While many may see recently issued ATO advice as re-stating the bleeding obvious, it does of course ring true when it says that lodging returns with incorrect or incomplete information will delay processing.
Generally the processing of these incomplete returns will be stopped in order to verify or update details. Helpfully however, the ATO has issued the following tips to avoid the most common errors and help prevent delays.
Incorrect client details
The ATO has found that incorrect details such as name, address, date of birth, bank account details and tax file numbers are the most common error.
Tax practitioners should confirm these details with clients, even the seemingly obvious, then compare them with those on the portal to make sure they match.
If your clients have changed their name, you must update that with the ATO (use the links you will find here) and supply the relevant evidence before you lodge their returns.
It is also prudent to ensure that the details in your software are correct before lodging, particularly if you transpose details from previous year returns.
If lodging for multiple years (even if you are lodging them on or around the same day) ensure your clients’ details are correct on all returns.
Lodging duplicate returns
The ATO says that it receives a high volume of duplicate returns for the same year.
If a client has already lodged their return and needs to correct a mistake, it will be necessary to request an amendment.
The ATO advises that practitioners should use the lodgment status reports on the portal to view lodgment details for clients. It says this will help you identify whether to lodge an original return or an amendment.
Another often-repeated annoyance for the ATO is that unnecessary additional information is often included in tax returns.
It advises that if you have already declared information at a previous question, don’t repeat it as additional information on your client’s return. More guidance is available on this ATO webpage on tips about what to include and what to leave out.
Omitting income or information
The ATO has also found that income, income test questions, spouse details and private health insurance information are commonly missing or incomplete.
Practitioners should make sure clients provide all necessary information to enable you to lodge accurate tax returns. The ATO suggests using its pre-filling service to cross-check information provided by clients.
If clients want to lodge before all pre-filling information is available, ask them for details of income from multiple jobs, foreign income, bank interest and government payments they received.
Preventing delays in processing returns
Avoiding common tax return errors: ATO tips