By Tina Zawila
I have been helping my Dad (who is over 80 – hope he doesn’t mind me publishing that!) with his home computer and internet connection. As part of the process, he decided to stop using an internet provider that he had used for over 20 years. When he phoned the company to advise them of his decision, he was told that they couldn’t confirm his identity because he didn’t have a mobile phone number attached to his account (he didn’t have a mobile phone 20 years ago!). Without this, they needed to send him an email with a form to complete online to add a phone number, then once that was returned and processed (that could take 2 business days), he would have to call them back and then they could initiate the cancellation process again…phew! I can tell you; it was confusing and convoluted for me, let alone my Dad!
I understand the process of confirming identities, and the importance of this process in reducing cyber security risks and identity theft, but you can imagine how frustrating this is for someone in their later years who just wants to make a phone call or walk into an office or a shop front to do business.
Recently, Tax and BAS Agents have been exposed to an additional level of red tape in the form of Client-to-Agent linking of online services. In the past, if a new client approached us to look after their tax compliance needs, we obtained relevant information, added this information to our ATO Tax Agent Portal, and we would immediately have access to the information we need to the client.
However, since 13 November 2023, clients with an ABN excluding sole traders need to nominate the Tax Agent before the Agent can add them to their client list (and access information). This means that the client needs to get online and add me before I can add them.
Again, I understand that the ATO implemented this change to strengthen the security of the process of appointing an Agent who has access to information and can act on behalf of taxpayers, to reduce identity theft, and supposedly to reduce the workload on the Agent. However, unfortunately it seems that this process has only added to our (and our clients’) workload. The process of having clients initiate the linking process has proven to be difficult and this extra step is actually impeding our ability to help our clients. At the time of writing, our industry is lobbying the ATO to improve the process and reduce red tape.
We are certainly living in a world where our identity, especially online, must be protected and secured, however, some of the processes can make it very difficult to do business and help others. I hope that we can get the balance of security and personal service right as we enter the future of AI and online interactions.
If you would like to talk to a real person and not a computer, please call our professional team at UHY Haines Norton on 49721300 or pop into our office, we are here to help.