Have you tried to contact the ATO and were unable to get through to speak to an officer or was outright blocked? Well, you’re not alone, according to the latest figures released (year to date 31 December 2019), the ATO failed at its target of answering 80% of general calls within 5 minutes, while blocking almost 500,000 calls.

For the year to 31 December 2019, the ATO answered a total of around 3.7m calls within the 5-minute target. 252,196 calls, almost 7%, were abandoned, and 491,186 calls, almost 13% were blocked. During tax time, a total of around 3m calls were answered within the 5-minute target. 207,741 calls, around 6%, were abandoned, and 485,348, or 16% of calls were blocked. According to the ATO, it blocks calls from “entering the ATO environment” when inbound calls are expected to significantly exceed its capacity.

While the ATO says blocking calls minimises the risk of taxpayers queuing for excessively long periods of time then subsequently abandoning the call without receiving service, it is cold comfort for those whose calls were blocked. It is unknown how long calls are being blocked during these peak periods as the ATO does not provide data on this measure, but this should be of particular concern for taxpayers in areas with unstable or poor phone reception and those who are calling during busier times such as after a natural disaster or during tax time.

For the prior year (2018-19), the ATO met and exceeded their target with 81% of calls answered within 5 minutes and goes up to 87% during tax time. Almost 6m calls were answered by the ATO in that year with only 6% of calls abandoned (384,648) and 6% (372,270) calls blocked. Just in relation to tax time, around 2.5m calls were answered, with 5% (133,816) calls abandoned and 2% (56,292) calls blocked.

Looking at the data, there appears to be a worrying increase in the percentage of calls being blocked from 2018-19 to 2019-20 during both tax time (2% vs 16%) and over the year (6% vs 13%), however, the effect is much more pronounced during tax time. While the ATO does not provide a cause as to why more calls are being blocked, it could be a combination of more calls to the ATO and static staffing levels.

If you’ve been blocked, or are unable to reach the ATO, contact us. According to ATO data, 90% of tax practitioner calls were answered within 2 minutes and zero calls were blocked. We can help you get through to the ATO and get the answers you’re looking for.