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  • Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group briefing messages 1 April 2020

    COVID-19 impacts and response for the tax profession

    Client Account Services update

    We are currently experiencing tax time call volumes and are sourcing additional support from across the ATO:

    • phone call statistics from last week show that we received more calls than any week during Tax Time 2018, with similar busy volumes from Tax Time 2019
    • call wait times are currently sitting at under 10 minutes, the last few days call wait times have been 6-7 minutes
    • we are continuing to build capacity to answer all calls quickly, block none and working to continue improving wait times.

    Feedback regarding inconsistencies in information being provided by staff is useful. We are currently looking at updating our scripting and providing more training. We appreciate your patience.

    ATO website and recent updates

    The website home page is currently being updated to reflect all the support and updates on new measures regarding COVID-19. This landing page is considered the central source of truth, with updates making it easier to navigate.

    The ATO is working on the best way to notify on any changes and updates made to the website ensuring people are receiving the latest information available.

    We encourage members to use the ATO and Treasury websites as first point of call. Tax professionals should encourage other agents to self-serve and look at the website and use Online Service for Agents before calling.

    Pay as you go instalment (PAYG) update

    Tåçhe ATO is allowing taxpayers to vary their PAYG Instalments, including varying them to zero. They can then choose to claim a credit for any previously paid instalments amounts.

    Where clients choose to vary, the ATO will not be imposing penalties or interest. Clients should be informed that if they vary their instalments to zero to help with their current situation, they may have an increased tax liability to pay after the lodgement of their return.

    Clients with substituted accounting periods can also vary their activity statements during this period.

    Due to administrative changes, the withdrawal option has been removed from the webpage. This is due to it being a manual piece of work, and likely resulting in delays for clients to obtain the refund of previous instalments. Clients can achieve the same outcome by varying their activity statement with the confidence no penalties will be imposed.

    Tax profession concerns

    A range of concerns were raised at the discussion; some were previously raised in last week’s meeting. New issues discussed included:

    • JobKeeper measure: James O’Halloran will discuss at next meeting
    • the term sole trader being misinterpreted: Feedback to be provided to Treasury
    • questions regarding whether the 1 July 2020 Single Touch Payroll date will be extended due to COVID-19
    • a potential ‘Black hole’ in policy packages and an issue with trusts and companies paying a wage.

    There have been discussions with members regarding releasing a joint statement with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB). A decision was made for the ATO and TPB to release a joint statement, and for associations to tailor the statement to their audience, as appropriate.

    Tips and links

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    Treasury fact sheets

    Commissioner Chris Jordan's message to the tax profession

    The Commissioner released a statement reassuring the tax profession that the ATO is here to support them and their clients.

      Last modified: 29 Apr 2020QC 62398