In the short to medium term, tax practitioners will continue to use the current tax agent and BAS agent portals to manage their clients' tax affairs. However, from Tax Time 2016, the current services will be progressively redesigned. This will include support for software developers to incorporate access to portal services in their practice management software products.
Recognising that the portals are integral to the ability of tax practitioners to serve their clients, we will continue to work with the profession to ensure the portals meet their needs.
Feedback from practitioners has already prompted the following improvements:
- the Tax Agent Portal dashboard, released in October 2015, which provides real-time information on the portal's performance, known issues and scheduled maintenance
- improvements to the client communication list service for tax agents (and a similar service for BAS agents), released in April 2016, enabling practitioners to more easily access ATO correspondence relating to their clients.
Further improvements, currently being co-designed with tax and BAS agents, are planned for delivery later in 2016 and in 2017. The redesigned client communication list service (previously known as the client correspondence list service) will align to practice processes, ensure agents are aware of correspondence issued to their client and enable them to choose what correspondence is sent to them and what is sent to their clients.
Ultimately, the integration of portal services into practice management software will improve productivity for agents by avoiding the need to use and transfer information between multiple systems. We are working closely with software developers to identify and implement enhanced services into practice management software to improve the tax agent experience.
Over 2015–16, Tax Agent Portal complaints were significantly lower than the long-term trend, as a result of these and other improvements, which were achieved following extensive consultation, including visits to many practitioners' offices to understand issues that practitioners were having with the portal.
As well as responding to complaints, we also began a program of visits to new agents, and others requiring assistance, to show them how to use the portal.
Assisting tax practitioners through field visits
Few tax practitioners still lodge returns on paper, but we are piloting a program of field visits to those who still do lodge this way to show them the benefits and 'how to' of lodging electronically.
The visits, to around 250 tax practitioners (including some new to business) in early 2016, were undertaken as a pilot under the broader ‘Show me what, how and why’ program, intended to provide practical and tailored support to tax practitioners.
The practitioners we visited found the most value in one-on-one demonstrations. Feedback was supportive with almost all of the tax practitioners visited recommending that the ATO should continue the program.