The ATO says that while it strives to maintain its service commitment, there will inevitably will be some returns that may take longer to process.

Returns can be delayed for a number of reasons. It says some of the most common reasons are:

  • your client has recently lodged tax returns for previous years
  • they currently have a debt with the ATO
  • they may be under an insolvency administration, for example bankruptcy or debt arrangement
  • the Australian financial institution account details associated with the return changed during processing
  • the ATO needs to check information with other government agencies such as Centrelink, Child Support or the Family Assistance Office
  • it needs to verify the information that was provided, such as spouse details and private health insurance information or cross check the information with data from its own systems.

When any of these happen, the ATO says it usually needs to review the details, contact the tax professional concerned, and where necessary adjust the return.

The ATO also recently announced a new weekly Tax return status email, which reports the actions it is taking when processing your clients’ tax returns. This new email will eventually replace the current 30 day delayed report, but initially you may receive both.

Your clients will first appear on the Tax return status report 10 days after lodgment, and their return’s status will be included in the email each week until the ATO finishes processing their returns.

The ATO says its new report will give practitioners information that may help answer your clients’ queries about the progress of their return. It will provide details about what might be causing processing delays, including debt agreements, relationships to other entities (such as directors, trustees or partnerships), current or non-pursued debts, and if the ATO needs to review multiple lodgments or amendments, or manually verify information within a tax return.

Practitioners can also use Online services for agents to check the progress of your clients’ tax returns at any time. At the “Client summary”, select “Lodgment” then “Income tax” and select “History” to view the status of your client’s return.

The ATO however points out that as multiple actions may be underway as it processes your client’s tax return, the status and outcome appearing at Online services for agents may differ to the details reported in the Tax return status email.