The ATO was in the news again recently because of a serious flaw in their software which left the records of taxpayers at risk. In this instance, multiple users of the same computer or device were able to retrieve the information of the person who had previously been logged in to MyGov.
You can read about it here:
The ATO’s response later that same day.
This came not long after the ATO was heavily criticised because of difficulty that taxpayers had when trying to lodge their tax returns. That was the beginning of July, when people were trying to lodge their tax returns for the year just completed, and it prompted a response from some accounting bodies about what it is like to have to deal with the ATO Tax Agent portal every day. I’d be very surprised if there is a tax agent anywhere in Australia who isn’t frustrated by the “perennial issues” of the ATO’s websites.
The fact is that, as we enter 2016, it is a requirement for taxpayers, not just tax agents, to have such accessibility to the ATO. For many Australians it is very useful to be able to submit their tax returns themselves, and many of those tax returns could probably be done without the taxpayer getting involved. Often, the ATO has the information required – salary and wages, interest income, dividend income and private health insurance details – before you do. This is due to technological improvements allowing better reporting to be made by those parties to the ATO.
The aim is that it can lead to tax returns for simple taxpayers being prepared by the ATO and sent to them for approval. The benefit of this is that it will cut out the cost of compliance for those taxpayers. As for the cost, well, that depends on any given taxpayer’s willingness to rely on the ATO. The more complex your affairs are, the more likely you are to require a tax agent to act as your advocate.
It is widely acknowledged that Australia’s tax law is complex. That means that modernisation will be difficult to achieve and issues that the ATO and tax agents are experiencing are likely to continue.
It also means that taxpayers with any degree of difficulty to their affairs would almost always be best off engaging an accountant to ensure that their tax affairs are handled correctly.
If you would like to discuss the handling of your tax affairs, dealing with the ATO and whether you need a tax agent please contact us at Optima Partners. We’d be happy to talk about it with you, and the ATO Tax Agent Portal is probably down so we are probably available to help.
SNR ACCOUNTANT – OPTIMA PARTNERS
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