, the eventual system would need to be smooth and intuitive, with the potential to walk into an agent’s office and resolve any issues within minutes.
“The biggest challenge is really getting everybody with myGovID – particularly for clients who are not digitally savvy,” Ms Kasapidis said.
“We have a diverse society with lots of different needs and accessibility is important. It’s really important thing to make sure that there are alternatives such as paper and phone based options.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a design where it’s light-touch, or that there are circuit breakers.”