Tax practitioners not already authorised, with the ATO, as a agent for a taxpayer (typically legal practitioners) have 2 particular problems when acting for taxpayers attempting to forestall ATO collection proceedings, which are being addressed by the Law Council of Australia tax committee.

See below for an extract of a meeting agenda item relating to this.

[Tax Month – June 2021]



NSW Member Tania Waterhouse has raised two issues, which arise when a taxpayer requires an urgent payment plan to stop or forestall formal debt recovery proceedings. Similar issues have previously between pursued by Tania with Queensland member David Hughes and former Melbourne Member Tony Riordan. The two issues are: 

1. Legal Authorisation

Legal practitioners must be authorized before they can liaise with the ATO. Authorization can either be done over the phone by the taxpayer, or by the legal practitioner using an authorized form. In many instances authorization by the taxpayer is not possible. If this is so, the authorization form must be completed and faxed to the ATO. It may take up to 48 hours days for the authorization to appear on the ATO portal (some have reported much longer). In an urgent situation we need to contact the ATO urgently and a 48 hour turnaround is not sufficient. 

2. Significant Debt 

Where a taxpayer has large tax debt, the only area that can approve a payment plan is ‘Significant Debt’. The ATO procedure is, for the legal practitioner to contact the debt call centre, and for the call centre operator to escalate it to their manager, and for the manager to escalate the matter is to Significant Debt, and for a case officer to then contact the legal practitioner. The initial call to the call centre can take up to an hour – all billable to the client. It would be far more efficient legal practitioners and the taxpayer if we were able to contact a significant Debt case officer directly. A triage service would be ideal. 

Requested action: if you are interested or have any suggestions/comments please contact Tania Waterhouse (NSW) who is convening a working group. 

[LCA Tax Committee Meeting – June 2021 Agenda]

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