ATO waves white flag

The Australian Tax Office waved the white flag yesterday announcing further technology investments to overcome lodgement difficulties by accountants and tax agents.

The warring parties declared a cease fire when Tax Commissioner Michael Carmody agreed to appoint a senior ATO official to coordinate support programs for tax professionals after accounting groups went public with their frustrations last month.

Carmody also agreed to consider re-designing the lodgement system in time for next year's tax returns, improve tax helplines and enhance online support tools.

Last month, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA) threatened to flood the ATO with paper returns instead of electronic lodgments if the ATO did not employ more people on its helpline or re-design next year's compliance program.

The ATO outlined several improvements to its telephone services, including the possible introduction next year of technology to allow tax agents to contact the tax officer with whom they last spoke.

Carmody also agreed to publish performance statistics and information relating to tax agents on the ATO's Web site.

The commissioner will meet with professional bodies again in October to exchange ideas on administrative issues and review progress.

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