The ATO said it was ultimately working towards a paperless environment for tax agents, with its new online service for agents, promised for release in the first quarter, forming part of the agency’s push to digitise communications with tax practitioners.
However, Waterhouse Lawyers principal director, Tania Waterhouse, has highlighted the discrepancies faced by legal practitioners who are acting on behalf of taxpayers, including the requirement to fax correspondence to the ATO because they do not have access to the tax agent portal.
“One of the issues with not having access to the tax agent portal is not being recognised by ATO case officers as an ‘authorised legal representative’,” Ms Waterhouse told Accountants Daily.
“Even if a tax agent records a lawyer as being a taxpayer representative, case officers do not necessarily have access to the portal and therefore cannot see that the tax agent has acknowledged that the lawyer is a taxpayer representative.
“The ATO has a form that a taxpayer can complete, authorising a legal practitioner to act on their behalf,” she added.
“The problem with this method is that the form must be faxed to the ATO and it then takes 3-4 weeks for the practitioner’s details to be recorded on the ATO systems. A legal practitioner generally cannot wait this long as their need to speak with the appropriate case officer.”
Additionally, Ms Waterhouse believes not having portal access means legal practitioners will need to spend time requesting records from the ATO or the tax agent.
“[Other issues include] not being able to lodge submissions on the portal. Any objections or applications must be lodged by fax,” she said.
“Even an email address instead of a fax would assist with some of the problems raised by having to use an antiquated fax system.”