There’s a lot of speculation about how hard the downturn has hit the profits of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. The numbers will emerge soon — word is that between them the two papers had earnings (EBIT) of just $18 million in the second half of the past financial year, down from $47 million in the first half and double that a year earlier.

A frustrated accountant writes: The ATO provides secure access for Tax Agents via a Tax Agents Portal. Among a lot of useful information about our clients and their tax balances, payments etc, Tax Agents in previous years have been able to source a “pre filling report” on their individual clients to assist in the preparation of their tax returns. This information included PAYG Summary Statements for employment earnings, interest, dividends etc.

It is now 10 August and many individuals are turning up to lodge their 2009 tax returns, and as yet the ATO do not have ANY interest and dividend details there. How hard is it to get the information from banks post 1 July 2009 and upload it — as the banks have all the TFN’s etc.? What about listed companies as well? Is this related to the new computer system that seems to be offline whenever you have to ring them? Spending too much time outsourcing debt collection and not enough on getting information in?

The Australian Taxation Office advised a leading Sydney accountant last week that it was not making any client refunds for a period of 10 days. Another practitioner has confirmed he was given the same message. Has anyone else been told that payment of refunds has been delayed and why. Has Canberra run out of money?

The Rio Tinto case is far from over anytime soon. Apart from the Chinese investigation, Rio is likely to face investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (Rio is listed on the NYSE). As Rio is an Anglo-Australian company it could also face investigation by the UK Serious Fraud Office and the Australian Federal Police under their respective anti-bribery legislation.

Lobbyists as candidates in the UK. Appalling…

From the Crikey Sightings desk:

Spotted: Alexander Downer attending the blockbuster Dali Exhibition this morning at the National Gallery of Victoria. Cheeky staff asked Downer whether he was still an MP (MPs get free entry), but the former Member for Mayo and current UN Special Envoy to Cyprus was waved through by the Gallery’s marketing department anyway, avoiding a steep $23 charge levied on the plebs.

Spotted: The Chaser‘s Chris Taylor and Tony Martin at an early evening table for two in the window of The Bot in posh South Yarra.

Send your tips to [email protected] or submit them anonymously here.

Peter Fray

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