BAS Agent Association Group key messages 8 October 2021
Welcome and introduction
Co-chair Assistant Commissioner Sylvia Gallagher welcomed members and asked that any conflicts of interest be declared.
Kerrie Jarius was welcomed as new co-chair of the group.
Exiting members Keith Clissold, Martine Joly and Tony Greco were farewelled and thanked for their time and contribution to meetings during their membership tenure. Co-chair Sylvia Gallagher will be replaced by Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson in November 2021.
Co-chair Kerrie Jarius thanked Keith and Martine for their contribution to the BASAAG and welcomed potential new members Joanne Crumpton and Rob Boon as practicing BAS agents who will be able to contribute their experience and insight to discussions.
Members thanked Sylvia and extended a thank you on behalf of all BAS agents for her efforts while co-chair of the BASAAG.
Members commented that Sylvia has managed and advocated for BAS agents and the group during a very difficult time.
Your future, Your Super
Assistant Commissioner Tracie Crowden and Assistant Director Caryn Kaluzinski provided an update on Your Future, Your Super and stapled super funds.
An employer awareness campaign to assist employers understand their obligations prior to the stapled super fund measure is commencing on 1 November 2021.
- Communication is being sent directly to employers via SMS, email, and letters.
- Web content continues to be updated based on user feedback and questions being received.
- An employer webcast including FAQs and walk through of screens for requesting a stapled super fund will shortly be available on ato.gov.au.
- Treasury will also be undertaking a communication campaign in relation to raising awareness on the Your Super, Your Future measure.
Information to assist employers with their obligations when receiving a ‘Standard choice form’ from eligible employees and instructions to explain to employers and employees what may need to occur if a choice is not exercised is available at Offer employees a choice of super fund.
In response to feedback received that employees found sections of the Standard choice form difficult to complete, amendments made (in consultation with external stakeholders) include:
- advice on where employees can get their super details
- revised the required documentation section to state that an employer may choose not to accept the form without all information (that is letter from fund), rather than all information being mandatory.
To support the release of the stapled super fund request service, employers can:
Members are invited to provide any feedback on the implementation of the measure to YourFutureYourSuper@ato.gov.au
A member provided positive feedback regarding an employee using the myGov functionality to include a superannuation choice. The process was straightforward, and the employee had no issues with the process. The member highlighted that as the myGov functionality does not interact with employer software, in this instance the employee emailed the form.
A member queried what is being done to address the ability for employers that are not digitally enabled to establish a relationship with the ATO prior to the stapling being done and prior to superannuation being due.
ATO response – There will be a phone service available and the ATO is in the process of confirming the type of evidence required to establish a relationship with the ATO.
Superannuation guarantee charge – Activity statement and Instalment notice changes
Assistant Commissioner Gail Hopley and Director Steven Barbara provided an update on Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC) account information and activity statement and instalment notice changes.
In 2020 the Tax Practitioners Board expanded the scope of BAS services to include additional services relating to the SGC.
The ATO has updated procedures and streamlined telephony scripting to allow BAS agents access to a client’s SGC account information. Future improvements include:
- A new Online Services for Agents (OSfA) practice mail message request template to allow BAS agents to request a client’s SGC account information in real time.
- Introduction of a more streamlined process for BAS agents who phone the ATO requesting SGC account information to ensure paper statement of accounts or notice of assessments are not issued to alternative addresses.
The ATO is in the process of implementing a system change to OSfA to allow for client SGC account information to be visible to authorised BAS agents in real time so they can self-serve.
An update was provided to members on improvements made to the activity statement and digital instalment notice channel preference changes.
Members would like to see the full suite of SGC small business interactions through the small business portal be visible to BAS agents on OSfA and highlighted that this needs to be a priority for the ATO. The ATO responded that this in on the forward work program but noted that ATO systems are large, and changes can take up to 18 months to implement.
Superannuation clearing houses
Assistant Commissioner Michelle Allen provided an update on Superannuation Clearing Houses.
The Superannuation Guarantee Act of 1992 deems a contribution payment to be made when received by the fund not when payment is made. The ATO’s Small Business Superannuation Clearing House (SBSCH) operates under different rules to the commercial clearing houses under the law.
Once a contribution is accepted by the SBSCH the funds are considered as paid under the Act. This does not apply to commercial clearing houses and this is a legislative issue. The ATO is aware of processing disparities amongst commercial clearing houses but they are commercial entities who set their own processing timeframes. Some commercial clearing houses have a shorter timeframe to guarantee payment prior to the due date and others have a longer lead time. The ATO will consider how to communicate with employers on timing of their superannuation guarantee obligations noting the different timeframes for commercial clearing houses.
The ATO Superannuation Industry Stewardship Group extended an invitation for a BASAAG member representative to attend a future meeting to discuss the issue with commercial clearing houses. This is an opportunity to make the commercial clearing houses representatives aware of the issue and provide an avenue to work together for the best outcome for clients.
Member commented there was a lack of awareness with both practitioners and employers on processes and timeframes. The ATO highlighted that there is a superannuation education package available for small business to work through.
Employee/Contractor decision tool
Assistant Commissioner Michelle Allen and Director Adele Coetzee provided an update on the employee/contractor decision tool.
The employee/contractor decision tool is an online tool on ato.gov.au that provides guidance to users when classifying the working relationship with their workers as either an employment relationship or a contractor relationship along with information about the tax and super obligations for the specific working relationship.
Various improvements have been made to the employee/contractor decision tool based on feedback and include:
- moving information about the differences between employees and contractors to the start of the tool
- removing confusing preliminary wording that may give the impression that the tool could not be used for individuals instead of by individuals
- improvements to content displayed when hovering over a question mark
- improvements to Help content.
Members are to keep in mind the Employee/contractor decision tool:
- is to only be used as a guide and not as a binding tool
- will only apply for registry, taxation and superannuation purposes.
Members recommended the employee/contractor decision tool include more information or a disclaimer requesting users reach out to their advisors for more guidance and information. The ATO noted that the reason the employee/contractor decision tool cannot be binding is due to the many different and changing nature of workers using the tool.
BAS agent communication approach
Director Julia Meulen provided an update on the BAS agent communication approach in 2021 and going forward.
The ATO recently commissioned research to obtain an updated preference of future communications for tax and BAS agents and their expectations of communications in 2021. The findings from this survey are helping the ATO to shape a future communications plan and highlighted a ‘one size fits all’ approach to communication is not suitable.
- The key findings were that ato.gov.au is the top source of information for BAS agents. Of the BAS agents surveyed 93% are using ato.gov.au daily. This is reportedly because the ATO is a trusted resource to provide accurate and up to date information.
- The research confirmed that BAS and tax agents’ preference is to first receive communications via email. BAS agents are significantly more likely to prefer text messages compared to tax agents.
- One consistent key finding for both BAS and tax agents is that they are happy for the ATO to contact them when necessary.
- The ATO communication channels are performing well with over 80% awareness and usage of ato.gov.au, the Tax professionals newsletter and ATO webinars.
- The research highlighted a gap in awareness of some resources for BAS agents. There was a significantly lower awareness of the ATO’s Open Forums and the need to use the dashboard as a first point of call if a BAS agent is experiencing system issues.
Four key steps have been identified from the research to help improve the way the ATO communicates with BAS agents.
- The first step will be a dedicated BAS agent audience strategy to address the need for tailored communications for BAS agents.
- The ATO will ensure that ato.gov.au continues to meet the needs of BAS agents with more tailored content.
- The ATO will review the current use of email as a communication channel and consider how this may be improved.
- The ATO will review options for customising delivery of content based on topic frequency and timing.
Members suggested that email communications can become overwhelming with messages missed and suggested to supplement with a banner on the home page of OSfA alerting agents to any new improvements to OSfA. Currently OSfA is an undervalued resource.
Members agreed that BAS agents and tax agents are a fundamentally different profession and require considerably different approaches to key communication approaches and information exchange.
Members highlighted that BAS agents are focused on the ‘mechanics’ of tax and superannuation such as payroll and suggested the ATO could include more detail in communications.
Member suggested an open forum discussion with SCG information would be helpful to the BAS agent community. Superannuation is bound by legislation many BAS agents are not aware of and do not understand.
Tax Practitioners Board
Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) Secretary/Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Neill provided an update from the TPB.
The TPB has committed to continue to support BAS and tax agents; more details on COVID-19 related concessionsExternal Link extended until 30 June 2022 are available on the TPB website.
The TPB recognises the additional pressures being placed on tax practitioners providing advice to clients on the various state and territory COVID-19 assistance packages.
- To assist, the TPB has implemented a temporary concession where activities which improve a tax practitioner’s knowledge and skills on those assistance packages can be claimed as relevant CPE.
The Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) continues to work with Treasury to progress the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 review outcomes and the establishment of a new disciplinary body for financial advisers.
- The Bill to establish the Financial Services and Credit Panel within Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as the Single Disciplinary Body for individual financial advisers was introduced into Parliament on 24 June 2021. The Bill has been passed by the House of Representatives and has been introduced into the Senate.
The TPB is committed to implementing administrative reforms to the Tax Agent Services Act and is waiting for the Government’s consultation framework to be received. Once the consultation framework is received, the TPB will begin consultation with tax practitioners.
Members thanked the TPB for taking an active part in the education review for the financial services package.
Members appreciate the transparency the TPB has shown to date with compliance cases and unregistered agents.
Changes to ‘outstanding activity statement’ on demand report available
Assistant Commissioner Darryl McCarthy, Director David Baker and Assistant Director Katrena Cawthorne provided an update on the Changes to ‘Outstanding Activity Statement’ on demand report available in OSfA. The changes are scheduled to be made available in December 2021 and member feedback is welcomed.
Consultation with the profession has resulted in changes being made to the ‘Outstanding Activity Statement’ On demand report to provide the necessary detail to rectify the current notification gap.
The changes will include more comprehensive information with improved data filling options once the report is downloaded providing agents with additional reporting and filtering capability.
New fields now being included on the report will include:
- client account type
- registered agent number
- destination and delivery channels
- account balance and payment reference number
- email and postal address
- instalment amounts for both PAYG and GST
- status of client roles; active/inactive role.
Benefits of the new report format include the:
- delivery channel showing if the activity statement was a digital or paper delivery method
- destination channel showing if the activity statement was sent to the tax practitioner or the client including the email and/or postal address statement was issued too.
Member noted that practitioners are often unaware of improvements made to OSfA and recommended a banner on the home page of OSfA alerting agents to any recent changes or improvements made.
Practice security and cybersecurity
Assistant Commissioner Toby Amodio provided an update on Practice security and cybersecurity.
- The transition period for implementation and onboarding to Super Stream Rollover v3 is from 31 March 2021 to 30 September 2021. Members are reminded to be aware of any scams which may be related to this requirement.
- ASIC has seen an increase in reports from consumers losing money in crypto-asset (or cryptocurrency) scams as well as romance scams, where the scammer directs someone to an investment opportunity.
- Scamwatch has reported they have seen a significant increase in Australians getting scam text messages about missed calls, voicemails, or deliveries. These text messages request you click on a link or download an app to track a delivery or hear a voicemail. However, the app is fraudulent and contains malicious software knowns as Flubot.
- The ATO issued a scam alert to educate the community on new scammer payment methods. Clients who have paid money to a scammer through one of these local payment methods or are concerned about their personal safety are encouraged to report it to their local police.
- The ATO have initiated an education campaign for retailers to try and disrupt scammers using onshore, local 'Gift Card' payments.
- The ATO continued our involvement with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Scam Technology Action Taskforce (STAT). Since the ‘Reducing Scam Calls’ industry code was introduced, Telco’s have blocked more than 214 million scam calls to Australian phone numbers.
- The STAT is also working to address SMS alfa-tag spoofing, with the intention to prevent spam SMS from appearing in a client’s legitimate SMS feed. It is expected that this will generate an update to the Reducing Scams Code late in 2021.
There have been significant increases in Ransomeware attacks, these can be best prevented by patching systems and restricting users’ ability to run applications. Refer to Essential Eight Maturity ModelExternal Link for more information.
The ATO have seen exploits targeting Microsoft Exchange Servers. They can be mitigated through patching. These vulnerabilities were addressed in Microsoft’s April and May security updates and this demonstrates the importance of applying security updates regularly as the threat environment can change rapidly.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre has additional information and practical guides on how to protect yourself and your business from RansomwareExternal Link
Links and resources for more information:
Other business and meeting close
The 2022 meeting dates and format of meetings will be advised in the near future.
Agenda topics for this meeting can be forwarded to BASAAG@ato.gov.au
Summary of key topics discussed at the BAS Agent Association Group meeting 8 October 2021.