ATO assistant commissioner Colin Walker said the agency will release the first phase of its communication preferences functionality, termed ‘preferencing’, in June, as it looks to introduce a fix for ATO communication being sent to a client’s myGov inbox by default.
Tax and BAS agent visibility over correspondence sent to clients has been a sore point for the profession. The ATO admitted in late 2016 it didn’t work closely enough with accountants before rolling out myGov, and has been assuring a fix since then.
“When the ATO signed onto myGov, we signed on to a whole of government solution but the issue is that if your clients, being individuals, happened to sign in [to myGov] and link to the ATO, you ended up with an electronic mailbox and that was the default, which means if your client comes to you and you do a tax return, the notice of assessment will go to the myGov inbox,” said Mr Walker at a Sage event in Sydney.
“We understood very early on that was a problem because agents lost visibility so we created the client communication list but ultimately the problem is it still doesn’t return to the agent being the place where we send the notification.
“What we are developing is a complex product; preferencing is the ultimate solution to it. What that will mean is for those individual clients, the myGov inbox issue will go away. Essentially you will have the opportunity to work with your clients and decide what comes to you and what goes to the clients directly, both will still have visibility.”
The Tax Office will be delivering the new functionality over three phases, the first phase targeting individual clients, the second for business clients, and the third aimed towards removing all paper communication.
It is understood that the ATO has scoped out between 18 to 24 months for the project.
“It is a very firm priority for us,” said Mr Walker.
“We will sort out the myGov part around certain classes or categories of communication but our biggest problem is there are about 4,000 different types of letters that we issue so you have to classify them, for example, assessments related to income tax or debt letters.”
This forms part of the ATO’s broader digital transformation of tax agent services, which you can read more about here.