/>
X
Business

Taxing times for the ATO

Australians, it turns out, are rather keen on submitting their tax returns electronically, but if you want to know just how keen they are right at this moment, you'll have to wait for a couple of years.Last week, the Australian Taxation Office rather quietly released Taxation Statistics 2003-2004, which revealed that around 7.
Written by Angus Kidman, Contributor on

Australians, it turns out, are rather keen on submitting their tax returns electronically, but if you want to know just how keen they are right at this moment, you'll have to wait for a couple of years.

Last week, the Australian Taxation Office rather quietly released Taxation Statistics 2003-2004, which revealed that around 7.9 million tax returns were submitted through accountants via its electronic lodgement service, accounting for 72 percent of all returns.

The ATO's personal electronic lodgement service, e-tax, is also growing in popularity.

When the service was first introduced in 2000, 113,164 returns were submitted using the system. By 2004, that number had risen to 1,016,044.

At this point, you may well be thinking: "Why has the ATO only just released statistics that are more than two years old?" It turns out there are a number of reasons.

While the relevant tax year finished in June 2004, people who use professionals -- accountants and agents -- don't actually have to submit them until as late as May of the following year. And lots more of us use professionals than you'd think: for the year in question, 74 percent of total returns were submitted by tax agents and their ilk.

And that's only the start of the problem. To allow time for disputed returns and laggards, the ATO didn't actually start compiling the relevant data until the beginning of November 2005.

Because the statistics also include data on volumes of tax paid in various locations, they have to be checked to make sure that none of that data could be used to identify an individual -- the richest person in Tasmania, for example.

The end result is we know that two years ago, electronic submission was already wildly popular. You'd have to assume that in 2006, that's even more so, but we won't know for sure until 2008.

By then, the ATO will, if everything goes to plan, have a new e-tax program in place -- one that might even be able to track its own popularity.

Editorial standards