Speaking in his capacity as director in the superannuation division last month, the ATO’s Nathan Burgess said while the tax office’s standard policy is to query tax agents when an issue arises with their clients, there are necessary exceptions to this rule.
Exceptions include when a member first establishes an SMSF, to ensure their preparedness for their role in the SMSF.
Another exception is when the ATO receives an auditor contravention report, which traditionally would have led to an audit.
“We are trying not to do audits now unless we absolutely have to. We want to work with people,” said Mr Burgess.
“We are just wanting to say to them, ‘listen to your adviser’. With 90 per cent of those phone calls, we don’t take it further."
Mr Burgess stressed that on the whole, the ATO is trying to supplement the role of the professional adviser, and encourages SMSF members and trustees to engage with their chosen professionals.
Meanwhile, ATO assistant commissioner Colin Walker has lamented past attempts by the tax office to connect with tax agents, acknowledging that the ATO has focused too heavily on taxpayers.
Addressing attendees at the 2015 IPA National Congress, Mr Walker acknowledged that while very few taxpayers deal directly with the tax office, a majority of ATO actions and communications have ignored the role of the tax agent.
“I think that’s a difficult thing my organisation has to come to grips with, and although we are responding to it, the reality is there has to be a lot more emphasis placed on what we do for you rather than what we do against you,” Mr Walker said.
Systems implemented by the ATO have negatively impacted tax agents, he said, despite the ATO's belief that the changes were made at “the right time” – specifically to the myGov inbox and client correspondence lists.