Feb 2017

Simple Australian “I” returns disappear from Australian Accountants’ Compliance work

By: Odyssey General
Tags: Automation, compliance

Technology is changing the way taxpayers worldwide interact with tax authorities. And it isn’t any different in Australia. The move towards self-lodging is inevitable for many reasons.

Looking back into last century, Australia has had e-tax software for self lodgement since 1999 and for 15 years it was the only way for self-lodging individuals to lodge their tax return online. The ATO is moving away from e-tax and is moving towards MyTax.

MyTax was introduced in 2014 and as of June 30 2016, the ATO indicated 1.8 million individuals had lodged using myTax 2015. This is just 725,000 more than myTax 2014.

It will be interesting to see how many lodge using MyTax for the 2016 financial year, though we’ll have to wait to see the final number.  With more people moving to cloud and a saturation of mobile devices it will be interesting to see the numbers for MyTax 2016. MyTax allows lodgement on a range of devices (computer, smartphone, tablet).

It’s reported that of the 12.8 million Australians that lodge every year about 9.4 million use a tax agent to help file their return. The ATO is pushing people to ditch their tax agent for simple tax returns and instead use its online system MyTax.

As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the lodgement date for simple Individual returns is 31 October, so it’s in the ATO’s best interest to work with taxpayers to have their tax returns completed by 31 October, rather than wait for the extended deadline afforded to taxpayers using the services of an Australian tax agent.

Also, for those taxpayers in small businesses that require lodgement of BAS’s, you can expect the ATO will be looking for relationships with cloud software bookkeeping software firms that offer an “online BAS lodgement at the touch of a button”. It can’t be long before you can expect that cloud bookkeeping software automatically lodges upon completion of processing, or even provides on-line real time processing notification to the ATO for suspect companies.

So where does this leave Compliance? Again, this seems another factor pushing accountants to become business consultants with tax expertise. At the same time, the ATO has been having problems with it’s own systems, particularly in the lead up to Christmas 2016, and more recently the ATO reportedly baffled over why its online systems crashed again in February 2017.

In late January 2017, the Inspector-General of Taxation, indicated he’d be examining “the future role of tax professionals in the tax system, particularly in light of increased use of digital technology and ATO service delivery initiatives”. “At the end of day, the ATO are going to do what they’re going to do, irrespective of feedback from the tax profession”.

Certainly we can surmise that simple Australian “I” returns will disappear from Australian Accountants’ Compliance work. The only question is when?

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