The tax office has acknowledged that its push towards more digital interactions, combined with existing ATO Portal issues, has added to tax agent frustration and led to lost productivity for many small tax practitioners.
ATO acknowledges tax agents' frustration
The ATO made the acknowledgements at the 21 August meeting of the Australian Tax Practitioner Advisory Group, but said it is committed to working with tax agents to, where possible, alleviate frustrations.
“Where the ATO is looking to develop technology or administrative changes, we will co-design and consult with a range of tax practices to build systems that consider and accommodate the current practice management procedures,” the tax office said.
“The aim will be to ensure that the changes do not add additional tasks that practitioners will need to accommodate outside of their normal processes, but rather will operate within the normal processes,” concluded the ATO.
Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) chief executive officer, Andrew Conway applauded the ATO's acknowledgement of tax agent frustration and welcomed its commitment to address the issues in a consultative manner with the tax agent community.
“The ATO has acknowledged that the portal is far from best practice and is currently working on a long-term solution through the migration to a new, more functional platform,” he said.
“On the back of this, we look forward to the ATO’s commitment to co-design with better consultation to build systems that consider and accommodate current practice management procedures.”
Mr Conway said that while the IPA supports the better use of technology, it is concerned by the fact the ATO’s push for more digital interactions is coming at the expense of tax agent practices.
“Our members have highlighted to us on many occasions that they have suffered productivity loss, missed deadlines, and incurred irrecoverable costs as well as damage to their reputations and relationships with their clients,” he said.
Mr Conway concluded: “Transitioning to a digital delivery for BAS statements and the use of the Client Correspondence List on the portal are two recent examples causing frustration and which are having a detrimental impact on the relationship between tax agents and the ATO.
“The ATO portal, which is an essential tool of trade for practitioners and agents, has been a constant point of frustration due to the portal’s instability and unreliability. More digital interactions are putting even more reliance on the sub-standard portal."