Tax Office Acknowledges Shifting to Digital Interactions Has Had its Glitches

The Australian Tax Office’s (ATO’s) shift towards increasing online digital interactions coupled with ongoing ATO Portal performance problems have resulted in lost productivity for smaller accounting firms and caused ongoing upset and frustration within the business and finance community which the ATO have been slow to address until now.

At the meeting of the Australian Tax Practitioner Advisory Group held 21 August, the ATO acknowledged these frustrations and affirmed its commitment to consulting more closely with the tax agent community in addressing their concerns, as well as helping accountants become accustomed with the changes by working alongside them.

“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 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,” affirmed the ATO.

A Step in the Right Direction

Andrew Conway, CEO of Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), welcomes the announcement.

“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. 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”, said Mr Conway.

How has the Digital Changes Affected Tax Agents?

The major problems encountered by tax agents caused by the switch to digital:

“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.

BAS statements transitioning to digital delivery and the ATO portal’s Client Correspondence List are 2 moves which have caused much of the stress for tax agents.

Stuart Norman, Association for Accounting Technicians Chief Executive says BAS and portal issues happen "all the time". Describing them a "hindrance" and a source of "major frustration" all year round for the Accounting Association’s members.

“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”, explained Mr Conway.

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