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  • 4. Contemporary Digital Services

    Digital by default

    The Digital by default consultation was open from 30 November 2015 to 29 January 2016. There were just over 1,000 submissions, with about 90 from tax professionals or their associations. The consultation report has been published on ‘Let’s Talk’ at http://lets-talk.ato.gov.au/DigitalbydefaultExternal Link.

    The practitioner feedback told the ATO that:

    • There is support for digital transformation and know we need to move forward
    • It provides opportunities to change the way people do business, like changing business models or diversifying services
    • They are concerned about those who can’t make the change, whether due to age, location or poor internet services
    • They are concerned that the ATO is building new systems without proper consultation
    • They are concerned about interrupting the relationship with clients, for example, the experience with the client communication list
    • They are concerned it is part of a larger agenda to minimise the role tax agents.

    The ATO acknowledged the sophisticated feedback submitted by associations and will consider as part of the ongoing development of Digital by default.

    Portal irritants

    Throughout November and December 2015 the ATO visited a range of tax practices from sole practitioners to the ‘big 4’ accountancy firms and conducted interviews with 97 tax practitioners about their portal experience. The ATO listened to issues raised by tax practitioners and is actively working to improve digital experiences.

    The most common irritants identified during the visits were not solely related to portal performance, but were aligned to:

    • Communication around new services and the impact on tax practices and their business process. For example, correspondence issued to myGov inboxes and the client communication list
    • Additional functionality such as visibility of activity statement delivery channels and client account types
    • The impact of Service Standards.

    In talking to a range of practitioners at their premises the ATO found that:

    • Most tax practitioners have a good technology set up, with the majority being less than three years old
    • Feedback on portal performance, irritants and potential improvements was consistent across different business sizes and physical locations
    • Tax practitioners are keen to help shape the future; the portal is critical to their business.

    As a result of these visits, the ATO has delivered some improvements and will continue to prioritise others.

    The following enhancements to the client communications list are planned to be delivered in April 2016:

    • Search results can be sorted by date or client name, with the ability to change the sort option
    • The search parameters can be customised for more than one delivery type
    • If you request an 'All' client listing without filters, by default the results returned will be correspondence issued in the last 30 days
    • Correspondence for all client types will be available in the list, not just individuals and sole traders
    • Correspondence will be available in the portal the same day it issues from the ATO
    • The screens will have a new look that is easier to read and use
    • Practitioners can search for up to five years of correspondence for a single client.

    In addition to these enhancements, the client communications list will be available to BAS agents in April 2016.

    The ATO recognises the current AUSkey system has some limitations including poor compatibility with internet browsers, mobile devices and cloud environments. To fix these problems, initiatives to improve the experience include:

    • Enabling current AUSkey for Chrome and mitigating Firefox and Internet Explorer compatibility
    • A solution to streamline the way agents use online software to interact with ATO, removing the need to get an AUSkey. Software providers will communicate these changes.

    The ATO commenced consulting with tax practitioners on an authorisation solution which uses a myGov credential linked to an ABN. This will provide an alternative to AUSkey, enabling individuals in business, and individuals authorised to act on behalf of business, the option to use their myGov user name and password to access Government online-business services such as the ATO portals.

    The outcome of that consultation was that practitioners want to retain the AUSkey for access to the Tax Agent Portal while the ATO explores further controls that limit the way employees at a tax practice use myGov credentials. Practitioners are concerned with moving to an environment where people can access online services on different devices and at locations that are not on the tax practitioner’s premises.

    Using a myGov credential to access online services is currently being run as a private trial to selected participants. A public trial is scheduled to commence in May 2016.

    The ATO confirmed its commitment to understand the natural and effective processes and systems operating in tax practices and to co-design and consult with a range of tax practitioners when developing new technology solutions or administrative changes.

    Members discussed the future of correspondence and communication between the ATO and taxpayers, and acknowledged that ‘address’ preferencing and visibility has for a long time been an irritant in their roles as representatives. It was agreed that it is a very large and important piece of work to support clients and the varying roles of intermediaries into the future.

    Portals into the future

    In 2015 the ATO focussed on improving the individual taxpayer digital experience through the provision of ATO Online. By developing these online services the ATO has built key foundation elements required to transition tax and BAS Agent portals to a single, secure and stable digital platform.

    The ATO is taking a consultative approach to transition the current high value legacy portal services to ATO Online. Practice management software developers are included in this consultation process so that the needs of tax and BAS agents are incorporated. An initial outcome from the consultation has identified key services tax and BAS Agents need via the ATO or in their software. The priority services are:

    • Manage clients, their details and how we communicate with agents about them
    • Improved management of communication delivery preferences
    • Manage workflows, due dates and program performance
    • Prepare and lodge
    • View historical account information including income tax returns
    • Visibility of processing and any issues
    • More digital interactions, no more paper forms
    • Better information and support services
    • Practice management services through their software.

    Members discussed two proposed approaches to deliver improved services by the end of this year. It was agreed that a stable system was a priority.

    The ATO will re-develop the existing high value portal services as a matter of priority. These will then be made available through ATO Online and to software providers for inclusion in practitioner software. Many of these services will be ready by December 2016 with the new services being delivered through 2017.

    The existing portals will remain available throughout the transition process until a full and successful transition is complete.

    The complete transition will eventually result in the retirement of ageing systems and enable tax practitioners to choose how they utilise services; either from the ATO online environment and/or via practice management software.

      Last modified: 12 May 2016QC 48959