ATO readies for etax deluge

As the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) readies for its end of financial year deluge, it's paying more attention to those individuals who submit their tax return online - all 1.1 million of them.

ATO assistant commissioner, Robert Ravanello, said use of etax has increased yearly since its pilot in 1998, when only a thousand users tested the system.

"Last year, 1.1 million returns came through etax, and the year before it was 834,000," Ravanello said.

But now, with usage numbers for online forms like etax growing, the ATO is looking for new ways to make tax return processing a little easier.

"We produce a new product each year because of things like rate changes and government initiatives and policies that have to be reflected in the tax return form," Ravanello said.

One recent addition is the self-populating form, where information can be retrieved from various institutions and entered in the relevant sections of the tax form, ensuring that the information is accurate. The ATO is working on a pilot this year with the Health Insurance Commission, where users can get information from this organization in real time. "We're looking to extend this to Centrelink as well," Ravanello said.

Backing up the ATO's claims of increased use of online forms, new research from Nielsen NetRatings, commissioned by Adobe, found that 80 percent of Australian prefer using online forms.

The survey into Australia's online interactions with public and private sector organizations showed the most popular forms were travel enquiries, event registrations, government forms and financial services applications, but drawbacks in e-forms still annoy people.

The most common gripes in the research were the slow speed of pages loading, an inability to go back in the process, forms timing out, the inability to save details and not being able to print.

Adobe Systems senior marketing manager Mark Phibbs said private and public sector organizations should be aware that Australians want to connect with them online.

"The survey found that one in two Australians completes at least one online form a month," Phibbs said, adding that the trend shows people find online transactions far superior to the shop queues and paper forms.

"These concerns tell us businesses need to use smarter forms with a small-file format to speed up downloads," Phibbs said, and the form must be savable so that if the customer does not have the necessary information on hand they don't lose all their progress.

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Siobhan McBride

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