ATO hitting accountants’ productivity: poll

A recent poll has shown an overwhelming majority of accountants say they are losing productivity because of the way the ATO is using technology.

In a recent poll conducted by SMSF Adviser’s sister publication AccountantsDaily, 80.4 per cent of 404 respondents answered yes when asked: 'As an accountant, are you experiencing loss of productivity due to the use of technology by the ATO?'

Discussing the results, the IPA’s general manager, technical policy, Tony Greco said this is a real problem for the industry, highlighting the ATO portal as a particular area of concern.

“The transformation of the tax office into being able to do everything through a digital platform is good – we don’t want to say that that’s a bad thing. It’s just when it’s done at the expense of the practitioners, then it’s not so good,” Mr Greco said.

“Everyone has acknowledged the ATO portal is a system which was built a long time ago and it’s just not up to industry standards. It’s slow, unresponsive, [and] difficult to use.”

Mr Greco said the ATO’s attempt to increase its efficiency through digitalisation is stretching the portal beyond its capability “and that’s the problem”.

“The ATO portal itself can’t cope with what it has been asked to do,” he said.

Mr Greco said the ATO should be increasing digital interaction but without the appropriate IT to support development, “they shouldn’t be offloading efficiencies at someone else’s cost”.

“This has been flagged with the commissioner and he understands the sensitivity now," Mr Greco said. "So what he has tried to do is tell his people that when [they] roll out anything now, [they should] asses its impact on a practitioner's work practices before [they] do anything because [the ATO doesn't] want to overburden them with problems more than [they] need to.”

According to Mr Greco, the IPA is pleased the ATO has committed to minimising the impacts on accountants of its digital push.

“We are happy that they are going to minimise the impacts of them becoming more efficient and we have that commitment that they'll take into account, and go and talk to small accountants and basically asses what impacts any future roll-out of technology will have on their work practices," he said.

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