Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

ICB Participates in the Tax Professional Services Reference Group which has been established to report direct to the Commissioner on a range of improvements to the ATO interactions with Professionals and their clients

Key Messages from the Professional Services Reference Group Meeting

Visibility Project Update


Work has been progressing on the development of the debt process infographic. The next steps are to incorporate final feedback from all Professional Services Reference Group (PSRG) members, finalise and publish the document.

The intent of the infographic is to:

  1. demystify the debt process to support agent conversations with their clients about debt
  2. articulate the ATO's use of behavioural analytics in the debt treatment process
  3. provide insight into how a client's risk is perceived by the ATO, i.e., what types of client behaviours might be aligned to the risk level / escalation points in the debt process
  4. provide clarity around what actions the client or agent can take to get back on track/prevent escalation (what support is available, the importance of communicating client circumstances, channels and other reference material)
  5. be practical for users to pass on from agent to client.

Communication Activities

The following debt communication activities have occurred as a result of the February 2018 Debt Experience workshop.

Outcomes achieved via ATO channels:

  • April 2018: Tax professionals conversations (ATO Webcast) – Addressing irritants through the Professional Services Reference Group.
    • On 18 April 2018 a webcast was held focussing on irritants for agents and demystifying our debt collection process. Two tax professionals participated on the panel and Deputy Commissioner Robert Ravanello featured for the first time.
  • June 2018: Tax professionals conversations livestream – continuing the discussion on ATO Community
  • June 2018: Launch of Pilot @ATOTaxProfExec Twitter channel

Outcomes achieved via third party channels:

The ATO has been working together with agents of the PRSG to provide content, advance awareness of key issues, and facilitate new relationships so that they can address issues and concerns they see within their networks, via their channels, and help champion the work of the ATO - but in their voice.

April 2018: Podcast interview between Deputy Commissioner Robert Ravanello and the ‘From The Trenches’ team David Boyar and Paul Meissner.

Future planned opportunities via ATO channels:

October 2018 (to tie in with Mental Health week): ATO podcast – Tax inVoice

  • Addressing mental health issues – how the ATO can help agents to help their clients, particularly when it comes to mental health and debt

Correspondence Project Update

SMS Overview

The group was provided with an overview of:

  • how mobile phone numbers are selected to receive SMS reminders, demonstrating the data matching process the ATO uses to ensure the SMS is delivered to the right person
  • why clients, who appear to have similar circumstances, receive different SMS's
  • why the names of a taxpayer cannot be included in some SMS correspondence.

Plans for communicating this approach are being discussed in the project team.

Review of Debt Letters

The Correspondence Project team is reviewing current debt correspondence to ensure it is clear, concise, simple, consistent and trustworthy.

The project team collated the top five correspondence items that caused most irritation to agents, and are working with the teams responsible for these items to feedback and influence change.

The project team has been exposed to early drafts of debt correspondence items currently under review, and following initial feedback PSRG agents will be involved in future user testing.

Consistency Project Update

Payment Plan Animation

An animation is being created on Payment Plans. A first draft of the animation with voice over is expected by mid-July that will be shared for comment.

Hardship Fact Sheet

A draft factsheet on hardship provisions has been created to assist ATO staff when speaking and dealing with taxpayers and their agents.

Key changes identified are:

  • lower value hardship can now be done over the phone
  • has been updated to provide clearer guidelines around hardship. As a result there has been an overall decrease in the amount of hardship request failures.

Agent Panel Discussions

The ATO has started preparations for 18 panel discussions at being held for ATO staff at various ATO sites starting in September 2018.

Each panel will consist of a tax agent, a BAS agent and a volunteer speaker from Beyond Blue to help raise awareness for Mental Health issues. One of the sessions will have a specific debt focus and plans to be shared through the ATO's debt business areas.

Digital Identity program

ATO Director Claire Miller provided the group with a summary of the Digital Identity program. Key points included:

  • myGovID is a new way to prove who you are. With myGovID you can establish your identity and use your myGovID credential to access government services online.
  • Relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM) is a way to manage authorisations across government services.
  • Together, myGovID and RAM will replace AUSkey by March 2020.
  • A private release of myGovID commences on 14 July 2018 with business clients. Tax agents will be invited to be part of a broader release around mid-September, pending the outcomes of the private Beta.
  • Updated: 30th August, 2018