ATO, Superannuation

SMSF complaints against ATO low

SMSFs complaints ATO

The number of SMSFs accessing the Tax Ombudsman complaints service regarding actions brought against them by the ATO are considerably low.

The Tax Ombudsman complaints service has revealed actions brought to it by SMSFs in regards to the ATO are comparatively low given the portion of the superannuation industry for which they account.

“What I would say is superannuation complaints are over-represented in our complaints case load, but complaints from self-managed superannuation funds is, from my observation, under-represented,” inspector-general of taxation and taxation ombudsman Karen Payne said.

“I’m figuring there are a couple of reasons for that. One is no one knows [the service exists, plus] no one knows how we can help,” Payne added during a panel session at the SMSF Auditors Association of Australia SMSF Conference 2022 on the Gold Coast last week.

The Tax Ombudsman complaints service offers an avenue of appeal against decisions handed down by the ATO that are seen to be unfair in particular circumstances, Payne said.

She used a recent case it handled to illustrate the type of situations giving rise to complaints and the outcomes that can eventuate.

The facts of the case involved an accounting practice asking for Tax Ombudsman intervention to rectify the ATO’s action to change all of its SMSF clients’ Super Fund Lookup registration status from ‘complying’ to ‘regulation details removed’ due to overdue annual returns.

“The [accounting practice] said they’re overdue because the SMSF auditor has been delayed. So because it is outside of the client’s control, [the firm argued the ATO] shouldn’t be punishing the client [as] the consequence [of that action], I’m sure you know this, is that you can’t [process] rollovers and can’t [receive] contributions,” she noted.

“So we went to the tax office and said: ‘Do you think it might be a good idea if the accountant can demonstrate that it’s not their client’s fault, that you should reinstate their complying status?’

“And the tax office said: ‘Okay, sure we’ll do that.’

“So that’s an example of something we would investigate and, through our interaction with the tax office, try and resolve the problem.”

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