Tech heavyweight disputes ATO outages impact
Contrary to many of the complaints from industry, one accounting software veteran believes the ATO portal outages have had ‘no material impact’ on productivity for SMSF firms, estimating the time costs to be less than 1 per cent.
Smithink founder David Smith said while the ATO portal outages have been frustrating for accounting and SMSF firms, particularly since accountants are so time-poor, in his opinion and based on the firms he’s spoken to, “the overall impact on productivity and profitability is not material”, he said.
Mr Smith said the ATO portal outages are instead a reflection of the perfect storm facing accounting firms in terms of quality staff shortages, the onslaught of regulatory changes to superannuation and now the outage issues with the ATO systems.
“You could argue that the ATO outages are a bit like the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s just one more thing accountants have to deal with,” he said.
“It’s not a huge issue in itself, but when you’re trying to deal with all of these other issues at the same time for some people it becomes really frustrating.”
Mr Smith admitted that certain accounting firms could have suffered more impact from the portal outages compared with other businesses.
“If you interact a lot with the ATO then it’s going to impact you more, but if you’re working on larger business clients where the level of interaction with the ATO isn’t as great, maybe the pain isn’t as great,” he said.
“[However] when you look at the overall amount of work that has to be done for a job, the amount of work that relates to lodging a return or looking at the ATO’s portal, that’s actually a very small percentage of the overall job.”
In some circumstances, it may be aggravating, he said, where a client needs a return to be lodged urgently and an ATO portal outage occurs.
“I’m sure every firm would have those odd instances but most of the work that’s being done, that level of urgency is not quite there, so in most instances people would just put it aside and wait for the technology to come back and away they go,” he said.
“I’m just not hearing from the firms I’ve spoken to that these productivity hits are significant.”
Mr Smith’s comments follow an ATO announcement last week that it will not be imposing penalties for failure to lodge on time relating to the late lodgment of 2015-16 income tax returns and activity statements due to be lodged from December 2016, where they are lodged by 31 August 2017, due to the ongoing digital outages.
Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.
Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia, and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates. Miranda has also directed SMSF Adviser's print publication for several years.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.