Fed: McMullan says Labor plan would cut GST workload
By Jim Hanna, Economics Correspondent
CANBERRA, Aug 14 AAP - Accountants could have a lighter workload if the governmentadopted Labor's plan to simplify the GST, the Opposition said today.
But Treasurer Peter Costello could not bring himself to take up a Labor solution, treasuryspokesman Bob McMullan said.
Chartered accountants have threatened to lodge all tax returns in paper form unlessAustralia's tax administration system is improved.
In an open letter to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), the Institute for CharteredAccountants in Australia (ICAA) complained of huge workloads from an over-complicated,inefficient, misunderstood and poorly administered tax system.
"We can't blame (accountants) for being angry," Mr McMullan told reporters today.
"(They) were assured that they were getting a simple new tax system."
Mr McMullan said he hoped accountants would not carry out their threat to stop lodgingreturns electronically, especially when a method to simplify GST administration alreadyexisted.
"It is the proposition that (Opposition leader) Simon Crean put forward before thelast election and which I have put in the parliament since the election," he said.
The proposal allowed small businesses to use a ratio based on past quarters to estimatetheir GST liability, avoiding the need to keep detailed records and lodge quarterly businessactivity statements.
"(Mr Costello) would rather pursue a political point than make life easier for accountantsand business people," Mr McMullan said.
In its letter, the ICAA said the ATO gave inconsistent or incorrect advice and weighedaccountants down with unnecessary paperwork and ridiculous compliance demands.
It also complained of hours wasted on hold to the ATO's helpline.
"Our members have had enough," ICAA chief executive Stephen Harrison said.
The ICAA wanted a clear path and timetable for change and a reinvigorated support servicefor tax practitioners and small business, he said.
"Unless our members see these, they are prepared to give the ATO a taste of its own medicine.
"For example, all returns will be lodged on paper and all communications from the ATOwill be requested to be provided in writing."
ATO assistant commissioner David Deiment said he hoped the threat would not eventuate.
"Obviously that's up to each individual tax agent to make that decision, but hopefullyit won't get to that situation," Mr Deiment told ABC Television.
"Certainly phones were a real problem area that we identified working with the industryearlier in the year," he said.
But the ATO added more than 200 extra staff in July to handle phone enquires, Mr Deiment said.
KEYWORD: ICAA NIGHTLEAD