Tax and BAS agents will now be able to request ATO assessed lodgement deferrals for up to five clients over the phone through the ATO’s 1 3 2 fast key code.
The concession will provide a deferral of up to 14 days for monthly obligations, 21 days for quarterly obligations, and 28 days for annual obligations.
Agents with large-business clients, or clients who are large withholders, will not be able to access the phone service, and have instead been urged to contact the large-business support team to discuss their circumstances.
The new phone service comes as the Tax Office looks to offer support to practitioners in a year marked by lockdown restrictions, support grant applications, and a corresponding increase in workloads.
Similar phone support was introduced in May for tax agents who were struggling with lodgement deadlines.
The latest deferral support, however, has failed to impress practitioners, who remain perplexed by the arbitrary five-client figure.
Tony Greco, general manager of technical policy at the Institute of Public Accountants, has urged struggling practitioners to reach out to the ATO for personalised support, noting that the new phone service is merely a short-term measure.
“Once again, the profession has had to drop tools to undertake incremental work which divert resources from compliance work which gets pushed aside to deal with more time critical tasks such as helping clients access a myriad of state base support on offer,” said Mr Greco.
“Whilst the offer of only providing deferrals for only five clients might sound like a small concession, it is a stop gap measure to help relieve some pressure.
“If tax practitioners need more help with deferrals, there are many more options including the tailored concierge service. Again, it is up to the practitioner to come forward as the ATO cannot second guess which agents need the extra help.”
ATO Deputy Commissioner Hoa Wood has also reminded practitioners of the range of deferrals available to them, as well as other support measures to ensure their lodgement program remains on track.
“We understand that COVID-19 continues to put pressure on you, your practice and your clients. Personalised support is available to all tax professionals whenever you need it,” said Ms Wood in an open letter to the tax profession last month.
“Our supported lodgement program is available for when you have been affected by issues such as ill-health, the loss of a key staff member, COVID-19, or if you are generally overwhelmed.
“With your help, we can co-design a lodgement plan to help get your lodgement program back on track for your entire practice.”
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.