The Australian Taxation Office will closely monitor tax returns lodged through the government’s online services platform myGov after some tax agents were found rorting the channel by faking self-prepared returns for clients.
Amid the slew of taxpayers racing to claim a hefty refund this tax time, the ATO this week warned it had detected instances where tax agents were “inappropriate[ly]” using the portal to manage the tax affairs of individual customers.
Tax agents are only permitted to use dedicated portals such as the ATO’s new tax agent platform known as online services for agents to manage the affairs of their clients.
The distinction is an important one because there is a strong professional onus on tax agents not to submit dodgy claims for deductions. Lodgement through the agent portal also allows the ATO drill down into tax agent claiming behaviour and help guide industry behaviour.
"We have identified some registered tax agents using taxpayer’s personal login details to access their ATO Online account through myGov to lodge tax returns on behalf of clients,” the ATO said.
“MyTax is not an approved lodgement channel for registered agents and is a breach of the ATO Online terms and conditions.”
One reason for this is claims rorting, whereby agents the self-preparers channel to disguise the fact they’ve lodged the return.
But a spokesperson told iTnews this “attempt to intentionally overclaim or even conduct refund fraud on the system” only applied to a “minority of agents”.
Other reasons could see agents lodge returns using myGov because of “software issues or are new and not properly setup”.
The ATO said it would be “closely monitoring” the situation in the wake of its finding, using the full weight of its data matching and collections tools to “identify suspicious behaviour with lodgements”.
However, with more than 3.5 million tax returns lodged through myTax by self-preparers last year, a figure that equates to 20 percent of all electronic lodgements, weeding out the outliers will be no mean feat.
The ATO has warned that agents that do not use the tax agent platform to management their clients tax affairs risked referral to the Tax Practitioners Board.