Anyone Had A Pleasant Experience with ATO?

Is it even possible to have a pleasant experience with the ATO?

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Australian Taxation Office
Australian Taxation Office


  • +29

    Yes, using an accountant as a firewall

    • except when my accountant made a mistake, and was the one to find it and report it, the ATO fined me and charged me interest. Their reasoning was (paraphrased) 'you signed the return, it's your fault. You should check your accountants work'.

      they said using an accountant does not excuse you from knowing the tax law and submitting a correct tax return.

      The error my accountant found was even something the ATO didn't know - we got different answers depending on who answered the phone at the ATO - so I still scratch my head with the logic of the ATO ruling.

      • Did you fire your accountant?

        • nope, mistakes happen. He fixed it up and did everything right to make amends - he paid the interest and the fine and redid all the paperwork.

          My point was the ATO saying that even using an accountant it is still up to you to make sure your tax return is correct. It still hurts my brain to think about the logic, use an accountant because tax law is a fustercluck of madness, but it is still up to you to understand it.

  • +61

    Yep.. lodge tax return online, get refund
    Great service

    • +2

      Even if you pay late it doesn’t even feel like a debt, you get emails with the subject line “we are here to help”. Even my streaming service is like “bitch, where’s my money” when my card reaches the expiry date and payment failed. Maybe the people who have adversarial experiences with the ATO were just caught doing the wrong thing and feeling grief about needing to pay despite their original plan for their money.

    • Same. Easy, no fuss, zero cost.

      About a million times better than Centrelink.

    • Great self-service

  • +25

    Yep. Was 5 years late. Charged 3k in fees, did taxes and then asked for refund. 3k was back in my account before the tax refund was.

  • +3

    The tax man is a good bloke… it is the bloody banks that hate all of us.

  • +5

    Yes, called them with some questions I had, and they were helpful giving me some guidance.

    This is like with other government services, if you have committed an offence, they’ll adhere to the rules/laws to resolve the problem…

    If you are doing the right things, they not likely to make life difficult for people.

    Always 2 sides to a coin.

    • If you find the right kind of accountant a coin can have three sides. Wink wink nudge nudge say no more know what I mean.

      • So that was London's secret, the tridecagon thrupenny bit. No wonder they needed a differential engine.

  • +6

    if your username is FareEvader, ATO will probably have no beef with you. But wants to know your location. (Allow / Deny?)

    "TaxEvader" on the other hand…

    • +3

      Catch me if you can…

  • +1

    Seldom have a bad experience. And when I do I simply hang up and get another person who woke up on the right side of the bed

    • +9

      ..I simply hang up and get another person who woke up on the right side of the bed

      Good luck. The call centre is in Tasmania where they all sleep together and wake up together. 😆

      • +2

        Your call might be answered by their other head.

  • +5

    Well, I had a good experience with them, and then I worked overseas for 2 years and now I am treated like a criminal

    • +2

      Treason !

    • +7

      At least you know that you’re a “heroic battler” even if you’re questioning if all that heroic effort was worthwhile

      • that's me!

  • +5

    I did. The ATO guy I talked to was gentle and polite.

  • +9

    I have had positive experiences with the ATO.

    If you think they're bad, try dealing with Child Support Australia!

    • +27

      If you think they're bad, try dealing with the NSW State Parole Authority​​. They treated me like some sort of criminal!

      • Still better than Centrelink.

        Makes sense, the LNP can empathise with criminals better than disabled/poor people…

  • +1

    I was on the phone with the ATO just yesterday and had my issues resolved. But then again I am a salaried man with no properties or businesses so as long as my taxes are withheld by my employer and I declare my income from my interest then there's nothing to worry about.

  • +2

    Never had a bad one during 50 years of paying taxes.

    OP's User Name checks out for this thread.

  • +7

    A couple years ago I helped a young fellow at work who stuffed up with ATO. We organised ourselves and conf called ATO and politely got a few thousand $ of fines waived as long as he did the required paperwork that day electronically. Everyone happy.

  • If you deal with people in the ATO that are higher up in the hierarchy they are Power Hungry Brown Nosed Pricks . Pawns at the bottom might be ok that you get on the phone unless you get transferred to the debt collecting barking dog .

    • +1

      Agreed. Not all of them are like that, but several that I’ve dealt with are.

    • +1

      If you call ATO you don’t get a tax officer. You get level 1 support at a contracted out call centre. They’re trained to answer basic questions that answer 90% of enquiries. It’s only if you have a more complex matter that you get to level 2 support that involves talking to someone from the ATO.
      Source? Now that’d be telling….

  • +5

    I have. I made an error in registering (well failing to deregister) for GST for business that was no longer active and not lodging BAS statements. They completely waived over $6k in fines and fees in a single phone call. It was my mistake, although I did not profit from that mistake a single dollar, however it was 100% on me for that oversight, and they were understanding, helpful, and we ended up in the 'fair' outcome with ease.

  • +38

    Yeah I had a great experience recently. I owed them a bit of money but thankfully a nice man gave me a call and let me pay with iTunes gift cards.

    • -3


    • -1

      Your positive experience will become a negative one once you realize you've been scammed.

  • +14

    Yes, I have.
    I had an employer who didn't pay my super into my account for 18 mths. Didn't find out till after I had left their employ.
    Reported to ATO.
    They recovered every cent of my super, from every different naming of the company, as he liked to change trading names regularly apparently.
    Just last year I got another payment into my super from ATO, very happy.

  • +1

    Never had a bad experience which is good IMO. A good service is mostly invisible, if they came up too many times in my life then I would be pretty annoyed.

  • +2

    They called me up once to tell me that I had forgotten to apply the instant asset write off.

    I also had a big increase in the tax I had to pay one year, I was late with the payment. I called them up and they removed the late payment interest.

    • They called me up once to tell me that I had forgotten to apply the instant asset write off.

      Really? Applying the instant asset write off is optional. A business might choose to depreciate an asset for a number of reasons. I'm surprised the ATO would even know or care.

      I actually find it hard to believe they call up people these days. So many scams going around. Surely they would send you an email/letter and ask you you get in touch.

      • So many scams going around

        Yes, the “ATO” via gift cards.

  • Filed my tax 1 year late because I owed them +10k in capital gains. Got a warning letter. It also was about 10-15 years ago maybe they are not so leanient these days.

  • +13

    Like a true ozbargainer I set up my own discretionary trust rather than paying a laywer. You can imagine that if I'm doing this sort of stuff I also do my own tax.

    Anyhow fast forward to tax time and it turns out that submitting a trust tax return is wayyyyyy crazier than I'd imagine. It's a small novel of paperwork that needs filling out. Yes paper - there's no online submission.

    Anyhow I give it a red hot crack and submit. A few months later the ATO calls me and I kind of think it's a scam but no I verify its them and they question the return. Essentially the form is self referential and what I'd entered didn't add up in a few places. I said oh I must have made a mistake. No worries from them, they point out where they think the problem is and tell me to resubmit. So after a bit more printing and refilling I do.

    A month or so later they call back. Yep I got it wrong again. They point out where I've got it wrong again and I'm at this stage thinking there's no way I'm going to get this right. The officer on the phone is super sympathetic and is like no problems I can see your intent is fine. No risk of late submission. I pretty much at this stage resign to use an accountant and they're cool with that too despite me taking up all the time trying to decode the crazy form.

    So yeah pretty good experience with the ATO people, but not so much the old school form!

    • +1

      Good on ya for setting up your own trust. I hate how lawyers love to FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) people on the potential pitfalls of DIY legal work in trying to secure more business. Sure if you're not confident with your way around legal wording then go pay a lawyer 3k to set it up for you, but I just paid for some standard legalvision doc and it's been fine. Same with accountants and most other professionals - they love to FUD people to win more business. Good that you tried before hiring one - there's often no downside to trying beforehand, I find the ATO and other govt agencies quite understanding as long as the intent is fine.

      • +1

        F, U, D is the wrong way of looking at things. Lawyers and accountants have specialised knowledge on the entire system, so when you are consulting them they need to tell you "look it's not so simple, there can be issues" as part of their standard service. If they said "she'll be right, just have a go" then if there's a problem 1, 10, 20 years down the track it's them who's going to get sued for providing shoddy advice. Because the client will say "Oh, I'm just a common person, I didn't have the expert knowledge, that's why I paid them a fee so that they could warn me about these things", and win.

        There's centuries of material of protracted legal battles over the meanings of specific clauses or the timing of events in contracts. Either there's a worldwide, several generations worth global conspiracy of accounting/legal people intentionally making busy work and fees for themselves over non-events, or these things really aren't that simple.

        • +1

          True. Absolutely - if you ask them, they CANNOT tell you it's all good. I guess my approach doesn't work for everyone - but to go through life having to pay someone else to do everything, well, you'll be poor and helpless.

    • +2

      Very insightful OP, as a suggestion you might want to setup a ozbargain sticky on the topic for other that may be interested in seting up the trust as well!

    • +2

      I think it's all about intent. I've been late paying taxes too, 10s of thousands in business taxes. Didn't get the notification on time to meet the deadline. Got fined, accountant spoke with ATO, paid it, paid the next few on time so they could see the right trend rather than being a repeat offender, fine was reversed.

    • +1

      Yes paper - there's no online submission.

      They do have online submission, it requires SBR-enabled (Standard Business Reporting) software. Typically this is the accounting software that tax agents use.

      Full list of each software and their functions here:

      You'll need one that supports trust tax returns and as you can see from the list, not all of them do. More to the point, they're generally tailored for larger businesses and accountants/tax agents and not for the lone wolf trying to do it themselves. Good luck finding software that meets your needs.

      • Ha yeah, not sure if the cost return is there, but this makes so much sense that it exists.

  • I commute to work on the train and used to talk to a friendly guy from ATO. He's since moved house so we don't get the same train anymore, but we're organizing a lunch catch up soon.

  • +6

    The ATO's online tax filing system (through MyGov) is brilliant. All the data for share dividends, bank interest and salaries is pre-filled, and it's so easy to file taxes yourself.

    I know they have a vested interested in tracking and pre-filling data, but for honest tax-payers, it's still a very pleasant experience to file taxes.

    Also, it's a very pleasant experience for them to waive all penalties for late filing, as long as they owe you a tax refund. I've filed 3 years late & still gotten the full refund with no penalty. This is unlike a lot of countries where you are fined for late filing, even if the taxman owes you money.

  • I've always found ATO staff to be accommodating and helpful. Once I screwed up by missing a concessional super contribution 30jun deadline by a few days and after some documents submitted, the ATO lady let it pass. 10/10 would deal with again.

  • I've never had a problem with them. They few times I've had to speak to someone they've been very helpful.

    I think the tax office being unfriendly is an urban myth, and totally contrary to my experience.

    My only issues are:
    * Do we really need to be paying for a service desk till 9pm? (I had no idea I could call the ato up to 9pm)
    * They call with number withheld, so it's difficult to return calls (but I think you can now send secure email instead)

  • Hanging up feels pretty good.

  • I’ve always found them easy to deal with and helpful. If they don’t know they refer me up, and they always hav followed through.Taking the time to read their pages and try to use the right terminology helps also.

  • In one one word: Yes.

  • +4

    Good old ATO. I owed $14,000. The taxman contacted me with a final demand for the money ASAP, told him that I had no no money due to a messy divorce. The final outcome after I faxed my bank details and statements was I didn't have to pay any monies then or in the future.

  • I hate paying taxes but ATO is fine in my experience. Online services are good enough for my needs in the event i have to deal with them instead of through my accountant.


    "The Australian Taxation Office has used disturbing and heavy-handed tactics to target small businesses, and — by the admission of its own Deputy Commissioner — the powerful institution sometimes gets it wrong.

    A joint investigation by Four Corners and Fairfax can reveal mistakes are being made on as many as one in 20 tax cases according to an independent estimate — often with huge financial impacts to the taxpayers involved.

    The ATO has been accused of playing judge, jury and executioner on cases, with small businesses, academics and tax experts calling for increased oversight and independent scrutiny of the office."

  • I was audit and honest mistake was forgiven.
    It was very professional and kind.

  • No, but are you that same guy that lives in China as a possible "expat" but doesn't want to pay tax to Australia?

    Join his post

  • +2

    ATO helped me out at a previous dodgy employer who was not paying any of the employees super. Several of us lodged complaints and they went to work. Took a while, but we all got our super paid out in full, they got a big fine and eventually went bankrupt (owed too many other people, including the ATO money). Worst job I have had, but ATO were champs.

  • Compared to overseas they are not bad.

    The etax online is quite good and free in the USA you have to pay for something similar

  • +2

    Yes, I work at ATO with great pay and employee benefits.

    • lol, take that OP :-)

  • Yes, they once gave me 5k in tax return, 3 yrs later said was a mistake by their side so got 5k back with 1k interest.

  • +1

    Good try ATO Debt Collection Team, you guys have definitely up your game to try to identify the tax evasion culprits.

    I love ATO and they're the best to deal with. I have definitely never evade any taxes in my entire life and always reported all of my income, including any side hustle that I received in cash.

    It's so simple to lodge tax return with a not-confusing-at-all system. Definitely will recommend to family and friends. 5 out of 5 rating.

  • +7

    Can’t complain after my recent experience.

    Got a call from them stating my TFO has been suspended. Pressed “1” and got almost instantly connected to an operator.

    After his friendly “how can I help?” I politely explained they called me regarding the suspension of my TFN. Turns out to avoid jail they asked me for only a couple grand. What’s absolutely fantastic though - they accept gift cards!

    As a true bargain hunter (OzBargain license number: -$10) I had a nice stack of gift cards that I collected over time with various discounts. This has easily saved me a few nice hundreds on what I had to pay to the ATO.

    So yeah, once they received my gift cards my TFN has been unlocked and I can pay my taxes as per usual again!

    • +2

      useless politicians and doll bludgers

      you know your tax contribution (personal tax, gst, and plenty of other additional sources) goes towards more than just politician salaries and the dole right?

      even of the portion used for welfare, unemployment benefits are a small portion compared to things like aged pension and disability support/NDIS

        • +7

          based on your post, that doesn't seem like a challenge….

    • +3

      doll bludgers

      Sounds a bit kinky

    • +3

      Your entire society and city would be different today if there wasn’t a reliable dole. If life seems pretty good to you now then, well it takes a village to raise a child. What kind of child would you be right now if half the village for the last 50 years did not have enough money to survive and live with some autonomy that money brings?

      • All for a UBI (Universal Basic Income) but against the Doll - im against any support that awards lazines - either everyone gets it or no one does, ive met to many ppl ripping off the system or not interested in working to see though the BS the media tries to tell us about social supports

        • Just think of the "doll" as a proto-UBI. A modern society needs consumers and it's better to have more consumers in Australia than fewer consumers.