Last month, Accountants Daily revealed that the ATO would no longer provide regular lodgement statistics updates, much to the dismay of the Tax Practitioners Stewardship Group, with one member labelling it as a “clear breach of the duty of transparency that the ATO owes to the tax practitioner community”.
The ATO has now reversed that decision, noting that it will provide fortnightly updates on lodgement statistics, including comprehensive data at the end of tax time which includes myTax and agent lodgement statistics, movement between the different lodgement types, and movement between tax agents.
It has also now revealed that of the 3.9 million individual tax returns lodged by 31 July, 62 per cent of returns were lodged by self-preparers, with tax agents accounting for 1.5 million returns.
An ATO spokesperson told Accountants Daily that myTax lodgements typically occurred at a higher rate earlier into tax time, and should not be interpreted as a wholesale departure of tax agent use into the self-lodgement channel.
However, recent lodgement figures show that reliance on tax agents continues to drop, with 66 per cent of individuals using a tax agent to lodge in 2019–2020, a decline from 74.2 per cent in 2013–14.
“In line with the extended time provided to tax agent lodgements, recent years’ data show that myTax lodgements occur at a higher rate early in tax time compared with agent lodgements which are typically finalised much later,” an ATO spokesperson said.
“We know our data on those returns helps support decision-making in various sectors, particularly tax agents. It is important for any consideration of that data to be in the appropriate timescale and with appropriate context.
“The ATO is committed to supporting taxpayers meet their obligations either through the use of myTax or an agent when lodging their returns.”
H&R Block director of tax communications Mark Chapman welcomed the ATO’s decision to resume the sharing of lodgement statistics, noting that it was important for the profession to have a clear line of sight to monitor market changes.
“It’s great that we’ve got them and we’re going to get them every fortnight to keep track of how lodgements are going not just during tax time but for the remainder of the financial year,” Mr Chapman said.
“We could have done that from the beginning of July and obviously the ATO would have their take on it, and that’s fine, but that’s not a reason to withhold the statistics from us; we’re all able to look at statistics and interpret them.
“I think it shows what we expected it to show, which is that there has been an increase in myTax lodgements and a bit of a decrease in agent lodgements. Hopefully, we’ll see that gap close as we go further into tax season and time will tell.”
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.