Providing support and assistance
We provide online tools to help people determine their tax requirements with a range of self-help calculators. In 2010-11 we released a number of new online tools, including:
- the capital gains tax small business concession tool
- employee share schemes calculator
- flood levy calculator.
During the year the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Resource Centre received 16,465 calls. This dedicated telephone service provides personalised assistance with registrations, lodgment and other tax-related matters.
We launched our Twitter profile in May 2010 and used Facebook to support our Tax Time 2010 campaign. We are piloting the use of YouTube, launching our corporate channel in July 2011.
We also supported the Tax Help Volunteers Program which helps low income earners, and provided assistance to people from a non-English speaking background and to young Australians.
Potentially fraudulent use of tax file numbers
During 2010-11 there were 31,249 cases of potentially fraudulent use of tax file numbers, compared to 12,669 in 2009-10. We attribute the increase to a range of factors, including an increase in the incidence of identity crime, growing community awareness and our improved fraud-detection processes.
We established the Client Identity Support Centre in 2009, aimed at assisting victims of identity theft.
In response to the Commonwealth Ombudsman's 2010 recommendations relating to fraudulent use of tax file numbers and identity theft, we further re-engineered processes relating to potentially compromised tax file numbers.
We directly assisted over 85,000 small businesses. We found that businesses we assisted:
- improved the average time they take to lodge activity statements by 11 days
- made 13% more electronic lodgments
- had a lower taxation debt on average than the broader population
- were less likely to be subject to future compliance action after we provided assistance.
Our business portal provides businesses with easy and convenient access to information and allows them to conduct transactions with us in a secure online environment. In 2010-11 there were 3 million authenticated logins to the Business Portal, supporting 1.2 million transactions. However there is scope to encourage more use of the business portal to reduce compliance costs for business.
Assisting tax practitioners
We provide services to more than 54,000 tax practitioners registered with the Tax Practitioners Board, as well as some support to practitioners not required to be registered.
Our portals support registered tax practitioners by providing them with secure access to information, services and functions.
In 2010-11, there were approximately 23 million authenticated logins to the Tax Agent Portal, supporting 14.9 million transactions. There were more than 263,000 logins to the BAS Agent Portal and more than 175,000 transactions.
During the year we also made 5,430 visits and 8,550 calls to tax practitioners through our relationship manager program. We addressed 23,689 issues raised by tax practitioners.
We continue to support tax practitioners through various publications including: The Tax Agent, our quarterly online magazine; the annual Tax agent services guide; and our monthly subscription newsletter, The BAS Agent. We also provide webcasts covering a range of technical, compliance and administrative topics. The June 2010 webcast attracted over 32,000 hits, the highest to date.
We assisted 451 tax practitioners having difficulties meeting their lodgment programs through circumstances beyond their control - such as illness or the recent natural disasters.
As a result of agent feedback, we are introducing the ability to lodge amendments for non-individual returns through our electronic lodgment system. We have also introduced standard signature blocks for all returns - this will save time and effort for agents.
To facilitate consultation and co-design, we have formal consultative forums, including seven regional working groups, and regular engagement with tax practitioners.
Our professional-to-professional service is available to provide guidance on the more complex technical issues. At 30 June 2011, there were 1,123 practices participating in the service, an increase of 575 over 2009-10. However only 123 issues were resolved. We piloted a similar service for legal practitioners in 2010-11.
Approved auditors provide assurance about compliance by trustees of self-managed superannuation funds. In 2010-11 we provided additional support for approved auditors including:
- updating eSAT, our audit support tool
- piloting a superannuation professional-to-professional support service. Following its success with participants, we will extend the service to more auditors in 2011-12.
We also contacted approximately 9% of the approved auditor population either to bring potential issues to their attention or to review compliance with their obligations. Compliance action included disqualification of 11 auditors with nine of these referred to the disciplinary committee of their professional association for action. We referred a further four auditors to their professional association for action.
Our relationship with tax practitioners
Issues with our transition to a new integrated core processing system strained our relationship with many tax agents. We worked hard this year to re-establish sound relationships with them. The number of tax agent complaints on hand decreased dramatically from 2,742 at 30 June 2010 to 391 at 30 June 2011, but the satisfaction levels for tax practitioners dipped dramatically from 79% to 50%.
Supporting the Tax Practitioners Board
Under the Tax Agent Services Act 2009, effective from 1 March 2010, the registration and regulation of tax agents and business activity statement agents is the responsibility of the Tax Practitioners Board - an independent statutory body, reporting directly to the Assistant Treasurer.
In December 2010 we signed a memorandum of understanding with the Board, documenting the principles and framework for working together.
To strengthen community confidence in the tax system, and to support regulation of the tax profession by the Board, we identify unregistered entities, and registered agents demonstrating behaviour potentially in breach of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009. During 2010-11, we referred 141 issues for the Board's consideration.