Why the ATO's new partnership with the tax profession is a welcome development

A new partnership

The ATO’s vision for a renewed and stronger partnership with the tax profession is a welcome development.

The fast-changing environment that practitioners and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) are facing is a major area of discussion – and sometimes disagreement – between the ATO and CPA Australia. While legislative and other administrative issues remain a key part of CPA Australia’s consultations with the ATO, it is the reinvention of the ATO and its investment in new technology that has become an important topic of conversation.

CPA Australia supports the government’s digital transformation policy which will fundamentally change how the government interacts with the community, as well as tax agents. We see such reforms as essential to improving working relationships and they should, in time, allow many practitioners to provide an even better service to clients, including more value-adding services.

This digital evolution is not without its challenges and frustrations. One recent example arose following the problems created when the ATO directly communicated with taxpayers who had linked the ATO to their myGov account. The ATO’s lack of consultation with practitioners on the new systems necessary for this major change meant such a transformation was bound to fail.

Through consultations with CPA Australia and practitioners, the ATO has conceded the problems the myGov correspondence changes created for practitioners and that they have learned from the experience. We expect to see the ATO consult much more thoroughly with tax agents before launching further major changes to its systems.

In our view, such consultation and user testing with practitioners is essential to achieving Commissioner Chris Jordan’s vision for the ATO’s “renewed and stronger partnership with the tax profession”.

The ATO must ensure that practitioners are at the heart of any transformation process. For practitioners, this could mean the ATO asking them for feedback on proposed system changes before they are launched. We encourage CPA Australia members to be involved in these consultations, as we will all benefit.

"We encourage members to continue to provide CPA Australia with feedback on the issues they confront so that we can raise these issues with the Australian Taxation Office."

CPA Australia has had a deep and constructive relationship with the ATO for many years. With the assistance of members we consult and provide feedback to the ATO on a significant range of legislative and administrative issues. The success of our relationship lies in our professional approach and the extensive feedback and insights provided by members.

We encourage members to continue to provide CPA Australia with feedback on the issues they confront so that we can raise those issues with the ATO. Our positive relationship with the ATO allows us to have constructive, robust conversations on behalf of members.

It would be an understatement to say that we are entering a challenging period for the profession. Issues including new technology, an ageing profession, more regulation and the potential for tax reform will provide challenges to all CPA Australia members. 

For CPA Australia, the key to making this transformation as easy as possible is to ensure that practitioners are front and centre in how the ATO and other government agencies design new systems.

If you include “tax” in your member profile, you can sign up to CPA Australia’s weekly Tax News e-newsletter, which includes regular updates on the evolution of the tax professional.

If you missed attending one of our face-to-face joint roadshows earlier this year, the following resources are available from cpaaustralia.com.au/tax

We welcome your ongoing feedback to: [email protected]

Gavan Ord is CPA Australia’s business policy adviser and manager of business and investment policy.