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ATO works hard to fix ‘flaw’ in client linking system


Inadvertent disconnection of a BAS agent will become a source of frustration and inconvenience under the revised procedure, bookkeepers say.

By Philip King 10 minute read

The ATO is working hard to fix a problem with its revised online client linking system that means tax practitioners can inadvertently disconnect a BAS agent engaged by the same client.

The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers said the problem, a carry-over from the current system, was already creating angst among its members because reconnection under the new system involved significant inconvenience for themselves and the client.

From 13 November when the revised system becomes mandatory, a taxpayer will need to go back through the process to bring their BAS agent back on board.

ICB chief executive Amanda Linton said a disconnected bookkeeper would need the client to reauthorise them online, causing frustration for both if the process had just been completed or they were up against a deadline.

“It then creates this cyclical issue where the agent goes online to lodge at the last-minute deadline – which happens more often than not – and then all of a sudden they find out they don’t have authority to do it,” she said.

“So they have to go back to the client to get reauthorised again.”

“It’s time out of a client’s business and has the potential for making it impossible for the bookkeeper to meet the deadline for lodgements.”

The ATO said the facility allowed a taxpayer to choose one agent to do all their work or two separate agents.

“At the time a tax agent links they are presented with a list of the agents already linked to the taxpayer,” an ATO spokesperson said. “They can check a box which removes the existing BAS agent link.”

“Unfortunately, some tax agents check the box when they should not and remove the BAS agent without the client’s permission.

“Whereas the BAS agent currently re-establishes the link without any additional authorisation, under the client agent linking solution the taxpayer will need to re-authorise the BAS agent before they can re-establish the link.”

Ms Linton said the ATO had missed a chance to fix the flaw with an explanatory line or pop-up on the website, and bookkeepers could be left unaware that they had been disconnected.

“I’m not suggesting for one moment that anyone does this on purpose. But when they disengage the agent how are we going to be notified that we’ve been disengaged? At the moment that’s not clear.”

“It’s a fundamental flaw inside the design of the agent linking system but the ATO seem convinced that they’ve got the design right.”

She said in-principle ICB support for the program was also being tempered by concerns that businesses would be left in the dark about the changes and some would baulk at the technical hurdles.

“The challenge with a lot of small businesses who are not particularly digitally engaged is their ability to register on Online Services for Business. For some of them, it’s a little bit beyond their tech capabilities.”

“Unfortunately, a lot of small business owners in particular are just very happy to say, ‘I’ve given you authority, I’ve signed a form, go and do your thing.’ But now having to go through this additional process I think it’s going to come under some scrutiny from the business community as well.”

The ATO said in addition to extra education for tax agents about correct linking practices, “we are currently assessing potential solutions to reduce the incidence of tax agents delinking BAS agents”.

“This is one of the practical issues that we are working hard to fix.”


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Philip King

Philip King


Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

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