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Client-agent linking has stopped identity fraud: ATO

Regulation

The Tax Office claims the process has been successful in stopping criminals from compromising agents’ client lists.

By Christine Chen 11 minute read

No criminals have managed to access tax agents' client lists to commit fraud since client-agent linking became mandatory in November, the ATO says.

Assistant commissioner Rob Thomson told Accountants Daily's Accounting Conference & Exhibition in Sydney on Thursday that despite frustrations with the system, there had been over 250,000 successful links.

"Clients are continuously being set up and nominating an agent through online services for business, we've had over 250,000 nominations successfully completed," he said.

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Since becoming mandatory for all ABN holders except sole traders on November 13, the ATO had "not seen any successful attempts where an agent was compromised by criminals, and criminals adding new clients to harvest the client information to commit fraud without the client knowing", he said.

Thomson, who is this year's Tax Time spokesperson, said the ATO acknowledged the frustrations and delay caused by client linking but thanked tax agents for their patience.

The Tax Office was compelled to implement the system after seeing how criminals were able to take over the identities of tax agents to commit refund fraud, he said.

"You have recognised the importance of or challenge in making the system harder for criminals, even though it's required to change some of the processes," he said.

Tax professionals have called the process an administrative “nightmare”, particularly for taxpayers who lacked technological literacy or needed to acquire myGovIDs to link their ABN.

The Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO) has also criticised the ATO for making the process "too hard" and finalising it without industry consultation.

"Client-agent linking is not hitting the mark and is actually creating its own other problems and repercussions which need to be worked through," she told Accountants Daily in March.

In response to reports of some professional bodies and members of the CAL linking working group — a panel composed of tax practitioners and professional bodies — criticising CAL’s design and implementation, Thomson said "consultation doesn't always mean consensus".

"The ATO acknowledges the strong advocacy of the accounting and bookkeeping professional associations on behalf of their members who have had difficulties."

"By continuing to listen and work with professional associations we will make improvements while stopping the fraud that CAL addresses."

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Christine Chen

Christine Chen

AUTHOR

Christine Chen is a graduate journalist at Accountants Daily and Accounting Times, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting sector.

Previously, Christine has written for City Hub, the South Sydney Herald and Honi Soit. She has also produced online content for LegalVision and completed internships at EY and Deloitte.

Christine has a commerce degree from the University of Western Australia and is studying a Juris Doctor degree at the University of Sydney. 

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