Lodgement extensions critical as 3 out of 4 agents fall behind
Close to three out of four tax agents are now behind on lodgements compared to this time last year, as calls for further extensions continue to ring out.
A Tax & Super Australia (TSA) survey of 530 accounting professionals has found that a blowout in increased workloads from the government’s stimulus measures has resulted in 72 per cent of respondents reporting that they were behind on lodgements compared to last year.
Conversely, close to 90 per cent of respondents would like for all 2018–19 tax returns to be extended to at least 30 June 2020.
While the ATO has agreed to a new due date of 5 June, and promised tax agents that they will not be “adversely affected” if they fail to meet the 85 per cent lodgement program performance benchmark, the profession has now been uniting behind calls for further deferrals.
TSA senior tax counsel John Jeffreys believes a 30 June 2020 extension is reasonable considering the heightened and escalating pressure accountants are facing in a COVID-19 environment.
“We’re only just seeing JobKeeper payments arrive into bank accounts now. But it’s not over. There’s still much coronavirus-related work to do, and we know there could still be more changes and work relating to this ever-evolving situation,” Mr Jeffreys said.
“The first stimulus package was announced more than two months ago. Since then, the pressure on our members has been relentless. They’ve had to take time to understand the new measures, assess what clients are eligible and then help with the application.
“This is all while being a sounding board for very stressed clients who are worried about losing their livelihoods. And this is not even taking into account the business or personal demands that our members are facing themselves.”
With clients focused on the stimulus package measures, and taking longer than usual to provide accountants with information required to complete tax returns, Mr Jeffreys believes extensions are in order.
“While TSA appreciates the ATO’s decision to extend the lodgement date to 5 June 2020 for most tax returns, we believe it doesn’t quite go far enough,” he said.
“A blanket deferral to the deadline for all tax returns to at least 30 June 2020 would go much further to help ease the pressure on accounting and tax professionals, and their clients.”
The TSA survey had also found that 37 per cent of members indicated they were “quite stressed” when queried about their wellbeing and mental health, affirming the toll that the crisis has taken on the profession.
More than a third of all respondents estimated their workload had increased by four weeks or more, and 30 per cent said they had experienced an extra three to four weeks of work.
In contrast, just 4 per cent said they had less than a one-week increase in workload.