What’s delaying that client’s return? The ATO has some pointers

What’s delaying your client’s tax return? The ATO says that while it strives to maintain its service commitment, there will inevitably will be some returns that may take longer to process. What’s delaying client’s tax return?

It says typically this could occur when:

  • returns for previous years have been lodged with the current year’s return
  • if it needs to cross-check data with other government agencies, including Centrelink and the child support agency under Human Services
  • if a tax agent’s clients have an outstanding tax debt or insolvency obligation, and/or
  • if it has queries about information provided in a return.

When this happens, the ATO says it usually needs to review the details, contact the tax professional concerned, and where necessary adjust the return.

The service commitment the ATO refers to states that it aims to finalise most electronically lodged present year returns within 12 business days of receipt. Returns lodged on paper it commits to finalise within up to 50 business days. Any amendments to these returns it commits to finalise (respectively) within 20 and 50 business days.

Some common triggers to cause a delay include incorrect or incomplete details, such as name and address, date of birth or banking details. Other commonly occurring errors include spouse information or health insurance details. Also the ATO says that if a client has already declared information at a previous question, don’t repeat it as additional information.

“Including additional information in a return stops processing as we need to check the information you provided,” it says. “This will delay processing and in most cases, take longer than 12 days to review and confirm that information.”

For example, the ATO advises to leave out:

  • additional information if it is not relevant to the outcome of the income tax assessment
  • additional information you have carried over from the previous year, unless it is current for the return being lodged
  • information such as personal details (for example, family breakups), or work-related expenses
  • written notes, such as “final”, “nil return”, “please issue a notice of assessment”, “minutes”, “statement of distribution”, “other”, or any numeric symbols
  • information that is already included elsewhere on the tax return.

You can check the status of your client’s return in the Tax Agent Portal. See under Lodgment status – income tax.


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