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Spike in self-lodgers as ATO portals fury continues


The ATO has released tax time figures indicating a spike in the number of Australians lodging their own tax returns, and its claims that over 90 per cent of calls from tax agents are answered in two minutes have been met with fury. 

By Katarina Taurian 9 minute read

As of yesterday, almost 1.7 million Australians lodged their own tax return through MyTax. This time last year, that figure stood at 1.4 million.

So far this year, the number of returns lodged by tax agents is up by 72,000.

Approximately 4.2 million returns have been lodged as of yesterday, compared to 3.8 million this time last year.

The ATO has also issued about 3 million refunds, worth approximately $6.8 billion.

Most returns were issued within 12 days, which is the ATO’s “service standard”. Last year, the ATO said it was issuing returns on average within seven days.

Commissioner Chris Jordan said 92 per cent of tax agent calls are answered within two minutes. Over 1.2 million calls have been received so far this financial year from individuals and tax agents.

Tax agents that Accountants Daily contacted yesterday agreed that their calls are typically answered within two minutes. However, this is not necessarily indicative of a high service standard, and does not always result in a fast resolution.

Speaking to Accountants Daily, director at boutique firm Freeman and Co, Gail Freeman, said the calls often take up to 30 minutes, which can often include being put on hold several times.

“Many of the staff do not understand the issue and whenever they go to look something up they say ‘I’ll put you on hold for two to five minutes.’ This can happen two or three times during one call,” she said.

Mr Jordan also defended the ATO’s digital stability so far this tax time,

“After the systems issues we experienced in December last year and in February this year, we knew we had a lot of work to do to restore community confidence,” Mr Jordan said.

“Our people worked around the clock to ensure our systems were ready to cope with the surge of returns from 1 July – and the hard work has paid off,” he said.

However, in early July, the ATO experienced some unplanned downtime to its portals, myTax, and other online services. There have been other interruptions since also.

“Whilst we welcome the strong lodgement figures to date, most tax agents won’t quite recognise the rosy picture that the Commissioner paints. In particular, we continue to have reservations about the stability of ATO systems following the total outage that followed the Commissioner’s Press Club speech, and minor and intermittent issues with the tax agent portal and PLS lodgement channel in the weeks since,” H&R Block’s director of tax communications, Mark Chapman, told Accountants Daily.

“Such outages negatively impact the ability of tax agents to service clients and cast a particularly poor light on the Commissioner’s decision to give myTax another burst of free marketing in this release,” Mr Chapman said. 

**Correction*** This piece originally said the number of returns lodged by tax agents to August 9 was 72,000. The ATO has clarified that in fact, it was up by 72,000 compared to last year. 




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Katarina Taurian


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