‘Sub-standard’ ATO portal damaging relationships: IPA

Tax agents' reputations and client relationships are being damaged by the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO's) push for more digital interactions, the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) claims.

IPA chief executive, Andrew Conway, described the ATO's portal as "sub-standard", reporting that the tax office's drive to use the digital system was "coming at the expense of tax agent practices".

"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," he said. "More digital interactions are putting even more reliance on the sub-standard portal.

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"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.

"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 the reputations and relationships with their clients.

"Transitioning to a digital delivery for BAS statements and the use of the Client Correspondence List on the portal are two recent examples causing frustration and which are having a detrimental impact on the relationship between tax agents and the ATO."

While the IPA has expressed its frustration with the ATO's portal, the tax office said it would aim to work with tax practices to ensure future changes do not add additional tasks that practices will need to accommodate outside of their normal processes.

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A quick fix to taking demand off the portal system is for the ATO implement some reasonable date filters on all of their reports. If I want to run a Income tax or Integrated (BAS) account transaction report the portal will give me the transaction back to as early as 2000. I then have to run the report again with the date filters. Given 90%+ of the reports would relate to the previous & current financial years the ATO could significantly reduce server CPU intensive tasks by limiting the report dates to 1 July of the previous financial year. e.g. 1 July 2014. The second thing they could do is have printer friendly version of the report without having to press a button to load the print version of the report. Most users would then be able call on the server just once rather than the current 3 or 4 times.

The implementation of electronic documents is patchy at best. We are unsure which documents are going to be sent electronically & to whom. We have already seen time critical documents being sent directly to the clients my.gov account without a copy being sent to us. In most of those cases the client didn't even know they had my.gov accounts and the ATO staff were also unable to access the correspondence without significant effort.

The portal system has been buckling under peak load (the week approaching every lodgement due date) for several years, yet insufficient effort or resources are directed towards the problem to prevent it happening again.

I'm sure the intentions are good, but rushed, underfunded & poorly implemented policies seems to be the norm

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