Practitioners will now face extended delays to accessing deceased clients’ tax data as a consequence of the far-reaching impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Tax agents hampered by significant delays to deceased estates fix
Agents had previously been promised access to deceased estate information by 13 May, when the legislative instrument made through the Commissioner’s Remedial Power (CRP) would take effect after the required 15 sitting days in parliament.
With the government now postponing parliamentary sittings until August in response to the coronavirus pandemic, tax agents will now have to wait at least a further four months before they are granted access.
With four additional sitting days in the Senate required before the CRP can take effect, the earliest possible date of effect will now be mid-August, barring any further changes to the scheduled sitting days.
“We are sorry for this unexpected delay and appreciate the challenge this creates for the profession,” the ATO said.
“We have investigated whether there are any other avenues to achieve the outcome that the CRP provides for. Unfortunately, under the current law, this is not possible.”
The delay will see agents without access to deceased clients’ tax data for over nine months, ever since their access was halted in the move to Online services for agents on 29 November 2019.
Instead, the ATO has promised to speed up the process of its interim fix — the provision of a deceased estate data package to an executor or administrator who has received a grant of probate or letters of administration.
“We have recently reviewed our procedures around this package which should result in quicker processing,” the ATO said.
“We will continue to give this work priority. We recognise its increased importance in the face of the delay to the CRP.”
Joint submission falls short
With the threat of an extended delay looming, the joint bodies — made up of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, CPA Australia, the Institute of Public Accountants, the Tax Institute, the Corporate Tax Association, and the Law Council of Australia — had earlier called on Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar to expedite the fix.
The joint bodies endorsed the solution put forward by the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners Australia, which suggested a minor amendment to the existing legislation as a separate schedule to the JobKeeper legislation that was tabled on Wednesday.
However, the introduction of the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Bill 2020 revealed no such amendment, leaving agents with no choice but to wait for the CRP to be approved.