ATO Updates Again On Refund Processing

Last week's Lifehacker post about tax return processing stirred up a lot of comment from readers who had waited more than 14 days for their return. A new update from the ATO explains in more detail what's going on with processing this year.

The ATO does state upfront that processing hasn't been as smooth as it would like:

Overall, the regular flow of assessments and refunds has not been as consistent during our first 4 weeks of processing as we would have liked and we are taking steps to smooth out these fluctuations.

With that said, the ATO has processed an additional 800,000 returns in the past week. Added to the 1.25 million we already knew were completed, that makes more than two million handled. Unfortunately, the ATO hasn't said how many in total were submitted at the date of its latest announcement, or by what means, so we can't directly assess whether it is meeting its goal of processing 94 per cent of electronics returns within 14 days and 80 per cent of paper returns within 42 days.

The whole post is worth reading if you're keen on getting a speedy refund. A key point to note if you're aiming for a speedy return in the future: Processing of returns didn't start until July 9, in order to allow testing of this year's tax software. This is apparently standard procedure, and the lesson is obvious: Submitting your return on the first day of the financial year won't necessarily speed the process up. You'll presumably still be at the front of the submission queue, but you may well wait more than 14 days.

It's also worth reiterating a couple of points that came up repeatedly in last week's discussion. The ATO has a broad goal of processing electronically submitted returns within 14 days, but that's not a legal requirement. Planning your finances around the notion that you'll definitely get a return by a specified date is risky, as those commenters who hadn't seen that target met demonstrated. The ATO does have provisions for helping people awaiting a refund in cases of hardship, as detailed on its site, but you'll need to be prepared to document actual hardship in detail, not just (say) missed opportunities to buy something on sale.

It's also worth noting that 6 per cent of returns not processed in that time frame is still a large number of people. Last year, for instance, 2.2 million Australians used e-Tax. If 6 per cent of those people didn't get a refund within 14 days, that would be 132,000 people. As such, any one person saying "I've been delayed and I know lots of other people are as well" doesn't in itself demonstrate that the system is broken or working less effectively — it often just demonstrates the well-known phenomenon of confirmation bias.



    Yeah mine took a bit longer than 2 weeks, I lodged it on the 19th July and received it last week on 6th Aug.

      I submitted mine on the 20th and still waiting. Apparently it's been approved just not processed!!! First time lodging one in OZ... What a nightmare system. Did it witha an agent to ensure I got it asap. What a waste of money and effort!

        Hows an accountant going to speed it up for you internally? maybe you'd have more right to whinge had you paid the ATO a backhander.

        It's worth going to an accountant the first time you do it anyway as they'll (if they are any good) point out to you areas you can Potentially claim on, moreso then if you use eTAX being a Noob so to speak.

    mine took longer due to, ATO put my DOB wrongly

    the Etax support told me that if they put dob wrongly, we can only log it via paper ><

      Agents and etax are supposed to be quickest way to get the tax back. As opposed postage. It also meant I didn't fill out the form with any errors. I was pointing out that it should have been back in 14 days NOT that I expected some special treatment as a result as using an agent!

        last comment was @ Alan Partridge.

    I lodged mine and my partners electronically on July 9th - He got his return on 14th July and i got mine on 7th August.

    lodged mine using etax on the 15th june, still waiting....

      i mean july...

    We lodged ours on July 1st and they took until July 29th. We even did it with an agent costing now $140.00?!?! (HR Block). I was told that the ATO have a new system that is still being transferred over from last year. SLACK!!!

    Submitted 26th july and just found out today its taking longer, bugger . . .. .

    3 weeks and waiting :(

    my sisters and dads were done within 14 days

    Mine was lodged and received on 7th July, and I'm still waiting. Called today and was told that my return was fine, it just 'got stuck'. And that it would be 'stuck' for up to another 14 days...

    Don't some people think that all these calls to the ATO may infact be having a negitive effect, as people are answering stupid phone calls instead of helping push this MASSIVE amount of paperwork through the system?? Patience my young padawan...

      People answering the phones and people processing the returns are two seperate areas, as Ive actually asked this over the phone. Therefore being indundated with complaints should not effect the processing of returns in any way. They are customer service and as Ive been told have no involvement in the process other than to read a scripted reply to the problem. They actually have very little to offer by means of information. Patience is no longer an option when its over 30 days, and youre told its being manually processed, even though it was sent electronically, and this million dollar upgrade was supposed to streamline everything.

    Etax. 40 days and counting - next time i'll send it snail mail or carrier pigeon. So much for the new streamlined system

    Lodged 5th July.. still no return... Over waiting, i call daily. Just more lies on a daily basisi.. I was told 3 different lies in 3 days.

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