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ATO complaints going nowhere: Tax watchdog probes discrepancy

Tax

Close to nine out of 10 online complaints made to the tax watchdog had not been recognised by the ATO as a complaint despite taxpayers insisting that they had escalated the issue previously.

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Inspector-General of Taxation Karen Payne has revealed that her office received 903 complaints over the last financial year where the ATO said it had no record of such complaints being raised with them.

However, 86 per cent of online complainants indicated that they had already made the issue known to the ATO before coming to the IGT.

“This is a real disconnect that I think we can somehow improve on and improve the experience for all tax practitioners and taxpayers because, as you can imagine, there is a level of frustration that can build up in a system where people feel like they are escalating and raising their complaint when, in fact, no one is treating it as a complaint or processing it as a complaint,” Ms Payne said at the Accountants Daily Strategy Week.

“In some respects, we are the agency that people come to as a matter of last resort, we are their last hope to try and get something resolved.

“We see a lot of people coming to us with frustration, anger, and just exhaustion because they’ve been trying to get their problem solved and they are coming to us as the last resort.”

The IGT has since commenced an investigation into how effectively the ATO communicates information to taxpayers and tax practitioners on their rights to review, complain about and appeal Tax Office decisions.

“Part of what I’d really like to achieve over the next 12 months and during my term as Inspector-General is to make sure we can basically improve how efficiently people get their problems solved,” Ms Payne added.

A shift in complaints

Complaints around COVID-19 stimulus measures continue to dominate matters being brought to the IGT’s attention, the first time that debt collection complaints have been knocked off its perch since 2015.

Over 400 complaints raising 512 issues around the stimulus measures have since been made to the IGT, with JobKeeper complaints accounting for the vast majority at 39 per cent.

Early release of super complaints made up 27 per cent, while 21 per cent of complaints were related to the cash-flow boost.

Ms Payne noted that eligibility concerns remain high on the list of issues, including concerns from new businesses and start-ups who have been locked out from accessing JobKeeper and the cash-flow boost.

“One of the key issues we are seeing is around the eligibility criteria — am I eligible, am I a business that meets the criteria to be eligible — and we have a number of those investigations in progress,” she said.

“The eligibility aspect seems to be a cause of concern for a lot of taxpayers and small businesses, and in particular new businesses.”

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Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian

AUTHOR

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.

You can email Jotham at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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