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ATO seeks closer accountant partnership

Colin Walker, ATO assistant commissioner, told the 2015 IPA National Congress that the tax office is committed to working more closely with practitioners acknowledging a number of issues causing frustration and promising to be more understanding of accountants’ needs.

ATO seeks closer accountant partnership
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“My role within the ATO is very much about looking after you, tax and BAS agents,” Mr Walker assured

attendees. “You are very important to us and many of you would have heard me say before that we are

in partnership.”

According to Mr Walker, 70 per cent of individuals lodge tax returns and interact with the tax office through accountants, while as many as 95 per cent of businesses use an intermediary in tax office dealings.

“When you think about that it means that very few taxpayers actually deal directly with us,” Mr Walker said, “and yet in many ways a lot of the things that we put in place are directed at self-preparers.

“The reality is there has to be a lot more emphasis placed on what we do for you.”

The assistant commissioner admitted he has been frustrated by the way in which some ATO services and technology have let accountants down this year.

“I was annoyed because everything that we had done last year to try to build relationships and get people to understand that we are in partnership seemed to be flying out the door. Everything we did in the portal space went wrong and I think you all experienced that.”

Mr Walker confessed he had outlined to the ATO commissioner Chris Jordan, in no uncertain terms, that things had to be done to improve the tax office’s relationship with accountants.

“He said to me, ‘How would you describe the environment?’, and I said, ‘From a tax office perspective, we could not have done worse had we tried’.”

Mr Walker said the ATO is committed to working more closely with accountants and promised the tax office will consult more acutely with practitioners in future to ensure a closer relationship is developed.

“We must understand your current practices,” he told congress attendees.

“There is no one size fits all. It just doesn’t work and I learnt that very clearly from the client correspondence list fiasco earlier in the year.”

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