• BAS Agent Association Group Minutes, March 2015

    Meeting details

    Venue

    Meeting held via videoconference at ATO sites:

    Adelaide
    Brisbane
    Melbourne
    Moonee Ponds
    National Office
    Sydney

    Date

    26 March 2015

    Start

    10.30am AEDST

    Finish

    2.00pm

    Chair

    Colin Walker

    Secretariat

    Tricia Walsh

    Contact Phone

    07 3149 5768

    Attendees

    Colin Walker
    Assistant Commissioner

    ATO

    Joyce Correnza
    Director

    ATO

    Matthew Addison
    Executive Director

    Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

    Debra Anderson
    Principal, Legally BAS

    BAS Agent

    Keith Clissold
    Professional Association Representative

    Association of Taxation and Management Accountants and Association of Certified Bookkeepers

    Martine Joly
    Professional Association Representative

    Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

    Russell Smith
    Principal, Caruss Consultants

    BAS Agent and Tax Practitioners Board member

    Peter Thorp
    Professional Association Representative

    Australian Bookkeepers Association Ltd

    Guests

    Karen Cooke
    Franchisee

    Jim’s Bookkeeping

    ATO Discussion Leaders

    Marilena Bressan
    Senior Director, PAYG Instalment Project

    PAYG Instalment Product

    Nicola Black
    Senior Director, ELS2SBR Project Manager

    ELS2SBR Program Manager

    Martin Mane
    Director

    Strategic Projects

    Jonathon Thorpe
    Assistant Commissioner

    ATO Corporate

    Apologies

    Tony Austin
    Membership Association Representative

    First Class Financial Group

    John Birse
    CEO and National Divisional Franchisor

    Jim’s Bookkeeping

    Kelly Day
    Principal, Accounts by Day

    BAS Agent

    Kerri Giles
    Principal, Kwik Biz Solutions

    BAS Agent

    Tony Greco
    Professional Association Representative

    Institute of Public Accountants

    Rowena Hand
    Principal, Books and BAS

    BAS Agent

    Stuart Norman
    Chief Executive Officer

    Association of Accounting Technicians

    Secretariat

    Tricia Walsh

    Tax Practitioner, Lodgment Strategy and Compliance Support

     

    Disclaimer - BASAAG agendas, minutes and related papers are not binding on the ATO or any of the other bodies referred to in these papers. The responses contained in this agenda are the preliminary responses of the ATO based on the agenda items supplied. These papers reflect the position prior to discussion in the meeting and readers should note that the position on any issue may subsequently change.

    Agenda Item 1

    Membership

    Keith Clissold will be representing the Association of Taxation and Management Accountants and Association of Certified Bookkeepers at BASAAG at future meetings in place of Maria Benardis.

    Apologies

    Apologies were received from:

    • Tony Austin
    • John Birse
    • Kelly Day
    • Kerri Giles
    • Tony Greco
    • Rowena Hand
    • Stuart Norman

    Guests

    • Karen Cooke, a new franchisee with Jim’s Bookkeeping attended for John Birse.

    Minutes of the December 2014 meeting

    Minutes of the meeting of 23 November 2014 have been published.

    Agenda Item 2: ato.gov.au Improvement project

    The search functionality on ato.gov.au has undergone a number of significant changes to improve the use and navigation of the site. As part of this ongoing program of work web content has been reduced by 25% over the past eight months.

    Technical changes have been introduced to improve search functionality. An enhanced search results page was released on 11 February 2015. This provides users with increased functionality and improved pathways to quickly find the information for which they are searching. These changes include results filtering; search term glossary; quick links and dynamic results clustering. Recent testing undertaken with BAS agents on the recently updated content for BAS agents indicated increased success rates when searching using these enhanced pathways.

    One in every hundred visitors to the site is being surveyed in a pop up survey on their satisfaction level with their search experience. The ATO can see what was typed into the search, and the results of the search. This information will help the ATO to continue improving the search function on the site.

    The ATO encourages practitioners to use the ATO website search rather than using Google to search the ATO website. Upgrades to the site mean that many links saved as favourites by users will not work due to changed pathways. The ATO encourages practitioners to revert back to using the ATO website search. This will help to continuously improve the search results.

    Further enhancements will be made to the site towards 30 June. These will include video search and audio guide integration, together with enhancements to the user interface. The addition of a beta site will provide the ability for the community to provide feedback on a live site. An Out of Session meeting with interested members will be held for a targeted discussion on further developments to this site.

    Members asked if the website content can be relied upon. The date of publication is important and should occur on every page as search requests find some very old information.

    Members requested that advice be sent out when links have been turned off or changed.

    Post meeting update

    The ATO confirms that the website content can be relied on, however general informational content on ato.gov.au is not considered to be legally binding advice.

    The ATO will communicate with specific customer segments where significant changes are scheduled to occur eg. BAS agents when the BAS content is to be significantly changed. In addition, the ATO has also implemented a change to process whereby a Note will now be added to topics on the website prior to updates or changes being published. This will provide a warning to regular users that links may need to be adjusted or changed.

    Reference

    BASAAG 2603/01

    Agenda Topic

    Item 3 – ato.gov.au Improvement Project

    Action item

    How does the ATO provide

    advice to agents when links have been changed?

    a confirmed position on content?

    Responsibility

    Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Thorpe

    Agenda Item 3: Standard Business Reporting

    A number of services are already available on Standard Business Reporting (SBR) with new services already transitioned.

    The biggest benefit from the use of SBR will be a holistic approach to practice management that will allow practitioners to manage client information in one space and integration of information that improves confidence in the date being accessed. The new technology improves the integrity of the data in practitioners practice management software because it accesses ATO systems direct. It also provides enhanced service by supporting real time and bulk transactions.

    A range of ATO services have been made available to software developers who are building theses into their software packages. Updates will occur in practitioners’ software and the ATO is working with software developers to support the transition through piloting the implementation approach.

    BAS agents are presently the highest users of SBR. The ATO will involve them in the implementation pilots once the services are made available by software developers to provide additional assurance that services are working as would be expected.

    The Client Correspondence Report is currently available to tax agents only. The report is intended to support tax agents’ access to individual client correspondence that will now be sent directly to the client myGov inbox. Correspondence issued to the myGov inbox relates only to individual income tax and does not relate to non-individual correspondence.

    The ATO noted BAS agents would like access to this report through the BAS agent portal. As entity type correspondence becomes available this functionality is being investigated. The ATO will be working with the tax profession to co-design and consult on the type of information and services required to support the tax profession with the increase in the digital interactions, this would include what correspondence BAS agents require digitally.

    A member raised the issue of the non-availability of the GovReports site for a number of days at the last BAS lodgement period. A message on the website indicated SBR was down. This meant a number of BAS agents who use GovReports were unable to lodge. The ATO understands that the issue lay with software and was not occurring at the ATO or SBR. The SBR technology or capability should have accepted the lodgment and held it until it can be processed. This would have meant a delay in the response, but not prevented the lodgment. The ATO is to provide advice on how web services and SBR operate when there are technical issues with GovReports.

    The ATO will ensure the core services on which tax practitioners rely on to manage their clients successful transition to SBR. Consultation is under way with the Future Tax Professional Working Group and the two sub-groups regarding what services are required for the future. Part of this consultation is taking place with software developers around how the ATO makes services available.

    Reference

    BASAAG 2603/02

    Agenda Topic

    Item 3 – Standard Business Reporting

    Action item

    How do web services and SBR operate when there are technical issues with GovReports?

    Responsibility

    Director Gary Warne

    Agenda Item 4: Activity Statements Online

    The ATO is improving the client experience by providing the ability to view, lodge, vary and pay Activity Statements online for all individuals, including individuals in business by mid-2015. Approximately 1.3 million taxpayers will benefit from this initiative.

    In addition the ATO is working on providing contemporary services online for all PAYG instalments obligations including the:

    • Delivery of correspondence through myGov for individuals
    • Ability to voluntarily enter the PAYG instalments system
    • Ability to exit the PAYG instalments system in real time
    • Ability to elect to pay annually

    Individual taxpayers (including PAYG instalments individual taxpayers) can:

    • Receive electronic correspondence through myGov (and be alerted by email or SMS)
    • Update their income tax address through myGov

    Tax Practitioners will receive a report via the portal of what correspondence was sent to their clients through myGov.

    By Tax Time 2015 individual taxpayers registered for myGov will be able to:

    • View their Income Tax and Activity Statement account balances and transaction details, instalments and income tax transaction listing
    • Manage their Activity Statement obligations including view, lodge, vary and pay
    • Enter a payment plan for their Activity Statement debts.

    Members expressed a desire for BAS Agents to also be included in the functionality to enter voluntary and due date instalments into the PAYG instalments system.

    Agenda Item 5: GST Verification Project

    There are 2.7 million active GST registrants - with some 260,000 new GST registrations each year.

    The GST refund integrity risk encompasses approximately 1 million taxpayers lodging approximately 2.2 million credit activity statements each year valued at around $50 billion.

    Following the findings in the Multiplex case the ATO has a requirement to release refunds within a short timeframe and has a small window of opportunity to examine the refunds prior to release.

    Of the 2.2 million credit activity statements lodged each year, our analytic models select less than 2% as requiring action prior to release of the refund. The analytics indicate ones that are considered to be at risk. 98% of credit activity statements are processed and paid without delaying the payment of the refund.

    In the 2013-14 financial year, the ATO examined over 25,000 GST refunds prior to the release of the refund and in the majority of cases after taxpayer contact, resulting in $662.2 million in revisions.

    A streamlined review product to assess and mitigate the risk prior to audit action was introduced on 1 July 2014. In dealing with the risk, staff will make contact with the taxpayer and/or their representative to:

    • gain an understanding of the business and the reason for the refund, and
    • obtain relevant information through this interaction to enable the risk to be addressed and/or mitigated.

    The ATO will undertake a range of service and enforcement activities to promote willing participation and where necessary deal with deliberate non-compliant behaviours through direct compliance intervention to create a level playing field. Where the ATO is unable to mitigate the risk through our interactions with the taxpayer and/or their representative, the case will be escalated to audit and the refund may be retained.

    Members agreed that in general the new review product has improved the refund process, but noted that some small irritants have occurred.

    Agenda Item 6: Single Touch Payroll

    On 28 December 2014 the Minister for Small Business and the Assistant Treasurer announced that the Government will cut red tape for employers by simplifying tax and superannuation reporting obligations through Single Touch Payroll.

    Since then consultation with various stakeholders has been undertaken. The change is significant both for ATO in terms of what we need to do with systems and processes and also for the community at large – for employers, BAS and tax agents and for a flow on effect for super funds.

    The ATO has issued a Discussion Paper including timelines, indicating how that implementation might occur. Any employer will be able to transition to Single Touch Payroll from July 2016. From July 2017 larger employers with Withholding greater than $100,000 will be required to operate in a STP environment. Exemptions will be in place so that employers or developers who are experiencing difficulty come on board. These employers will be expected to be operating in a STP environment by July 2018.

    Feedback from consultation undertaken in the past few months has been that small business would like to see simplification of the current process. The majority of participants feel that STP real time reporting is attractive, while real time payment of PAYGW and super would cause difficulties for a number of small businesses.

    The government has yet to make final decisions on implementation time frames and the flexibility to be built into the system, such as benefit for groups who cannot enter into the system until they get internet connection or software costs drop low enough for the transition to be a viable alternative for them.

    From a tax perspective the introduction of STP will give the ATO greater visibility of a business’ affairs and will help the ATO support small businesses when we see them getting into trouble as it will identify if businesses are not complying with tax requirements.

    There will also be benefits for the welfare system.  The Department of Human Services could potentially get more accurate and timely employment information from the ATO and use it to improve the administration of welfare and child support, providing better services for the community.

    Agenda Item 7: Other business

    Reinventing the ATO

    On 19 March the ATO released its Reinventing Blueprint.

    The Blueprint describes the kind of experience that Australians want to have when they deal with the ATO and it will guide everything the ATO does in the coming years.

    The Blueprint, reflecting input from thousands of people from different market segments, the tax and legal professions and other intermediaries, other agencies and ATO staff, is designed to provide a clear line of sight to what the ATO wants to achieve in the coming years. It reflects the kind of experience the community and our staff want to have when they participate in the tax and super systems. The Blueprint will be regularly updated to ensure we’re all working toward providing the right experience.

    The ATO will tailor products and services specifically to meet its client’s needs. Future services will be professional, contemporary and tailored, taking into account different circumstances.

    Clients will find it easier to get things right. They can also expect greater certainty in their tax and super affairs. The ATO will listen to our clients to get a comprehensive understanding of their circumstances and anticipate when they may need help.

    Timely access to the right information will enable the ATO to be more transparent and give the community greater certainty about their entitlements and obligations.

    The ATO will base its interactions with clients on their behaviours and choices. Clients will be at the centre of everything the ATO does.

    The ATO is already working towards delivering those future experiences through new services such as myTax, Voice Authentication and Early Engagement.

    A feedback tool is available for the next few weeks where we’re inviting your feedback about the future design. Why not visit lets-talk.ato.gov.au/reinventingExternal Link and have your say?

    Find out more at www.ato.gov.au/reinventing

    Tax Professional Engagement Strategy

    The ATO has commenced a journey of reinvention, focusing on how we operate to better meet the needs and expectation of the community. The ATO will work in partnership with practitioners, professional associations and software developers to achieve our goals for effective engagement with tax practitioners, as the tax profession also changes.

    ATO goals –

    • Tax practitioners know how to access products and services and it is easy for them to keep up to date and find out what they need to service their clients
    • Tax practitioners have access to contemporary products and services that help and assure their clients’ willing participation in the tax and super systems
    • Tax practitioners and the tax professional community have certainty about their role and their relationship with the ATO
    • The tax profession is satisfied with the consultation arrangements with the ATO
    • Tax practitioners are satisfied with the service they receive from the ATO and embrace new offerings
    • Tax practitioners understand the context and drivers for change to help them stay viable and relevant

    Moving forward the ATO will be continuing its engagement and consultation with practitioners with more open forums planned until the end of June, and three live webcasts and podcasts in conjunction with professional associations. The use of social media will be promoted.

    Open Forums

    • Between August and December 2014, 21 Open Forums were conducted in 16 regional and suburban locations across every state in Australia. Over 1,200 tax practitioners attended these forums, of which 26% were BAS agents.
    • In January 2015, an evaluation was undertaken of the 19 Open Forums held between October and December 2014. Over 400 tax practitioners responded, of which 30% were BAS agents.
    • Evaluation indicated overwhelming support for the forums to continue and a stated intention to attend future forums.
    • BAS agents indicated:
      • The main reasons for attendance was for the continuing professional development/education opportunity (86%), followed by information updates (81%)
      • The forum met their expectations (93%)
      • The most relevant agenda topics for them were:
        • Support and services for registered agents (90%)
        • Are you ready to operate in the digital age (77%) and
        • SuperStream (75%)
         
       

    Until now the focus had been on the regional practitioner but plans are under way to provide forums in the CBDs and suburban areas. For March to June 2015, an additional 14 Open Forums will be held in 11 locations. New approaches will be trialled, including:

    • running larger Open Forums in some CBD locations
    • partnering with Cash Economy to deliver a different format for the Open Forums
    • piloting different session times (eg evenings)

    Promotion and awareness of Open Forums will be conducted through the ATO website and tax professionals newsroom as well as ensuring providing plenty of advance notice on the timing of our forums.

    Future of Tax Profession

    The 2015-16 Sub-Group of the Future of the Tax Profession Working Group is a partnership of professional associations, the software industry, Tax Practitioners Board and the ATO to continue the communication to develop a practical approach to moving to a digital environment with an online service focus.

    The collaborative efforts of the working group led to the 23 March 2015 publication of a Roadmap of change for the Tax Profession that outlines key services changes and improvements being made by the ATO, as well as events and activities planned by professional associations and software developers.

    From 23 March the Group will be working towards the communications plan developed in partnership with professional associations, software developers and tax and BAS agents. This campaign is expected to continue until June.

    The Future of the Tax Profession in the Longer Term group is to meet in June 2015 to start exploring the future role of tax professionals and consider the broader trends impacting the tax profession, and how the profession can be supported moving forward.

    Complex Issues Resolution Service

    The ATO has changed the way in which we deal with practitioners on issues that cannot be handled by the telephone service.

    Two previous support services for agents (P2P and Support & Assistance Visits) have recently been combined into the Complex Issues Resolution service. There will soon be a request form on the website but for the moment an email address is provided.

    The ATO hopes that combining these services will ensure a focussed and more timely response to issues.

    Taxable payments annual reporting

    The ATO will be changing the due date for the Taxable payments annual report for the 2015 year onwards to 28 August.  The change is being put in place following the Board of Taxation review of tax impediments facing small business and tax professional and client feedback.

    A communication strategy to inform tax professionals, industry associations and businesses is being implemented.  This will also include updating forms and web material to reflect the new due date.  This process is planned to commence in the coming weeks. 

    Debt

    Members will be provided with the record of the meeting at which discussion took place on the members’ requirements for the discussion on debt arrangements to take place at the 27 May 2015 meeting of the BASAAG.

    Review of Consultative Arrangements

    The NTLG at its meeting on 4 March requested that a Post-implementation Review of the new ATO consultation arrangements be conducted.

    Russell Miller AM, from the Centre for Strategy and Governance (CSG) has been engaged to conduct the review, with interviews currently being arranged along with a short survey that will go to a number of stakeholders across the consultation arrangements.

    Agenda Item 8: TPB Report

    This following Report was tabled at the meeting:

    1. Board activity

    TPB Outreach

    The TPB are running a pilot webinar program with tax and BAS agents during March and May. The pilot will be focussing on more remote locations such as Tasmania, Far North Queensland and Northern Territory.

    The webinars will be covering the general TPB information regarding the benefits and obligations of being a registered tax practitioner. The webinar will also outline the key priorities in 2015 for the Board.  We will discuss the TPB’s role, registered practitioners’ obligations and the Code of Professional Conduct, and respond to questions posed by Webinar participants.

    Based on the outcome of the pilot the TPB will look at running a series of webinars for other regions later in the year.

    Speaking events

    Ian Taylor was recently interviewed by the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) in relation to current issues effecting BAS agents. The video was shown at the ICB’s Roadshow conferences across Australia in March.

    The video will soon be available on the TPB YouTube channel.

    Twitter Q&A for tax (financial) advisers

    The TPB hosted a live Twitter Q&A session on Friday 20 March from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm to answer questions about registering as a tax (financial) adviser.

    2. Registrations

    Applications on hand to be processed at 28 February 2015

    TA new registration applications

    361

    BAS new registration applications

    200

    TA renewal applications

    752

    BAS renewal applications

    1,169

    Total

    2,482

    Current turnaround times – February 2015

    Type of application

    Current turnaround times (days) from the date application is complete and accurate

    Registering as a tax agent

    34

    Registering as a BAS new agent

    18

    Renewing a tax agent registration

    14

    Renewing a BAS agent registration

    13

    The trend of new applications has been steady with 642 new BAS Agent applications lodged from 1 November 2014 to 28 February 2015.

    It is noted that the processing time for BAS registrations is more efficient than for tax agent registrations and is well within the TPB service standard of 30 days.

    Enquiries and client service

    TPB phone and email enquiries have been high through the first two months of 2015 (11,696 enquiries received) in line with the rise in renewals due during this period. Planned changes to the TPB webpage and registration forms in coming months are expected to provide a better registration experience for practitioners and facilitate a more efficient registration and renewal process.

    Tax (financial) advisers

    Current registrations at 15 February 2015

    Type of registration

    Australian financial services

    Authorised representative

    Total

    Company

    625

    3,824

    4,449

    Individual

    7

    10,191

    10,198

    Partnership

    6

    233

    239

    Total

    638

    14,248

    14,886

    3. Compliance activity

    Complaints and compliance activity focussing on BAS Agents

    As at 28 February, the TPB had 202 compliance cases on hand - 28 of these were for BAS Agents.

    1,023 complaints and referrals have been received this financial year with 817 cases finalised.

    Of the 817 cases, 89% have been finalised within cycle time. 90 have been finalised with a sanction. 24 sanctions have been applied against BAS agents - written caution (6), order issued (10) and termination under Part 4 (8).

    Source of complaint or referral

    Total YTD at Feb 2015 for all agents

    External sources

    882

    Public

    742

    Registered agent

    90

    ATO

    49

    Professional Associations

    1

    Media

    0

    ASIC

    0

    Internal sources

    141

    TPB Registrations

    46

    TPB Board/Legal

    17

    TPB Regulatory Assurance

    74

    Other

    4

    Total

    1,023

     

    Sanctions

    Total YTD

    Terminations Part 4

    21

    Terminations Part 3

    10

    Renewals/Reg App Rejected

    0

    Application to Federal Court

    0

    Suspended

    2

    Order Issued

    34

    Written Caution

    23

    Total

    90

    Some agents may have more than one sanction imposed.

    4. Board information

    Registered agent symbol

    Agents are continuing to download the Registered agent symbol (symbol). The TPB have received 7,968 requests for symbol since the September launch.

    Agent type

    Requests at as 15 Feb 2015

    BAS agent business

    3,270

    BAS agent non-business

    451

    Tax agent business

    3,706

    Tax agent non-business

    541

    Total

    8,227

    The TPB are currently working on an updating the symbol to ensure it can be available for use on social media.

    We are also working on extending the use of the symbol to tax (financial) advisers. Subject to receiving external approvals, the TPB are seeking to provide the symbol to tax (financial) adviser when they are registered or renew under the standard registration option from January 2016.

    Sufficient number and fee or other reward for tax (financial) advisers

    The TPB has finalised the following information sheets for tax (financial) advisers:

    The information sheets explain the TPB’s position on these key topics as well as provide practical guidance, including examples of the transactions and arrangements that may constitute a fee or other reward and who can form, and how to determine, the sufficient number.

    In preparing the final information sheets the TPB has taken into consideration submissions and comments from key stakeholders and interested parties.

    Agenda Item 9: Meeting Close and Next Meeting

    Meeting concluded at 2.00pm.

    The next meeting of the Group will be held by Videoconference on 27 May 2015.

      Last modified: 20 May 2015QC 45197