Agents Still Pushing Us Away From E-Tax

Agents Still Pushing Us Away From E-Tax

Australians are getting keener on submitting their tax returns online, with 17.7% of the population now utilising the ATO e-Tax service. The reason the number isn’t higher doesn’t seem to be techno-phobia — it’s our addiction to using tax agents.

The ATO’s latest Taxation Statistics suggest that in the 2007/2008 financial year, more than 2.2 million Australians submitted tax returns using e-Tax. That was up from 1.85 million in the previous year, and much higher than the 10.2% who used a paper form. However, a whopping 72.1% of us (for more than 9 million) skipped out both those options and used a tax agent, accountant or other professional to submit our returns.

For complex businesses and the self-employed, that makes sense, but it’s a very high number given that 85.2% of returns are for individuals, and one which only declined 0.4% from the previous year. Simpler tax laws would undoubtedly help, but as long as we suspect we can get some sort of refund, we appear happy to spend extra on getting someone to document that claim more thoroughly.



  • I’ve been using e-Tax for a few years now mainly for the convenience (although I do have to find a PC).

    I would be interested to know how many people go to an agent solely for the purpose of getting the maximum return possible…

  • I have a windows vmware image handy for etax. I used a tax agent once, and I’m still getting value out of them by using the return they prepared as a model for doing my own eTax returns since.

    I wonder if many people realise how much can be pre-filled these days. By waiting until early October, most of my income, investment and health info was already uploaded to the ATO or transferable from the previous year’s eTax.

  • And I am another one waiting … and waiting .. for the Linux version.

    This lack of choice is akin to the ATO forcing me to use Telstra when I want to call them on the phone.

    Open Government means that I should be able to interact with all Departments, including the ATO, using any operating system and any industry standard web browser.

    • “This lack of choice is akin to the ATO forcing me to use Telstra when I want to call them on the phone.”

      No it’s not. It’s akin to asking people to use a telephone when you have decided to move exclusively to CB radio because it’s free.

      • David’s version is far more accurate..
        ATO chose to run with a Windows executable rather than a web based, cross platform form filling method…
        It would no doubt be simpler to have designed a web based system too! (unless they licenced pre-existing software)

  • HAHAHA @ David Cartwright.

    I am in the employ of an accounting firm. The Tax Agents Web Portal does not even support Firefox 🙂 Not a chance on chrome.

    I wonder what companies running Nix or Mac based systems do when they need to access the portal.

    The ATO had a massive systems overhaul about 3-4 years ago. Nothing seemed to change to be honest.

    • Can’t answer for Linux etc but I’m a Tax Agent who’s used Safari on Mac OS X to access the Tax Agent Portal with no hassles for years.

      The lack of e-Tax for any OS apart from Windows is something that needs to be addressed however.

  • Having said my piece above, it really isn’t that hard to find a Windows machine to run e-tax on..
    Everyone must have a friend they can borrow computer time off for a few hours!
    For those who dont, you could even run a virtual machine with a trial version of Windows like the Windows 7RC or even a “borrowed” version inside the 90 day activation period (which I don’t think is illegal)..
    The RC shuts down after 2 hours, but most ought to be able to complete their return within that time and Win7 installation (at least) is pain free.

  • I am a Tax Agent. The big issue is that the general public are never sure what can be claimed and fear missing out on deductions if they don’t use an agent. There is also the effort to fill in the paper form or install stupid software to do e-Tax.

    Agents generally would prefer more basic individual clients to do their own tax or the ATO to do it on the taxpayers behalf and ask them to approve it. That said using an agent is usually money well spent considering the number of errors people make that we end up having to correct.

    ATO need to come into the 21st century with their web design and access. Their websites are only accessible using Internet Explorer. I use Chrome for everything else aside from ATO. Firefox for ATO Portal and IE for the ABR. If every other big organisation like banks etc can be used securely on other browsers why cant ATO sort it out.

    In my opinion the whole tax system should be a web app in the cloud. ATO are 10+ years behind the rest of the world.

  • If i had a clue about what to fill in for my situation i would do it myself, but my employment status (getting paid from overseas, no group certificate or anything) and unknown deductions, its too hard to use etax.

    Its dead simple for an agent to do, they should only charge me $50 for doing it instead of $100. But alas i have to pay the $100 i don’t understand tax law one bit tax.

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