The ATO has launched a new concierge service to help tax practitioners with their lodgement program as it resists calls to apply a blanket deferral in the wake of COVID-19.
ATO offers lodgement deadline support
The Tax Office on Friday announced that tax practitioners still affected by the impacts of COVID-19 can now request for help through a dedicated phone line linked to the tax agent lodgement program fast key code.
“I have been so proud of the way the tax profession has stepped up to help Australians manage their taxes and assist them in accessing the government support that has been available through recent trying times,” said ATO deputy commissioner Hoa Wood.
“I also know that some agents have been doing it tough themselves, and have been struggling under the added workload. I want to assure the tax profession that the ATO is here to help agents who need some extra time to get on top of things.
“If your whole practice has been affected by issues such as ill health, the loss of a key staff member, COVID-19, or you are generally overwhelmed, we can work with you to co-design a supported lodgement program that helps get your lodgement program back on track.”
The support comes as tax practitioners continue to fall behind on lodgements after a year spent helping clients navigate through uncharted waters brought on by the pandemic.
Tony Greco, general manager of technical policy at the Institute of Public Accountants, said a blanket lodgement deferral had been requested after overwhelming feedback from practitioners.
“We’ve received a hell of a lot of feedback,” Mr Greco told Accountants Daily. “We’ve gone back to face-to-face events and that was the clear consensus around the country — that because of 2020, they are back-filing.
“Let’s face it, it is not business as usual. A lot of our members haven’t had a moment’s rest.
“We understand from our members that the case-by-case, self-assessed, automatic four-week lodgement deferral process is very time-consuming and only likely to further delay their lodgements. The ATO has advised that a concierge service for agents who find the process tedious will be on offer and are willing to discuss other options for communicating details of clients for whom they wish to seek a deferral.
“While we asked for a blanket deferral that was specifically targeted towards small practitioners, they haven’t responded, but at the same time, they’ve responded with a support program to give the stressed-out agent a means to connect to the concierge service and take advantage of whatever’s there.”
Practitioners experiencing exceptional or unforeseen circumstances can also continue to apply for agent-assessed deferrals that will provide them with an additional four weeks for annual obligations, three weeks for quarterly obligations, and two weeks for monthly obligations.
They will be available for tax returns, except large and medium entities due on 15 January, tax returns for clients with a substituted accounting period, FBT returns, monthly and quarterly activity statements, annual GST returns, and PAYG payment summary annual reports.
Agent-assessed deferrals that meet the criteria will be automatically approved by the ATO, although it may take up to 28 days for the updated due dates to be reflected in its systems.
These deferrals must be lodged no later than three business days after the lodgement due date.