Recommendation 2.1

The IGT recommends that the ATO:

  1. sets up an overarching unit with overall responsibility for the co-ordination of tax practitioner services and interactions; and
  2. provides further information and clarification regarding the application of its risk assessment processes as applied to tax practitioners particularly with respect to the inputs used.

Recommendation 3.1

The IGT recommends that the ATO:

  1. in reviewing current consultative arrangements, consider reinstating or enhancing some of the specialised or regional forums including improvement of the agenda setting and minute taking processes;
  2. harness existing or new technologies to expand its current consultative activities to include more tax practitioners with a broader range of expertise;
  3. allow tax practitioners to raise issues for consideration by appropriate ATO officers through its website; and
  4. record all issues raised by tax practitioners, whether in consultative forums, online discussion forums or elsewhere, along with the ATO’s consideration of the issues, in a central register which is made publicly available on its website.

Recommendation 3.2

The IGT recommends that the ATO:

  1. increase the use of modern modes of communication and, where appropriate, phase out outdated methods;
  2. user-tests all new standardised correspondences to tax practitioners to evaluate their effectiveness in generating the intended behavioural response as well as seeking to minimise compliance costs and unnecessary action for them; and
  3. allow tax practitioners to electronically access their clients’ communications where the latter have authorised such access.

Recommendation 4.1

The IGT recommends that, with respect to the ATO Portals, the ATO should:

  1. publish performance reports on a regular basis;
  2. publish a practical online user guide which includes information on their functionality and solutions to common issues; and
  3. provide an expected completion date for the migration to the new platform and if such a date is unlikely to be in the next 12 months, commence implementing the key improvements sought by tax practitioners to the existing systems.

Recommendation 4.2

The IGT recommends that as part of the transition from the ELS to SBR-enabled software, the ATO:

  1. work closely with tax practitioners to better understand the barriers to adopting SBR for tax practitioners and taxpayers;
  2. in collaboration with software developers and tax practitioners, seek to optimise the user experience of the resulting SBR software;
  3. communicate the benefits of SBR to both taxpayers and tax practitioners and consider providing incentives to the latter to adopt it;
  4. publish the respective responsibilities and accountabilities of the ATO and software providers so that software-related issues can be appropriately addressed;
  5. delay the retirement of the ELS until after consultation with the tax practitioner community on the effectiveness of the new system; and
  6. provide practical guidance material to taxpayers and tax practitioners to assist them with the transition to SBR.

Recommendation 4.3

The IGT recommends that in relation to its website, the ATO should:

  1. improve the website’s ease of use by better taking into account tax practitioners’ needs and concerns; and
  2. develop a ‘web chat’ functionality that provides tax practitioners with helpful information.

Recommendation 4.4

The IGT recommends that, with respect to its telephone service for tax practitioners, the ATO:

  1. measure and report on the handling times taken between when calls are received and when they are transferred to the appropriate ATO officer;
  2. where such handling times are too lengthy, investigate how improvements may be made;
  3. increase its workforce ability to handle complex tax practitioner enquiries, including those requiring a whole of tax practice understanding; and
  4. simplify proof of identification requirements for tax practitioners by, for example, using unique identifiers and/or voice recognition software.

Recommendation 5.1

The IGT recommends that the ATO:

  1. ensure its communications to tax practitioners, regarding their lodgment performance, contain sufficient information to enable them to independently verify the accuracy of the ATO’s calculation of their performance;
  2. consider re-naming the 85% Lodgment Rule to better reflect the consequences of any breach;
  3. assist and provide incentives to tax practitioners who take on taxpayers with multiple outstanding returns by, for example, suspending legal action against such taxpayers where those returns are being prepared by tax practitioners; and
  4. in applying the 85% Lodgment Rule, take into account additional tax practitioner circumstances such as their business model, non-tax regulatory workloads and delays caused by factors outside of their control.