BAS Agent Association Group key messages 14 September 2022
Welcome and introduction
Co-chair Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson welcomed members, confirmed there were no variations to the meeting papers issued on 8 September 2022 and asked that any conflicts of interest be declared; none were declared.
The format of future meetings was discussed. Members preference for meetings was an online format with consideration being given to one in person meeting per year.
2030 Tax Practitioner Experience Strategy
Strategic Goal 2 – Safeguard the security of the tax, superannuation and registry data and systems
BAS agent accesses
Senior Director Katrina Donelan facilitated a discussion with members to better understand the issues associated with BAS agent accesses. What are the impacts on the experience and explore the efficiency and effectiveness of interim solutions and current work arounds.
Work is underway to continue to explore issues and identify improvement opportunities, noting improvements delivered to date include:
- A purpose-built practice mail topic was introduced into Online services for agents in December 2021 to enable BAS agents to access clients’ Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC) account information.
- A streamlined process for BAS agents was introduced for requesting SGC account information via telephony scripting updates/review.
- BAS agent services have evolved, and issues associated with access has been a topic for a long time, increasing their frustration.
- The issues and interim solutions/workarounds are impacting both tax and BAS agents who are already operating in a pressured environment.
- Members thanked the ATO for providing BAS agents the opportunity to discuss and explain the issues and impacts on their experience.
Strategic Goal 3 – Improve tax performance for clients of tax practitioners
What's new in Online services for agents
Assistant Director Mallory Wuthrich provided an overview of the Tax Professionals Digital Services Roadmap concept along with the main findings from the consultation with tax professionals.
Key changes and system updates in Online services for agents is available.
- Timeframes are important on the roadmap, however ensuring functionality works as intended is equally important.
- Early consultation with tax practitioners ensures new products are correctly designed.
- The roadmap concept would be a useful tool, as would ‘What’s new in Online service for agents’.
Second Commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn
Jeremy Hirschhorn, Second Commissioner ATO, attended the meeting for an informal discussion with members regarding the BAS agent experience and the importance of the role the BAS Agent Association Group plays in the system.
Employer contractor tool
Assistant Commissioner Michelle Allen and Director Rebecca Knill advised the employee or contractor decision tool has been temporarily removed from the website, noting there are several links and pages that require updates. A new solution/s to highlight non-compliance will need to be defined in consultation with users.
Information to help determine whether a worker is an employee or contractor is still available on ato.gov.au
Members agreed with the removal of the employee or contractor decision tool and support alternative solutions being investigated.
Single Touch Payroll Phase 2
Assistant Commissioner Larissa Evans, and Director Ian Colhoun, provided an update on Single Touch Payroll (STP) Phase 2 transition and resources available to support agents.
Since STP Phase 2, over 215,000 employers covering over 3.5 million employees have transitioned to STP. Clients that may need assistance with the transition have been identified.
Members were invited to provide feedback on the longevity of the client lists currently supplied by the ATO.
- Agents acknowledge the client lists are valuable and would like production frequency increased.
- Client lists are required at least 2 weeks after the quarterly BAS due date.
- Practitioners would value the ability to review the lodgment status on a regular basis, as they may not be aware that the STP reports are not reaching the ATO.
Lodgment deferral in Online services for agents
Director Felix Manero provided an overview of the proposed Online services for agents lodgment deferral feature. The feature will be a single lodgment deferral entry point for agents providing an efficient, visible outcome and experience, designed in consultation with tax practitioners.
Members were invited to consider representatives to join the co-design and consultation process.
- This is a positive step forward.
- Consider functionality to support bulk requests and reasons as to why deferral requests are declined.
- A member queried what obligations the lodgment program deferral applies too.
- The payment summary annual report and STP will not be a part of this functionality.
Strategic Goal 4 – Increase trust and confidence in the Tax, Superannuation and Registry Systems
Draft 2030 Tax Practitioner Experience Strategy
Senior Director, Katrina Donelan provided an overview of the elements of the draft ‘2030 Tax Practitioners Experience Strategy’, including the aspiration, strategic goals, and objectives.
The intent of the draft strategy is to set the vision and direction for how tax practitioners, including associations and others can work together to improve the tax practitioner experience and through that, the performance of the Taxation, Superannuation and Registry Systems, now and into the future.
Members were invited to provide feedback on the draft strategy.
- Members commented favourably that the ‘2030 Tax Practitioners Experience Strategy’ is looking forward, not backwards, from the perspective of making things better.
- Consider more delineation between tax and BAS agents as different strategies or initiative will result in different experiences.
- The strategy needs to be considerate and acknowledge the current environment and challenges being experienced by tax and BAS agents.
- A clearer focus on technology and digital strategies, not just specific to data, needs to be incorporated in future drafts.
The ATO acknowledged and emphasised the importance of receiving feedback to shape the development of the strategy.
Tax practitioners board consultation
Michael O’Neill, CEO and Janette Luu, Assistant Secretary to the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) facilitated a discussion on the 2022 exposure drafts guidance documents, including the:
- types of services that constitute a tax agent service
- types of services that constitute a BAS service
- types of arrangements that determine if a tax agent or BAS service is being provided for a fee reward
- draft updates to the 2022 Code of Professional Conduct – Confidentiality of client information.
Draft exposure guidance documents were open for consultation until 12 September 2022. The TPB will consider all submissions received before finalising its position.
Members were encouraged to provide feedback to inform the development of the guidance documents.
- There is recognition that what constitutes a tax and BAS service has evolved.
- The language used in the document should be contemporary and aligned to the evolution of services being performed. It should include the wording ‘services provided by tax agent or BAS agent’.
- General in principle agreement of the draft guidance document, however examples could be made clearer.
- Services provided on a pro bono basis - regulation requirements need to be discussed in more detail. A key consideration is the activity, not just whether a fee has been charged.
- Members would like to discuss regulation of services provided free of charge at a future meeting.
Tax practitioners board (TPB)
Michael O’Neill provided an update from the TPB.
The TPB continues to work closely with Treasury and the new Minister to progress the reforms arising from the Keith James Review into the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and the TPB. The TPB is grateful to professional associations for engaging with the government with respect to this review.
A written report of TPB activities was provided to members with the meeting papers and tabled at the meeting.
Members noted that the role of BAS agents has evolved, and BAS agents often undertake coding of bank data feeds.
Members indicated an interest in discussing the following topics at a future meeting:
- the process and what the TPB are seeing with respect to reporting of unregistered agents
- management of offshore unregistered agents – Australian businesses facilitating offshore providers for a fee
- content relating to the relevant experience statementExternal Link
- supervisory framework that constitutes 'Adequate Supervision'.
ANAO audit on ATO’s engagement with tax practitioners
Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson provided members with an update on the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) audit on the ATO’s engagement with tax practitioners.
The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the ATO’s engagement with tax practitioners in achieving efficient and effective taxation and superannuation systems.
Kath advised that the action/response plans have been drafted and are with senior executive for endorsement. Further updates will be brought back to the group accordingly.
Co-chairs Kath Anderson and Kerrie Jarius facilitated a group discussion for members to identify items that are impacting the profession.
Kerrie Jarius provided an opportunity for members to share any trends and to provide relevant information as to issues affecting the profession.
Strategic Goal 5 – Empower tax practitioners to optimise integrity and performance of the tax, superannuation and registry systems
Lodgment program review
Senior Director Tina Ford provided an update on the lodgment program review. The working group is focusing on 3 areas:
- lodgment and payment pressure points
- the exceptions processes, including deferrals
- access to the program, performance, and management.
Position papers have been drafted to explore issues and identify improvement opportunities. Consultation is still ongoing.
Members were invited to provide feedback on improvement opportunities.
- Several opportunities were raised that are currently being explored by the Lodgment Program Review Working Group.
- Looking toward 2030, can we have different groups with different lodgment dates rather than an end of financial year lodgment date of 30 June? Further discussions on what the 2030 landscape may look like for agents will be held.
- Members requested information about Taxable Payments Annual Report (TPAR), including how TPAR information is used and the impacts of more frequent reporting. This will be a topic for a future agenda.
Strategic Goal 6 – Improve small business performance and the level playing field.
Lodge and pay
Director Jason Aitchison provided an update on current lodge and pay awareness campaigns associated with the Disclosure of Business Tax Debts and Director Penalty Notices for debts overdue by 90 days or more. Campaigns have been effective at increasing engagement with the ATO, resulting in debts being paid in full, entering a payment arrangement or discussing circumstances.
Jason provided an overview of the first Lodge and Pay Working Group meeting held on 17 August 2022 which focused on understanding the irritants and opportunities to improve payment arrangements. Members interested in participating in this group were asked to nominate via the secretariat.
- There are some issues with the consistency of ATO decisions associated with payment arrangements that is assessing the propensity to pay. The ATO invited members to provide specific examples for review.
- Payment plans often default due to a business not being able to meet current obligations.
- Agents are unsure what the next step should be if a payment plan is rejected.
- There is not enough community understanding on insolvency. Taxpayers need more education and/or assistance on what to do if they are struggling. Agents need tools/guidance to assist conversations with taxpayers who are potentially insolvent.
- Small businesses may need more time to recover to pre-COVID-19 trading levels.
- The ATO may wish to establish a dedicated phone line to service calls associated with suspected insolvency.
Members were provided with a written update in the meeting papers for:
- Australian Business Registry Services strategic engagement, written update only.
Thank you to members for their time and feedback.
Key topics discussed at the BAS Agent Association Group meeting 14 September 2022