The Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman will begin investigating the ATO’s JobKeeper termination letters as complaints around COVID-19 stimulus payments continue to flood in.
The Inspector-General of Taxation (IGTO), Karen Payne, will now examine communication sent out by the ATO to as many as 8,000 businesses warning them that they may be ineligible for the JobKeeper payment and that they could be required to repay amount they had already received.
“There has been a lot of media around the 8,000 letters that have been sent out saying you might have to refund this money,” Ms Payne told Accountants Daily.
“We’re really interested to have a look at that template letter and we might pick this up in our review of Tax Office communications because the Tax Office is going back to taxpayers saying you may need to pay this money back, but are they giving people a good steer on where do you go when you need to clarify something, where do you go when you want to challenge the position, where do you go if you want to get a review?
“I think this is an important feature of the tax administration — for people to feel like the system is operating fairly and they are given clear direction on where they can go to get help.”
Ms Payne’s comments come as her office revealed that COVID-19-related tax complaints have now overtaken debt collection complaints as the most common complaint it receives — the first time it has happened since the IGTO took over the complaints handling function from the Commonwealth Ombudsman in 2015.
As of last week, the IGTO has received 202 complaints, raising about 260 issues relating to COVID-19 stimulus payments.
Ms Payne said 33 per cent of the issues are related to JobKeeper, 22 per cent related to the cash-flow boost, 25 per cent related to the early release of superannuation, and the remaining 20 per cent related to other COVID-19 issues.
She has now called on tax agents to come forward and raise issues with her office, vowing to investigate complaints where needed.
“I would encourage them [to come forward] if they feel like they are not making progress on a particular issue, if they are not getting a ruling outcome as quickly as they can, or they are just not satisfied the way in which the process of the tax administration is working for their particular client,” Ms Payne said.
“Know that we are a free service and we have pretty powerful access rights to go and investigate on behalf of taxpayers if they have got a complaint about the tax administration service, and recognise that if [agents] need our help, we’re here for them as much as we are here for taxpayers who are unrepresented.”
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.
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