ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting updates

View a listing of ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) and its sub-groups.

  • ATO website limited life working group teleconference on 22 November 2013

    On 22 November 2013, Norman Kang of the Institute participated in a teleconference of the ATO website limited life working group.

    The ATO has provided the following summary of the topics discussed.

    Tax practitioner visit

    • Visits have been conducted with a small number of tax professionals that included both preparers and researchers from large corporate and small to medium practices. The visits confirmed that the three main areas of concern were the lack of a print friendly function, broken links and search.

    Printing friendly function

    • ATO provided a prototype to the working group for review and on the basis of their feedback a solution will be built and delivered in December.
    • This functionality will provide an icon on the content page that will allow users to print either the page they are viewing or the entire document.
    • After discussion during the visits to Tax Agents it was agreed that we would remove page breaks in the print friendly version.
    • The print friendly functionality is due to be released in late December (currently scheduled for 17 December).

    Broken links

    • ATO has resolved the root cause of this issue and have dedicated resources to correct any broken links as part of their normal website management. 
    •  ATO is running regular reports to identify and resolve broken links. Significant progress has been made on existing broken links and it is expected that the majority of broken links will be resolved by the end of December.

    Search function

    • ATO has resolved some issues with the basic search function, these are the quick code and NAT number searches.
    • ATO is concentrating on implementing further improvements to the search results. They are working with Google, the suppliers of the search function, to understand how to continue to improve the search functionality for the site.
    • Agents may also like to try using the external Google search engine and limit the site for better results. This can be done by entering: Site:ato.gov.au your search term
    • Ektron representatives are also providing advice on ways to reduce the number of duplicate search results appearing on the ato.gov.au search results page. A solution is expected early in the New Year.

    For further information on the meeting, please refer to the key messages from the meeting held 22 November 2013.

  • ATO Tax Practitioner Advisory Group meeting - ATO's approach to electronic service delivery

    On 7 November 2013, Norman Kang of the Institute participated in a teleconference of the ATO Tax Practitioner Advisory Group to discuss ATO’s approach to electronic service delivery.

    The ATO has provided the following summary of the topic discussed:

    ‘Members acknowledge the Portal is going to be hard to maintain into the future but stressed the new technology offer must at least support the current functionality available in the portal. The ATO intends to deliver at least the current functionality plus improved service offerings. As we map a solution, we must find opportunities.

    Members consider the following important:

    • The cost of software and additional ‘on costs’ eg updates and training of staff
    • Robust and affordable systems \
    • ATO having a clear understanding of the external portal experience
    • Opportunity for practitioners to co-design with software developers
    • Don’t assume everyone is heading for ‘cloud’ at the same pace
    • Some clients do not update software until it is broken
    • Individuals and small businesses are not really interested in standard business reporting
    • Reliability of software to bring the information to the right labels on the return
    • Careful and supportive implementation strategy which might include a Commissioner’s guarantee in relation to penalties.
    • Vital that tax practitioners are involved in consultation with Software Developers

    Collaboration between tax professionals and ATO will continue as we design the future of electronic services for taxpayers and tax professionals.’

  • ATO website limited life working group teleconference on 2 October 2013

    On 2 October 2013, Karen Liew of the Institute participated in a teleconference of the ATO website limited life working group which was established as a result of the discussion of ATO website issues at the meeting of the ATO Tax Practitioner Advisory Group on 6 September.

    The ATO has provided the following summary of the topics discussed.

    ATO website

    The ATO acknowledges some teething problems with the move to the new website. The ATO is listening and responding to feedback, and has dedicated resources to expedite the resolution of issues.

    The ATO will continue to work with the professional associations to identify problems with the website. At present the three key issues have been identified as being:

    • Printing and downloading documents
    • Searching the ATO Website
    • Broken links on the site.

    Under the new consultation arrangements, the limited life working group will facilitate this.

    Communicating progress

    The ATO has fixed the search function for NAT numbers and quick code (QC) searches, and is continuing to work on further improvements to search functionality.

    The A - Z index appears in the web page footer.

    The ATO confirmed that tax practitioners can provide feedback on the ATO via the website feedback form.

    The ATO will communicate the progress on known problems via the systems issues pages on www.ato.gov.au. The ATO will also provide a fortnightly update to the key associations on progress.

    ATO visits

    The ATO will shortly visit a small number of practices to observe how practitioners use the ATO website. The visits will help the ATO get the best understanding of the user experience. The working party will nominate a cross section of the profession for this purpose.

    Printer friendly function

    The ATO will provide members of the ATO website limited life working group with a prototype of the solution for the ‘printer friendly’ problems. Once members validate the design, the ATO will build the solution. Any improvements to the ‘printer friendly’ functions will be supported by a fact sheet to help practitioners get the most out of the re-design.’

  • ATO Tax Practitioner Advisory Group meeting on 6 September 2013

    On 6 September 2013, Norman Kang attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Advisory Group (ATPAG) meeting on behalf of the Institute. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following:

    • Maintain security in your practice to stop fraud – tax practitioners are encouraged to remain vigilant to identify crime which can lead to concerns not only in the tax system but for the broader financial community as well
    • ATO website - The ATO acknowledges some teething problems with the move to the new website. The ATO is listening and responding to feedback, and has dedicated resources to expedite the resolution of issues
    • Lodgment program – During the transition to the new framework, there has been an increase in income tax returns lodged on time
    • Paper activity statements and EFT refunds - The ATO is planning to stop issuing paper activity statements to clients or their representatives if the previous statement was lodged via the Electronic Lodgment Service (ELS), the Tax or BAS Agent Portals, the Business Portal, Standard Business Reporting, or the Electronic Commerce Interface
    • Tips and links

    For further information on the meeting, please refer to the key messages from the meeting held 6 September 2013. The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.

  • Meeting with ATO on 19 July 2013

    Meeting with ATO on new ATO website

    On 19 July 2013, the Institute met with the ATO to discuss the new ATO website. Below are key messages from the ATO.

    ‘The new website ato.gov.au was launched on 25 June 2013. The ATO would like to acknowledge the inconvenience that some tax practitioners are having since the launch of the new ATO website.  We are currently working through fixing the issues.

    We have grouped the feedback into key themes to explain how we are responding to feedback.

    Error Messages
    Many tax practitioners have reported they are getting error messages. In most cases a  511 or 500 error will appear instead of the appropriate content . We have now identified a fix and this was put in place on the evening 18 July 2013. 

    Broken Links
    We are aware that there are still ongoing issues with broken links on the website, we are currently working to address these problems as a matter of urgency.  This work will be ongoing, should you come across any broken links, please use the General comments about this website link.

    'What's New'
    In some instances new items that have been added to the site are not always appearing in the ‘What’s New’ feature. We are working on a fix and hope to have this resolved in the next week.

    Search
    Some searches are not finding all of the relevant information, we are currently working on a fix for this issue.

    Printer Friendly
    The printer friendly version is available under the file print option from your web browser. As part of the redesign of the site we adopted writing for the web principles so a single topic is made up of a number of pages, we are looking at a solution to group these pages together to enable a single topic print.  We recognise that this functionality is very important and we are currently working with professional associations to understand what is required and provide a fix for this issue.

    Timing
    Originally the launch of the new website was expected to be early June, however due to some last minute issues it was delayed until the end of June.  We felt the new website offered key benefits that would offer support during Tax Time.  However, we acknowledge that the timing was less than optimal for tax practitioners.  The new website will enable the ATO to expand our range of online services.

    We are currently working with professional associations to understand the issues and how to put fixes in place. We would like to thank you for your patience in launching the new website.’

  • ATO Tax Practitioner Forum meeting on 17 May 2013

    On 17 May 2013, Norman Kang attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting on behalf of the Institute. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following:

    • Federal Budget – the government will provide additional funding over four years to the ATO to improve compliance for Australian taxpayers by expanding data matching with third party information. The government will also provide additional funding over four years to the ATO to undertake compliance activity in relation to trust structures.
    • Tax Time 2013 – this tax time (from 1 July 2013) the ATO will be paying most funds electronically.
    • Tax Time 2013 – compliance and integrity – Tax practitioners are reminded to remain vigilant during the early stages of Tax Time 2013. ATO analysis of compliance trends from previous years indicates a prevalence of fraudulent claims on income tax returns in early July.
    • Security on ATO online systems – identity theft and online fraud is increasing and it is important for tax practitioners to correctly identify clients and protect access to ATO online systems.

    For further information on the meeting, please refer to the key messages from the meeting held 17 May 2013. The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.

  • ATO Tax Practitioner Forum meeting on 27 February 2013

    On 27 February 2013, Norman Kang attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting on behalf of the Institute. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following:

    • ATO review of external consultations – the ATO is undertaking a review of current consultative arrangements, to establish a more effective consultation framework.
    • Wealthy Australians – ATO will apply differentiated strategies to manage compliance of Wealthy Australians that include; issuing pre-lodgement awareness letters, conducting reviews and audits.
    • Data matching – the ATO uses data from other government agencies and third parties to assist the community to correctly report their income.
    • Business Viability Assessment Tool – on 19 December 2012, the ATO launched the business viability tool on the ATO website
    • Bulk client deletion offer – in response to positive feedback, the ATO has opened the bulk client list deletion offer. This offer will be available until 30 April 2013.
    • Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) refunds – from 1 July 2013, individual tax returns will require bank account details to be entered when lodging using the electronic lodgement service, where a refund is expected.
    • Tax Agents will receive a copy of the Guide to the Tax Agent Portal on induction. This guide can be accessed by tax agents at anytime.

    For further information on the meeting, please refer to the key messages from the meeting held 27 February 2013. The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.

  • ATO Tax Practitioner Forum meeting on 2 November 2012

    On 2 November 2012, Norman Kang attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting on behalf of the Institute. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following: 

    • Contractors and sub-contractors in the building and construction industry 
    • Pre-issue compliance strategy
    • Changes to the paper lodgement channel for individual self-preparers 
    • Penalties for false or misleading statements made to the Australian Business Register 
    • Cash economy update – ‘small business benchmarks and your clients’ letter – ATO’s recommendation to tax and BAS agents 
    • Update on the Lodgment program framework 
    • Update on TFN withholding – closely held trusts and label 64A on the trust return 
    • New look website for ato.gov.au 
    • Tax practitioner research survey results from March 2012.

    For further information on the meeting, please refer to the agenda from the meeting held 2 November 2012. The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.

  • ATO’s compliance approach for SME market

    A number of members have raised questions on the roll down of the risk differentiation framework into the SME market. This issue will be discussed in the first ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting in 2013.

    The key questions for discussion in the ATPF meeting include:

    1. Will the ATO write to tax agents and inform them of the quadrants in which their population of clients fall? For example, if a tax agent has 100 SME clients, will the tax agent be told Q1 = 4, Q2 = 13, Q3 = 23 and Q4 = 60?
    2. Can the ATO provide a list of the key indicators e.g. industry type, lodgement history etc in determining the level of risk for each taxpayer? The reason is so that the tax agent can form their own assessment of where their clients are likely to fit so that they can help prepare their clients 
    3. Will the tax agents be provided with a copy of the letter before the ATO sends the letter to their clients informing them of their rating?

    If the tax agents are fully aware of which quadrants their SME clients are in and why they are in that quadrant, then they can respond accordingly. This will create less anxiety and confusion for the tax agents and their SME clients if the tax agents are fully informed. In most cases, the SME clients contact their tax agents to deal with ATO correspondence and queries.

    It would also assist tax agents if they are informed of the quadrants in which their population of clients fall in. A list of key indicators would also be helpful for the tax agents, so that they can form their own assessment.
    Ideally, the ATO should send a copy of the letter to the tax agents first before sending it out to their clients.

    Related Link: ATO website on the risk differentiation framework for SME market

  • ATO Tax Practitioner Forum meeting on 10 August 2012

    On 10 August 2012, Norman Kang attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting on behalf of the Institute. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following:

    • ATPF tips for tax practitioners
    • GST Governance and risk management guide for small and medium enterprise
    • Retention for verification: activity statement refunds
    • Tax Time 2012
    • Telephony and electronic channel
    • ATO Dispute management plan
    • ATO’s future service delivery model
    • Electronic Lodgment Service to Standard Business Reporting
    • Lodgment Program Framework

    For further information on the meeting, please refer to the key messages from the meeting held 10 August 2012.

    The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.

  • Tax Time 2012 briefing - 4 July 2012

    On 4 July 2012, Norman Kang of the Institute participated in the Tax Time 2012 briefing teleconference. Below is a message to members from the ATO:

     

    ‘Tax Time 2012 pilot has now been completed and the ATO have moved into business as usual processing.  Tax return volumes received are as planned and processing is proceeding well.

    Call responses are within expected service levels.

     

    There have been some portal usability issues affecting access to particular client functions. The ATO have undertaken overnight fixes and believe the issue is now corrected.  If you experience any further issues with the portal let the ATO know.  You can seek support through the ATO premium service by contacting 137 286 Fast Key Code: 33.

     

    Tax Agent Tips

    The Tax Agent Portal pre-filling service helps ensure the accuracy of returns by allowing you to cross-check information, provided directly by your clients, with that held by ATO.

     

    Remember, pre-filling reports only reflect the information received by the ATO as at the date of the report.

     

    Weekly Tip: Pre-fill information can assist you in preparing income tax returns but does not replace the normal enquiry processes required in preparing tax returns.

     

    Watch out for fraudulent payment summaries
    Even though Tax Time 2012 has only just commenced the ATO has already been contacted by some tax agents who have been approached to unknowingly lodge fraudulent income tax returns on behalf of clients using false payment summaries.

     

    Tax agents should take reasonable care to identify new clients, including sighting photo identification as proof of identity. Suspect tax returns should not be lodged. Tax agents should continue to contact the Tax Evasion hotline on 1800 060 062 to report suspect behaviour.’

  • ATPF Tax Time briefing - 27 June 2012

    On 27 June 2012, Norman Kang representing the Institute participated in the Tax Time 2012 briefing teleconference. A key theme for Tax Time 2012 is ‘Working together’. For more information please refer to the key messages from this meeting.

  • ATO Tax Practitioners Forum meeting on 25 May 2012

    On 25 May 2012, Norman Kang attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting on behalf of the Institute. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following:

    • Overview on what is new for Tax Time 2012 from the ATO perspective
    • ATO direct correspondence with taxpayers
    • Update on the progress of clearing the tax returns that were held up as a result of the refund integrity check program and plans for review of individual refunds in 2012-2013 
    • Taxable payments reporting for businesses in the building and construction industry 
    • Progress of the Tax practitioner Action Plan and differentiation of registered tax agents 
    • Lodgment differentiation program 
    • Indirect tax property risks in the micro, small and medium enterprise markets 
    • GST self assessment regime 
    • Flexibility of the ATO’s debt collection approach 
    • Data matching for CGT purposes 
    • Discussion on the 2012-2013 federal Budget 
    • ATO update on the trustee resolution project.

    For further information on the meeting, please refer to the 25 May 2012 ATPF meeting agenda which contains preliminary ATO responses. The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.

  • ATO Tax Practitioner Forum meeting on 24 February 2012

    On 24 February 2012, Karen Liew of the Institute attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum meeting. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following:

    • Update on the ATO’s administration of GST refunds after the decision, Multiflex Pty Ltd v The Commissioner of Taxation [2011] FCA 789, while the exposure draft legislation, allowing the Commissioner to retain refunds for verification, is not finalised
    • Changes to the functionality of the Australian Business Register and its link to Australian Securities Investment Commission and its new national Business Names Register
    • The ATO’s Tax Practitioner Action Plan to improve its engagement with tax practitioners 
    • The ATO’s processes and statistics in relation to debt collection and issues experienced by some tax agents
    • Electronic services provided by the ATO to display superannuation fund membership
    • Refund integrity checks of 2011 tax returns, the ATO statistics on the number of returns adjusted and why the refunds were taking longer to be released
    • Update on the Lodgement program workshop feedback.

    For further information on the meeting, please contact Tax Group. The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.

  • ATO Tax Practitioner Forum on 4 November 2011

    On 4 November 2011, Norman Kang attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting on behalf of the Institute. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following:

    • GST property internet interactive tool and ATO property page
    • Tax Practitioner Research program 2011
    • Update on tax agent portal outages and system issues
    • Update on Tax Time 2011 and Tax Time 2012 tips
    • Refund integrity checks
    • Adjustments to returns following data matching exercises
    • Application of FITOs against Medicare Levy liability
    • Lodgment differentiation project
    • Registered agent risk differentiation framework.

    For further information on the meeting, please refer to 4 November 2011 ATPF meeting agenda which contains preliminary ATO responses. The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.

  • Tax time 2011 briefing - 7 September 2011

    Below is a message to members from ATO:

    The ATO advises that: 

    • The processing of current year returns and issuing of refunds continues as expected 
    • Since 1 July 2011, ATO has issued 4.5 million refunds for all year returns, totalling approximately $12 billion 
    • The latest processing figures will be available in ATO Progress Report 9 (income tax returns since 1 July 2011) which will be released on Thursday 8 September 2011

    Calls 

    • ATO service levels are being met
    • Since 1 July 2011 the ATO has answered approximately 2.5 million calls with about 230,000 coming through the Registered Agent line 
    • 94% of all registered agent calls since 1 July 2011 have been answered inside 2 minutes against ATO’s service standard of 90% and 99.9 % of these calls have been answered within 5 minutes 
    • The average wait time in recent weeks for registered agent calls has been less than 30 seconds 
    • The maximum wait time last week was 14 minutes for one caller

    Of concern

    • The ATO continues to identify returns containing potentially fraudulent or over-stated claims and has now stopped 70,000 returns since 1 July 2011 
    • 56,000 remain on hand and are at different stages of review 
    • ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) member feedback has been considered as part of a review of correspondence and procedures used by the ATO in addressing these returns taken off line for as much as 12 weeks 
    • A bulk mail out to 4,000 tax agent clients will commence on Thursday 8 September. With a maximum of 15 letters per agent, approximately 1,800 registered tax agents will be involved. 
    • A dedicated phone number resourced by Micro Enterprises and Individuals client contact staff will receive follow-up calls 
    • A similar number of reviews are expected to then issue on a weekly basis - with numbers increasing as capacity allows 
    • A draft of the letter that will be used was provided to members of the ATPF on Friday 2 September. Feedback from the members has been incorporated into the letter. 
    • Agents who have had 50 returns or more stopped have been assigned to a compliance manager and will receive a visit. This represents 91 agents 
    • 36 tax agents have already been contacted and the ATO has discussed the return integrity risks for their practice. This includes field visits and phone calls to agents who have had recent interaction with a compliance manager 
    • Contacts with registered tax agents to date have received a positive response, with tax agents appreciating an explanation of the return integrity timetable and processes.

    Future

    Members were thanked for the continuing contribution and support through the series of regular tax time phone hook-ups.

    Members agreed due to the success of Tax Time 2011 that the regular ATPF phone hook-up meetings are no longer necessary, although the group can be reconvened if an issue arises that requires further discussion. A detailed briefing on Tax Time will be provided at the next full ATPF meeting scheduled for 4 November.

  • Tax time 2011 briefing – 24 August 2011

    Below is a message to members from the ATO:

    The ATO advises that:

    • The processing of current year returns and issuing of refunds continues as expected
    • The latest processing figures will be available in ATO Progress Report 8 (income tax returns since 1 July 2011) which will be released on Thursday 25 August 2011.

    Calls

    •  ATO service levels are being met.

    Of concern

    • The ATO is continuing to identify returns containing potentially fraudulent or over-stated claims
    • In response to concerns raised by members of the ATPF and agents, the ATO is reviewing processes for managing these returns. Under the changes discussed with members of the ATPF;
      • The letter advising a review is commencing will be issued to the postal address of the taxpayers, not the residential address
      • The letter will advise of the reason for the review and the required substantiation
      • Calls from agents in receipt of such letters will be directed to compliance officers better able to address agent concerns
      • Refinements to the letters are also being considered.
    • The ATO will be visiting tax agents with higher numbers of returns identified for review.
  • ATO Tax Practitioner Forum on 5 August 2011

    On 5 August 2011, Norman Kang attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting on behalf of the Institute. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following:

    • Recent letter to tax agents regarding unpaid present entitlements (UPEs) – discussion centred around the rationale for sending such a letter 
    • Update on the progress of TFN withholding for the closely held trusts project 
    • Concerns about direct contacts with clients of tax agents – where a registered tax practitioner is nominated by a taxpayer as the authorised contact, the agent will be contacted first. On occasions the ATO will write to clients of agents directly but will also write to the registered agent 
    • Update on the ATO’s debt collection practices 
    • Continued difficulties with the revised proof of identity (POI) requirements – ATO has received a number of other suggestions for alternative POI elements which they will continue to explore 
    • Recent ‘failure to lodge (FTL) on time penalty warning letter’ issued in relation to 5 June lodgment concession period 
    • Update on the ATO’s cash economy program for 2011 – 2012 including ATO’s differentiated tax practitioner approach

    For further information on the meeting, please refer to the 5 August ATPF meeting agenda which contains preliminary ATO responses. The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.

  • Tax time 2011 briefing – 10 August 2011

    Below is a message to members from the ATO:

    The ATO advises that:

    • The processing of current year returns is progressing well and refunds are issuing as expected
    • The volume of income tax returns lodged since 1 July is on par with last year
    • The latest processing figures will be available in ATO Progress Report 6 (income tax returns since 1 July 2011) which will be released on Thursday 11 July 2011.

    Calls

    • ATO service levels remain in the mid 90% range
    • Approx 1.6 million calls have been handled since 1 July 2011.

    Of concern

    The ATO continues to identify returns containing potentially fraudulent or over-stated claims. The main items attracting attention continue to be false payment summaries and questionable claims for spouse offsets and the education tax refund (ETR).

    Concerns with the time advised to review returns

    ATO's use of risk models helps them to detect overstated or fraudulent claims for refunds.

    Since 1 July 2011, they have stopped over 49,000 returns with total refunds claimed of around $190 million that are believed to include overstated claims or be potentially fraudulent. Of these nearly 22,000 returns have been prepared and lodged by registered tax agents (total refunds claimed $98 million).

    Each return stopped has been identified as containing some information that requires verification prior to issuing a notice of assessment. As data supplied by other parties continues to become available (such as payment summaries from employers) we regularly re-examine these returns and to date have released some 5,600 returns where they have been able to verify the information contained in the return that we were unable to do at the time of lodgment.

    For those returns where this type of verification is not possible the ATO is issuing review letters to taxpayers or their tax agents asking them to provide supporting documentation of their claims and where appropriate a satisfactory explanation as to how their claims relate to their income earning activities.

    To date some 12,000 reviews have commenced or are currently with compliance officers with the review letters about to issue. Given the increased numbers of refunds that have been stopped so far this year compared to last year we are developing strategies to vastly increase this number in the coming weeks, focussing on those returns where tax agents may have the documentation and explanations to verify claims. The ATO expects to commence reviewing the remaining taxpayers within the 12 weeks from lodgment timeframe previously advised.

    Upon receipt of our review letter it would be appreciated if responses and documentation were provided in a timely manner to assist the ATO in reviewing claims. The ATO will continue to update Professional Associations on the progress of our strategies.

  • Tax time 2011 briefing – 4 August 2011

    Below is a message to members from the ATO:

    The ATO advises that:

    • The processing of current year returns continues normally and refunds are issuing as expected
    • ATO is currently tracking to have the highest service standard for the month of July over the past 4 years 
    • For the week up to 3 August, the ATO has issued 585,000 current year refunds with a value over $1.4 billion.

    Calls

    •  ATO service levels remain in the mid 90% range
    • Processing up to 80,000 calls a day at peak periods.

    Of concern

    The ATO encourages agents to remain vigilant about the potential for fraudulent or over-stated claims based on false payment summaries and questionable claims for spouse offsets. Some of these returns are being lodged by agents through ELS.

    ATO system access

    Previously reported intermittent issues with system access, including the portal, have been resolved. Any ongoing access issues should be reported to the ATO’s helpdesk on ph 1300 139 373.

  • Tax time 2011 briefing - 28 July 2011

    Below is a message to members from the ATO:

    The ATO advises that:

    • The processing of current year returns is proceeding normally and refunds are issuing as expected 
    • Service standards are being met for both processing and answering phone calls 
    • As at close of business on 26 July, the ATO has issued current year refunds with a value over $2 billion.

    Of concern

    Reiterating the message from previous weeks, the ATO continues to have concerns about the number of returns lodged that appear to contain potentially over-stated claims for credits, or fraudulent claims. Of particular concern are false payment summaries and questionable claims for spouse offsets. Some of these returns are being lodged by agents through ELS. The ATO encourages agents to be especially vigilant about these claims.

    ATO system access

    The ATO notes there have been some intermittent issues with system access, including the portal. It is recommended that an agent experiencing an issue firstly tries a further log-in attempt. Ongoing issues should be reported to the ATO’s helpdesk on ph1300 139 373.

  • Tax time 2011 briefing - 21 July 2011

    Below is a message to members from the ATO:

    Tax Time 2011

    Processing

    The ATO advises that:

    • The processing of current year returns is proceeding normally and refunds are issuing as expected 
    • Service standards are being met for both processing and answering phone calls
    • As at close of business on 20 July, over 400,000 current year refunds have issued with a value of over $1 billion
    • Refunds for a further $511 million are expected to issue over the next two days for both current and prior year returns.

    Of concern

    • The ATO is seeing no significant reduction in the volume or types of errors in agent-lodged returns.  The most common errors relate to year of birth, sex code and surnames.  Currently 22% of agent-lodged returns contain simple errors. Members should refer to Tips for Tax Time 2011
    • Reiterating the message to members on 14 July 2011, the ATO continues to have concerns about the number of returns lodged that appear to contain potentially over-stated claims for credits, or fraudulent claims. Of particular concern are false payment summaries and questionable claims for spouse offsets. Some of these returns are being lodged by agents through ELS. The ATO encourages agents to be especially vigilant about these claims.

    Tip: to help gauge the authenticity of a payment summary, compare the amount of tax deducted to reported salary and wages, and check it against pre-filled reports for both 2011 and 2010 payment summary information which remains available for download.

    Calls

    • ATO call volumes are increasing with approximately 650,000 calls to 20 July
    • ATO service levels remain in the 90% range
    • Current high levels of performance may decrease slightly given higher volume of calls expected next week, but still within service standards.

    ATO system access

    • The ATO is investigating and addressing some intermittent issues with accessing ATO systems that require authentication of the user including the portal.
  • Tax time 2011 briefing - 14 July 2011

    Below is a message to members from the ATO:

    Tax Time 2011

    Processing

    The ATO advises that:

    • The processing of current year returns is proceeding normally and volumes are starting to increase 
    • Refunds have been issuing as expected and are also starting to increase 
    • Approximately 100,000 refunds will issue Thursday 14 July - the EFT refunds will be in taxpayer’s bank accounts on 14 July but cheques will of course take a few extra days

    Of concern

    The ATO has concerns about the number of returns lodged that appear to contain potentially over-stated claims for credits, or fraudulent claims. Of particular concern are false payment summaries and questionable claims for spouse offsets. Some of these returns are being lodged by agents through ELS. The ATO discussed with members how agents might be encouraged to be especially vigilant about these items.

    Tip: to help gauge the authenticity of a payment summary, compare the amount of tax deducted to reported salary and wages, and check it against pre-filled reports for both 2011 and 2010 payment summary information which remains available for download.

    Calls

    • ATO call volumes are above those for the same period last year. 
    • ATO service levels remain in the mid 90% range

    ATO system access

    • There have been intermittent issues with accessing ATO systems that require authentication of the user 
    • The issue is in the part of the system that protects the ATO from malicious attacks 
    • The cause has been isolated and a solution is being tested
  • Tax time 2011 briefing – 7 July 2011

    Below is a message to members from the ATO:

    Tax Time 2011

    Processing

    • The ATO has concluded the Production Pilot as planned on 05 July 2011 
    • ATO moved to normal processing of 2011 forms on 06 July 2011 
    • Processing of any 2011 forms held since 27 June and up to 05 July, and forms received daily from 06 July, will follow normal processing cycles.

    Overall, the deployment of the Tax Time changes and the production pilot has gone well. This year, due to a misunderstanding, 2010 forms (and earlier years) were held incorrectly, which meant that normal processing for these forms resumed on Tuesday 28 June 2011 – a two day delay.

    Calls

    • ATO service levels are in the mid 90% range and agent call waiting times are 30 seconds on average.

    Communication

    Useful links are attached including the first online update. Note: Latest processing figures are also available on the ATO website. 

    Lodgment Program

    • As is the case each year, concessional lodgment dates will be progressively applied over the coming weeks and the process will be completed by the end of July.

    Member Feedback and Questions

    Education Tax Refund (ETR) processing was clarified. A communique will be prepared providing greater clarity to agents about the treatment and processing of ETR claims.

    Questions taken on notice: 

    • Client update (CU) forms - question arose about the system's ability to process Client Update forms 
    • 'What's new' on ATO website - delays experienced in receiving notification of updated web content.
  • Tax time 2011 briefing on 23 June 2011

    Below is a message to members from the ATO:

    Tax Time 2011 is on track with the following critical dates identified:

    • All testing is now completed and deployment of system changes will occur over the weekend of  25/26 June 2011 
    • The production pilot is scheduled to end Tuesday 5 July 2011
    • Processing will start on Wednesday 6 July 2011 
    • EFT refunds should start to appear from 14 July 2011.

    Preparation and training is well underway for call centre staff.

    Please note: 

    • A 2011 return lodged before 6 July 2011 will not be visible on the portal before that time
    • That 2010 and prior year returns can continue to be lodged and processed from Monday 27 June 2011
    • It is not anticipated that any returns will be held in the processing safety net after 5 July compared to 2010 
    • Avoiding common errors improves the likelihood that a return will be processed within service standard
    • Online updates clearly showing ATO processing performance will be published weekly from July to the end of October.
  • ATO Tax Practitioner Forum meeting on 20 May 2011

    On 20 May 2011, Norman Kang attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting on behalf of the Institute. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following:

    • ATO key intermediary engagement strategy - The aim of this strategy is to strengthen internal control and governance processes within a group of identified Key Intermediary entities (including accounting firms) in order to enhance their awareness and management of promoter penalty and controversial tax planning risks (to deter higher risk conduct), better detect and deal with higher risk conduct and provide more timely warnings of schemes
    • Eligibility for education tax refund - Concerns have been raised that the ATO is issuing discrepancy letters to taxpayers in relation to Education Tax Refund claims where they may have been entitled to Family Tax Benefit Part A but have not made a claim from Centrelink
    • Updates on legislative changes and impacts on tax returns for 2011
    • The ATO has been listening to the feedback received from tax practitioners and the community around the use of small business benchmarks and the procedures followed by ATO compliance officers. The ATO would like to assure tax practitioners that feedback is valued and from that feedback, processes have been adjusted when needed
    • Temporary flood and reconstruction levy
    • Incapacitated entities and ABNs
    • Update on changes to the Proof of Identity procedures for tax agents.

    Members can contact the Tax Group for further information in respect of the above. The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.

  • ATO Tax Practitioner Forum meeting on 25 February 2011

    On 25 February 2011, Norman Kang attended the ATO Tax Practitioner Forum (ATPF) meeting on behalf of the Institute. The key issues discussed in the meeting included the following:

    • The cash economy’s 2010-2011 letter campaign and the use of small business benchmarks
    • Assistance for tax agents and taxpayers affected by the floods
    • Amendments to selected income tax returns following the decision of Commissioner of Taxation v Anstis [2010] HCA 40
    • The ATO’s compliance strategy on the government’s economic stimulus plan
    • An update on administrative arrangements to reduce compliance costs for employers who have employees who work overseas for very short periods in an income year
    • An update on the risk differentiation framework and how it will work for taxpayers in the large business market with respect to GST generally.

    Members can contact the Tax Group for further information in respect of the above. The formal minutes of the meeting will be published on the ATO website in due course.