Accountants strike back

ACCOUNTANTS are said to be “reasonably happy” with the Australian Tax Office’s response to concerns they raised in May, although significant issues remain unresolved.

The WA branch of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia organised a meeting with assistant Tax Commissioner David Diment in May. Members at that meeting told him of the problems they had when dealing with the ATO.

ICAA WA tax spokesman Roger Sullivan said the ATO had sent those who attended the May meeting a 42-page report outlining its answers to their concerns.

“They’ve probably answered about one third of our concerns,” he said.

“On some issues they’ve addressed them and offered answers, on others they’ve offered sermons such as: ‘We answer the phones after 45 seconds’. It’s true, they do answer the phone after 45 seconds, but it still takes you two hours to get through to someone who can help you.”

ICAA manager Con Abbott said the ATO had sent him a 42-page report last week.

He said he still needed time to fully analyse the report.

“Members still don’t believe they are getting adequate support from the ATO,” Mr Abbott said.

“They [our members] are the ones making the new tax system work and they have to deal with huge complexity. If they are going through that complexity then they need the assistance of the ATO.”

Institute member and Haines Norton partner Brett Cornwall said there had been some improvement in the way the ATO was dealing with accountants.

“But there have been a couple of new problems that have arisen, such as the new penalty regime and family benefits,” he said.

ICAA tax counsel Brian Sheppard said the ATO was “tinkering at the edges” of the problems practitioners were facing.

Mr Sheppard said some ICAA members had already decided to “work to rule” because they were fed up with the lack of support they were receiving from the ATO.

“Some practitioners are refusing to answer ATO phone queries unless they receive the same query in writing,” he said.

“Some are also considering not using the electronic lodgement system and pushing the paperwork back at the ATO.

“We’re not a union, so we can’t ask our members to do this, but we will give them support if the ATO starts giving them a hard time.”

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