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ATO reports hundreds of thousands using online chat, social media for tax help


The Tax Office has identified a swing in taxpayer behaviour with the surge in use of its online chat facility and social media channels.

By Katarina Taurian 11 minute read

Speaking at the Accountants Daily Strategy Day, Deputy Commissioner Sonia Corsini said the ATO’s virtual assistant, named “Alex”, has had 310,640 conversations with taxpayers this tax time.

Ms Corsini told delegates the ATO has also facilitated 110,000 web chats so far this financial year.

Use of social media channels has also surged for 2019’s tax time versus the same period last year. The ATO reports 19,000 posts have been directed at the ATO, with about 6,000 of those requiring a response.


By comparison, in 2018, there were 9,500 incoming posts, with 3,500 requiring a response from the ATO.

Common mistakes this tax time

Errors that crop up at tax time will likely come as no surprise to tax agents. However, they are often persistent despite public messaging from the ATO and intervention from tax practitioners.

Ms Corsini said taxpayers are often, and simply, not “fair dinkum” when it comes to reporting their income to the Tax Office.

Further, where income statements and expenses are true and correct, often poor record keeping works to the detriment of honest taxpayers.

This is particularly problematic in a world where the ATO’s data-matching technology and automated checks are at their most precise and access to a taxpayer’s spending and earning patterns are unprecedented.

“Even if there is no requirement to keep records, the expenses still need to relate to employment income before the claim can be made,” Ms Corsini said.

“Simply, you need to be able to show how the expense was calculated.”

Katarina Taurian


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