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  • Consultation Steering Group key messages 25 February 2021

    Key highlights

    Members discussed:

    • delays in consultation and the finalisation of guidance
    • consultation processes for the development and roll-out of large ATO programs including an overview of how the ATO manages large change projects particularly external stakeholder engagement
    • status updates on various ATO consultations
    • updates on visibility of changes to content and consultation in relation to the shift from technical content to user friendly guidance.

    Introduction and opening comments

    Kirsten Fish, Acting Second Commissioner, Law Design and Practice, ATO; and Michelle de Niese, Corporate Tax Association

    Co-chair Kirsten Fish welcomed members and noted the recent membership changes. Angela Lee will be attending future Consultation Steering Group (CSG) meetings as the Law Council of Australia’s (Law Council) representative and Treasury representative Kathryn Davy is attending in her new role as Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Board of Taxation.

    Kirsten Fish advised members that:

    • Clint Harding, representative for the Law Council, has stepped down from the CSG as his tenure as National Chair of the Law Council’s Tax Committee ended last year. Clint has been a CSG member since April 2018.
    • Lynn Kelly attended CSG meetings in her previous role as Interim CEO, Board of Taxation since July 2019. Lynn has moved to a new role in Treasury.

    On behalf of CSG members, Kirsten Fish thanked Clint Harding and Lynn Kelly for their contributions to the CSG and wished them all the very best for the future.

    Michelle de Niese highlighted to members that if they identify any specific issues regarding the consultation processes of working groups, the CSG members should raise those issues with the relevant working group chair/s. If CSG members have concerns about the operation of a working group, they can bring those issues to the attention of the CSG.

    Michelle de Niese also noted that it would be preferable to return to face-to-face CSG meetings as soon as it is possible.

    Consultation matters

    Delays in consultation and finalisation of guidance

    Andrew Orme, Deputy Chief Tax Counsel, Public Advice and Guidance, ATO; and all members

    The purpose of this item was for members to provide their views on the role of the CSG to assist when there are delays in consultation and the finalisation of guidance.

    Andrew Orme provided details regarding the drivers of delays in the finalisation of guidance and the recent improvements the ATO has implemented.

    Drivers of delays include:

    • a significant diversion of resources to stimulus measures related work
    • sometimes emerging urgent matters can impact and change the priorities of work
    • complexity of consultation – dissatisfied stakeholders may continue to raise issues. The ATO will collaborate with them to try to solve the issues that can sometimes result in over-investment on those issues.
    • some matters are deferred due to external developments, for example, litigation
    • issues can impact multiple segments which require discussion across the segments
    • scope creep – consultation sometimes identifies a greater range of issues and the ATO has to decide whether the issues can be considered within the current scope or if the scope needs to be expanded
    • there could be a lack of a compelling need to have the product released within a short timeframe
    • the priority of an issue changes over time.

    Where delays are having practical impacts on the community, these should be brought to the attention of the ATO.

    Recent improvements with the processes for public advice and guidance products include transparency of the contact officers for the products, increasing the amount of information available under the Advice under development program, continuing to test whether the dates are realistic, and tightening the project management of products.

    Members noted:

    • There are a lot of issues under consultation.
    • Issues related to COVID-19 involved a lot of consultation which was conducted virtually.
    • There is no visibility of a prioritisation process mentioned by Andrew Orme. Members would like to know the status of products that could have an impact on how members manage their own work programs.
    • There should be more visibility of the reason for a delay in the release of a product.
    • They would like more certainty around the release date of products.

    Members noted the 'Your Future, Your Super' reforms as an example of where the ATO has not been able to consult as the measure has not yet been legislated. With the legislation expected to pass shortly, before 1 July, and be effective from 1 July, members wanted to understand how this would be managed.

    Andrew Orme noted this is a difficult and important question and that in some cases the ATO has shared early drafts of guidance when legislation is in Parliament or via Treasury when legislation is at Exposure Draft. Louise Clarke agreed that matters can change at very short notice and that if an issue is consulted on too soon this can result in further consultation. The ATO works with Treasury to follow-on from their consultation processes.

    Proposed consultations


    Kathryn Davy, Interim CEO, Board of Taxation

    A summary of Treasury consultations completed from October 2020 to February 2021 was circulated to members for their information.

    Members noted:

    • There are concerns and a significant amount of interest in relation to the Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) measure that was announced in the 2020 October Budget.
    • The proposal to expand education deductions is important. There is uncertainty around this measure as there have been no other announcements since the 2020 October Budget.
    • their concerns regarding the joint expensing measure.

    Kathryn Davy advised that the above matters will be brought to the attention of the relevant areas in Treasury. Kathryn Davy noted that Treasury completed its consultation in January 2021 on Education and training expense deductions for individualsExternal Link.

    Board of Taxation

    Kathryn Davy, Interim CEO, Board of Taxation

    Kathryn Davy advised she has taken over the role of Interim Chief Executive Officer that was previously held by Lynn Kelly. The major focus for the Board is capital gains tax roll-overs with a second consultation paper (PDF, 884KB)This link will download a file released in December 2020.


    Andrew Orme, Deputy Chief Tax Counsel, Public Advice and Guidance, ATO

    Andrew Orme provided status updates on the following.

    [202024] Expenses associated with holding vacant land proposed Draft Law Companion Ruling

    • The release of the Draft Law Companion Ruling was somewhat delayed due to COVID-19 pressures.
    • Detailed web content has been available on deductions for vacant land since early 2020
    • A draft for public comment is expected to be released in April 2021.

    [3942] Section 100A reimbursement agreements

    • Progress was paused from February 2020 by the COVID-19 situation. The ATO had previously committed to having a roundtable discussion with the Private Group Stewardship Group (PGSG) members on the Ruling.
    • Consultation with the PGSG and the General Anti-Avoidance Rules Panel was undertaken in November 2018 and November 2019 on the earlier drafts of the Ruling. Further targeted consultation is scheduled in the week after the CSG meeting.
    • Consultation is planned to be finalised in April 2021.

    [202040] Proposed guidance for fringe benefits tax: car parking benefits

    • In December 2020, the ATO undertook targeted consultation on the Discussion Paper with the members of the FBT Working Group and the Corporate Tax Association, CPA Australia, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and the Tax Institute.
    • In February 2020, the ATO conducted a roundtable discussion with four industry bodies.
    • The Ruling is expected to be finalised by end of March 2021.

    Research and development (R&D) guidance:

    Several other advice and guidance products are being developed or expected to be released soon:

    Members noted:

    • Web guidance on vacant land is helpful but there are a lot of people who still do not understand the changes.
    • Hybrid material attracted some interest from large corporates. However, there was a concern that the consultation was targeted to a very select group of practitioners.

    Consultation processes for the development and roll-out of large ATO programs

    Georgina Wade, Enterprise Strategy and Design, ATO; Michelle Crosby, Deputy Commissioner, Business Registry Service and Deputy Registrar, ATO; and all members

    The ATO provided members with an overview of how the ATO manages large change projects, particularly external stakeholder engagement, and an understanding of what has occurred with the Modernising Business Registers (MBR) program of work.

    The ATO outlined that change projects are either discretionary (ATO internal projects) or non-discretionary (government directed projects) and are managed under an ATO governance framework that includes design (including building and testing), change management and consultation. Consultation occurs at numerous points in the project pathway.

    Michelle Crosby provided some reflections of consultation in the MBR program, focusing on what has occurred in the director identification number part of the work. There are several consultation forums that have been set up or used to conduct consultation. These include the Modernising Business Register Business Advisory Group, Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group and the Small Business Stewardship Group.

    The MBR program is significant and the consultation processes are still maturing. The ATO is considering the approach taken to consultation for the Single Touch Payroll program and whether it can be applied to this work.

    Members noted some concerns with consultation for the MBR program:

    • a perceived gap between the initial consultation and where the work is at now
    • uncertainty about the progress of the director identification number and the apparent disconnect between high level design and implementation for intermediaries.

    Michelle Crosby advised that the MBR program team are working closely with intermediaries to address any disconnects and ensure close collaboration going forward.

    Potential new matters for consultation

    All members

    Members noted:

    • Consultation has occurred with members of the Large Business Stewardship Group and the Private Groups Stewardship Group on the Reportable Tax Position schedule.
    • There are employers willing to repay JobKeeper payments but currently there is no direct mechanism for this. The ATO is working directly with taxpayers on this issue.
    • The material for the full expensing measures particularly aggregated turnover is available and quite detailed. The ATO noted they are interested in any feedback on issues with aggregated turnover.
    • There may need to be reconsideration of advice given for deductions for work related expenses for protection equipment. The ATO noted that there is guidance on regarding this.
    • Several other topics have been raised that relate to the COVID-19 impact, including deductions for
      • travel to work is being raised as the home office is becoming a more permanent situation
      • personal protection equipment
      • quarantine costs.

    Update on Tax profession support projects

    Kirsten Fish, Acting Second Commissioner, Law Design and Practice

    Kirsten Fish provided an update on following concerns raised by members.

    1. Ability to identify updates that have been undertaken on web content

      This is a known issue that the ATO is considering addressing through improved technical functionality to be delivered by the future project. Due to technical limitations with the current website, there is no option to automatically provide this additional information.

      The ATO did include this information as part of the JobKeeper program given the rapidly evolving nature of the web content however, this information was developed and maintained manually, which is not sustainable across the whole website.

      The ability to automatically provide this type of information for all web content is one of our requirements for the new website platform.
    2. Consultation on the shift from technical content to user friendly guidance

      Users of the are diverse and have varied needs.

      In preparation for the development of a new ATO website, the ATO has undertaken and will continue to undertake user research with all key audience segments to inform the future design.

      It is noted that 50% of callers to ATO call centres had visited prior to calling but could not find the information they wanted, with 53% of clients having trouble understanding the content.

      Research also indicates that for some tax professionals, the information is too simplistic.

      The ATO is exploring solutions that ensure user-friendly content is available for all, with the ability to drill into greater detail for those that require more complex content.

      All future work is being undertaken with a user-centred design approach, with consultation and design validation underpinning the entire project.

    Other business

    All members

    The following reports were tabled at the meeting for members’ information:

    • ATO consultation activities – October 2020 to January 2021
    • Feedback received on consultation activities
    • Stewardship groups’ reflections – 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020
    • Stakeholder relationship groups’ outcomes – 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020
    • Special purpose working groups’ outcomes – 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020
    • Snapshots of the Stakeholder relationship and Special purpose working groups as at 31 January 2021.

    Members requested that, when the Consultation Steering Group meetings return to a longer format, consultation matters that are over 12 months old should return to the agenda.

    Members noted their concerns with the constant changes of the Chair role for the Fringe Benefits Tax Working Group and the lack of meetings for the Dispute Resolution Working Group.

    Action items update

    Robyn Theacos, Director, Consultation Hub, ATO

    A status update was provided on the two open CSG action items.

    CSG 2007/01 – Draft Practical Compliance Guidance on Professional firms – allocation of profit guidelines and Everett assignment

    The status update noted that the draft Practical Compliance Guidance on Professional Firms is going through final approval processes and it is anticipated that it will be published within the next few weeks.

    CSG 2010/1 – Proposed consultation for FBT changes

    Two FBT measures were announced in the Budget:

    • Exemption to support retraining and reskilling (to apply from announcement)
    • Reducing the compliance burden of record keeping (to apply from 1 April following royal assent).

    The ATO has established core design teams (CDTs) for these measures and undertaken initial work around anticipated law design and implementation issues including what consultation and public advice and guidance may be required.

    Details of the law design and policy specifications are not available beyond that included in the Budget papers. ATO planning and consultation is dependent on progress in the development of the law to provide a basis for consultation. At this stage, in the absence of further information there are no specific plans however, the CDTs continue to monitor developments.

    Members agreed to close action item CSG 2010/1 with CSG 2007/01 to remain in progress.


    Attendees list




    Kirsten Fish (Co-chair), Law Design and Practice


    Andrew Orme, Public Advice and Guidance


    Georgina Wade, Enterprise Strategy and Design


    Louise Clarke, Policy Analysis and Legislation


    Robyn Theacos, Enterprise Strategy and Design

    Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia

    Glen McCrea

    Board of Taxation

    Kathryn Davy

    Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

    Michael Croker

    Corporate Tax Association

    Michelle de Niese (Co-chair)

    CPA Australia

    Elinor Kasapidis

    Institute of Public Accountants

    Tony Greco

    Tax practitioner

    Keith Clissold

    The Tax Institute

    Peter Godber


    Apologies list



    Law Council of Australia

    Angela Lee

    The Tax Institute

    Julie Abdalla

      Last modified: 05 May 2021QC 65539