Tax agents are worried that the Government’s new requirement to use mobile phones and devices as part of the authentication process to access ATO online services could jeopardise their clients’ sensitive financial and personal information.
Many are also frustrated that the change means tax agents and their staff will have to rely on mobile phones for core work, leading to increased costs and practical difficulties for practices.
These views were captured in a Tax & Super Australia (TSA) member survey that asked tax agents about their readiness for myGovID to replace AUSkey as the authentication service for ATO online services.
MyGovID is the Australian Government’s digital identity provider an individual uses to prove who they are online (it is different to a myGov account).
The deadline for the switch is 31 March 2020, but tax agents have already been able to register for some weeks.
Nearly 350 members responded to the survey. Although 44% of respondents saw benefits to being able to access client information “on the go” enabled by mobile devices (compared to only on a desktop computer through AUSkey), 40% saw no benefit to the change.
Further still, half of respondents said they had concerns about the change. TSA senior tax counsel John Jeffreys said that much of these concerns centred on security issues regarding mobile access, and staff using the same phone for personal use and core work.
“This is especially the case when this core work involves accessing client information — including bank account details, tax file numbers and home addresses,” Mr Jeffreys said. “Members questioned what would happen if phones were lost, stolen or hacked.”
“The ATO will counter these security concerns saying that the new authentication process is more secure than the previous desktop only access, yet this message is not aligned with what tax agents at the coalface believe could happen.”
Tax agents also expressed frustration that they would need to buy staff new phones or pay to upgrade phones that aren’t compatible with the myGovID app.
Others said that inadequate mobile coverage in regional and rural areas would cause problems, while those already using myGovID complained of having to log-on frequently throughout the day and said having their phones out in front of clients looked unprofessional.
Only 21% of respondents had made the switch. Of those who haven’t, nearly 40% said they were unsure of what to do, while a third said they didn’t have time.
“This signals to us that there is a gap in information from the ATO about the change, including clear instructions about what tax agents and accountants need to do and when,” Mr Jeffreys said.
“Many of these concerns could be dealt with by better ATO communication”.
On a positive note, 70% of respondents who had switched found the registration process easy, compared to a quarter that said it wasn’t.
Finally, some members reported that they would wait until closer to the deadline to register so the ATO had a chance to iron out any bugs by then, Mr Jeffreys added.
“While we understand this reasoning, we do encourage them to try and make the switch earlier so they have time to troubleshoot any problems.”
For further comment, please contact John Jeffreys, TSA Senior Tax Counsel:
Phone: (03) 8851 4510
For a PDF version of the above media release, click here.
Tax & Super Australia (TSA) is a not-for-profit organisation that educates and empowers 4,000 tax and superannuation professionals across Australia. It was established in 1919 by a group of Melbourne businessmen who believed in a simple, fairer tax system. Since then, TSA has evolved to meet the challenges of Australia’s modern tax regime and remains at the forefront of supporting professionals.