Students suffer tax return delays

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Students suffer tax return delays

HELP a HECS on student tax return processing.

Taxpayers with government student loans have reported longer than usual waits in the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) processing of their tax returns from the 2009/10 financial year.

An ATO spokesman confirmed that delays were occurring for tax returns involving Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) or Student Financial Supplement Scheme (SFSS) debt.

He told iTnews that it was an area technology staff were "watching carefully", refuting speculation that the delays were due to system interface issues between the ATO and Centrelink.

"Given the size of the technology and the scale of the changes, we always keep a close watch on how systems are operating," the spokesman said yesterday.

"We ensure that tax agents are kept as informed as possible about any delays.

"These returns will commence processing tomorrow [23 July] and it is expected that EFT refunds will start being paid by the end of the next week."

This year, all Australian taxpayers also faced an additional two days' wait for their 2009-10 tax returns due to newly implemented fraud detection technology.

The technology aimed to detect over-claimed or fraudulent income tax refunds, enhancing the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) existing data matching capabilities.

"This has added two days to return processing time; however, we still aim to process electronic returns within 14 days and paper returns within 42 days," the spokesman told iTnews.

To date, the ATO has received 1.1 million lodgements for the 2009/10 financial year and issued 760,000 notices of assessment (NOA), including 620,000 refunds.

The spokesman could not disclose how many of these returns were processed within the ATO's 14-day target.

Although the e-tax electronic lodgement system was made available from 30 June, only a "very small number" of returns were processed until processing software was fully enabled on 9 July.

The first electronic return was lodged within two minutes of the e-tax system being launched, the spokesman said.

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