A specialist team of ATO officers focused on providing lodgement support to tax practitioners has now been established after confusion reigned over the Tax Office’s initial offer of support.
Last Friday, the ATO announced that it would look to support practitioners struggling to meet lodgement deadlines through a dedicated phone line linked to the tax agent lodgement program fast key code.
Feedback from the profession, however, revealed otherwise, with practitioners being turned away or directed to the ATO’s lodgement program support webpage.
ATO assistant commissioner Sylvia Gallagher told sister brand Accountants Daily that the issue has been rectified, with call centre staff now briefed on the offer of support.
“We understand there has been some confusion about the nature of the service to be provided through the phone line and apologise for any inconvenience. We have updated our scripting to ensure this is clear,” Ms Gallagher said.
“For members of the tax profession who prefer to contact us via telephone, we have introduced a phone line that they can contact to seek a call back from our specialist team who will support them to put in place a tailored support arrangement.”
The ATO has advised that the phone number is 13 72 86, with fast key code 1 3 2.
Ms Gallagher, however, has urged practitioners to reach out through the ATO’s secure practice mail channel.
“We recommend using this method as this is the fastest way to access the support required,” she said.
“We encourage tax practitioners to include preferred contact details and state that they require lodgement support in the subject line, as this will assist us to action these requests as a priority.”
The ATO’s offer of support comes as tax practitioners continue to fall behind on lodgements after a year spent helping clients navigate through uncharted waters brought on by the pandemic.
A blanket lodgement deferral had been requested, but expectations were curbed after the ATO had refused to defer due dates during the height of COVID-19 last year.
The impact of COVID-19 on the ATO’s lodgement performance for the 2019–20 year was apparent in the regulator’s annual report, with 74.6 per cent of business activity statements lodged on time — 2.3 per cent lower than the previous year and well short of the ATO’s target of 78 per cent.