The 11th-hour letter to the ATO has called on the commissioner to grant a deferral of the lodgement date for all 2018–19 income tax returns for individuals, companies, partnerships and trusts from 5 June 2020 to 30 June 2020.
The letter — co-signed by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, CPA Australia, the Institute of Public Accountants, the National Tax and Accountants’ Association, Tax & Super Australia and the Tax Institute — comes after the ATO granted a short lodgement extension to 5 June following pressure from the joint bodies in early April.
The 5 June deadline has been largely dismissed as insufficient, with the commissioner now told of the COVID-19 toll on the profession and how it has left practitioners stressed and anxious about lodgement requirements, including some who will not be able to meet them for the first time ever.
“Our members are telling us throughout the duration of the crisis, and in particular over the last three to four weeks, that they have been inundated with pressing requirements to assist their clients access the variety of stimulus package measures, including the cash-flow boost and JobKeeper schemes,” said the joint letter.
“As a result of this priority focus, they have had very limited capacity to attend to their clients’ routine tax obligations.
“Compliance with the stimulus package measures is an obvious priority given the short time frames in which taxpayers have had to determine if they are eligible to access these measures.”
The commissioner has also been told that a case-by-case approach to lodgement deferral requests, in some cases taking up to 28 days to process, is “prohibitively time-consuming” for practitioners, and adds to the ATO’s workload.
Should the commissioner not be able to grant blanket deferrals, the professional bodies have requested for targeted deferrals for those most heavily impacted by the stimulus package measures.
These targeted deferrals could apply to smaller practices with a substantial business client base; a significant proportion of their client base claiming JobKeeper and/or receiving cash-flow boost payments; good lodgement program performance history; or a substantial progress in their 2018–19 lodgement program.
The ATO has also been called to reiterate its position on the 85 per cent lodgement program performance requirement, including how practitioners will not be adversely affected if they fail to meet the benchmark.
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.