Speaking at the IPA’s National Congress in Melbourne this week, ATO assistant commissioner Venetia Blackman said the Tax Office got it wrong with the development of myGov by not working closely or effectively enough with tax agents.
This resulted, for one, in many tax agents being kept out of the loop in relation to the correspondence that the ATO was sending their clients via myGov.
Ms Blackman suggested the ATO has learnt from this experience and will work closely with the professional community when it rolls out services that affect clients moving forward.
She also said the ATO is beta-testing an online system that will replicate the current tax agent portal – which, as many tax agents are aware, is prone to crashes and often down for maintenance.
One delegate pushed the ATO on this commitment, reiterating the time and productivity losses that occur when the tax agent portal is down.
“We have done quite a bit of work to try and stabilise the portal, but it is aged infrastructure. At the time it was released it was the ‘you beaut’ thing. That’s a long time ago. Unfortunately we find ourselves in a place where we haven’t maintained that platform to keep it contemporary,” Ms Blackman said in response to the delegate.
“We can keep putting Band-Aids on it … or give you a brand-new one that is capable of a whole new experience,” she said.
This new service, ATO Online, will likely be available in the first half of 2017, and has been welcomed by the IPA as a significant development for tax agents Australia-wide.
There will be no forced migration to the new service from the current tax agent portal, the IPA understands.
“This is long overdue because the portal hasn’t been stable and has been creating productivity loss for accountants,” senior tax adviser at the IPA, Tony Greco, told AccountantsDaily.
“Senior executives have now committed resources and committed timelines. Our stance is to make sure they honour that commitment,” he said.
“The transition may take longer than what people would want, but it is better to move calmly and slowly and making sure it does what people expect it to do,” he said.
Also speaking to AccountantsDaily, the IPA’s executive general manager for advocacy and technical, Vicki Stylianou, acknowledged the significant cultural shift at the ATO that has seen the development of new systems and new lines of communication.
“The new-style ATO is very much interested in talking to people and being more open and transparent. Everyone acknowledges that new developments will take time and there is still a lot of work to be done, but you get the sense that the ATO is well on its way,” she said.
Ms Stylianou also acknowledged the significance of the ATO publicly admitting they “got it wrong” with several recent tech upgrades and system releases, and welcomed the more consultative approach that executives like Ms Blackman are taking with the accounting community.