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  • BAS Agent Association Group key messages 2 April 2020

    Welcome and introductions

    Members welcomed the new Chairperson, Assistant Commissioner Trent Jakubowski to the group.

    COVID-19

    The government has enacted legislation to support its economic response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to help the community withstand and recover from the economic impact of COVID-19. The ATO is committed to working with BAS agents to assist them to help their clients.

    New measures recently announced include:

    • JobKeeper payment
    • providing individuals early access to their superannuation
    • temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown rates
    • boosting cash flow assistance for employers
    • increasing the instant asset write-off, making more businesses eligible
    • backing business investment by accelerating depreciation deductions.

    There are support measures to assist those affected by COVID-19

    • The ability to defer the payment date of amounts due through the business activity statement including Pay As You Go (PAYG) instalments, income tax assessments, fringe benefits tax assessments and excise by up to six months.
    • If clients are on a quarterly reporting cycle, they can opt into monthly GST reporting in order to get quicker access to GST refunds they may be entitled to.
    • Clients can vary PAYG instalment amounts to zero for the March 2020 quarter. Businesses that vary their PAYG instalment to zero can also claim a refund. The ATO can remit any interest and penalties, incurred on or after 23 January 2020, that have been applied to tax liabilities.
    • The ATO will work with affected businesses to help them pay their existing and ongoing tax liabilities by allowing them to enter into low interest payment plans.

    If clients are experiencing difficulties with tax obligations because of COVID-19, they can phone our Emergency Support Infoline on 1800 806 218 for help tailored to their circumstances.

    There is also a Registered Agent Disaster line 1800 700 724 to offer assistance.

    The ATO is meeting regularly with professional associations and tax practitioners to understand the issues that are emerging and how to respond and support the community. The COVID-19 landing page is updated regularly. Practitioners are encouraged to refer to the website in the first instance for information. You can subscribe to receive alerts when website information is updated at subscriptions.

    We are confident that the strong working partnership between the ATO and the tax profession will allow us to support the community through this difficult time. COVID-19 Commissioner Chris Jordan's message to the tax profession.

    The ATO and the Tax Practitioners Board have also issued a joint statement published on the ATO website about Working together in response to the impacts of COVID-19.

    Payment and debt management

    The ATO’s current focus is to ensure support services are available to assist tax and BAS agents manage payment plans and arrangements for their clients. If clients contact the ATO directly, contact centre staff have been asked to support and assist people in the most practical way. Although the ATO is not providing blanket lodgment or payment deferrals at this stage, deferral options are available on a case by case basis.

    Tax and BAS agents are able to make payment arrangements at lodgment deferral tips for their clients of up to $100,000, with other conditions to meet. Agents can also send information via practice mail. With sufficient detail in the practice mail message, payment arrangements can be put in place and confirmation letters issued.

    Tax and BAS agents are encouraged to review and modify payment arrangements where necessary.

    Communication Preferences

    Communication preferences is a new function in Online Services for Agents (OSfA) which allows registered agents, with their client’s express written authority, to determine where digital communication from the ATO is sent, that is, agent or client.

    BAS agents have the ability to preference two types of correspondence related to the accounts they are authorised via the ‘communication’ menu:

    • Debt (including Statements of account, overdue notices)
    • Activity statement related (including role cancellation/updates).

    Client correspondence preference to a BAS agent will be received in the agent’s client mail inbox however; the agent has visibility of other correspondence issued via the ‘Communication history’ screen.  

    Where a tax agent is linked to the client account, but no agent linked at the activity statement account level, then tax agent preferences will be used for that account.

    Where a tax agent is linked to the client account, however, a BAS agent is linked at the activity statement account level, then communications related to the activity statement account will follow the BAS agent preference.

    Superannuation guarantee amnesty

    On 6 March 2020 the government introduced a Superannuation guarantee amnesty. The amnesty allows employers to disclose and pay previously unpaid super guarantee charge including nominal interest, that they owe their employees, for quarter(s) starting from 1 July 1992 to 31 March 2018, without incurring the administration component ($20.00 per employee per quarter) or Part 7 penalty.

    As the amnesty closes on a weekend, employers will have until 11.59pm on 7 September 2020 to apply for the amnesty.

    Tax or BAS agents can apply for the amnesty on their clients’ behalf provided they are an authorised representative recorded on ATO systems.

    In addition, payments of super guarantee charge made to the ATO after 24 May 2018 and before 11.59pm 7 September 2020 will be tax deductible.

    Payment plans can be arranged where the amount cannot be paid in full.

    Employers who have already disclosed unpaid super guarantee charge to the ATO between 24 May 2018 and 6 March 2020 do not need to apply or lodge again – see Superannuation guarantee amnesty disclosures of unpaid SG between 24 May 2018 and 6 March 2020. The ATO is reviewing these disclosures and amending assessments to apply the benefits of the amnesty. This will result in some employers receiving a refund. To allow the ATO to issue these refunds in a timely manner, employers should make sure that their financial institution account details are updated and correct. This can be done via the Business Portal or by phoning the ATO on 13 28 66.

    The ATO acknowledges that businesses and employers are under pressure with many matters to consider in the current environment; however employers are encouraged to apply for the amnesty by 7 September 2020 at Superannuation guarantee amnesty.

    The ATO understands that as a result of COVID-19, employers circumstances may change and they may not be able to pay the liability. The ATO will work with employers to setup a payment plan that is flexible to help them continue to make payments. These payment plans may extend beyond 7 September 2020 however, only payments made before 11.59pm 7 September 2020 will be deductible.

    More information about the amnesty including eligibility criteria, benefits and how to apply can be found at Superannuation guarantee amnesty.

    JobKeeper payment

    The Government has announced a $130 billion JobKeeper payment to help keep more Australians in jobs and support businesses affected by the significant economic impact caused by the COVID-19. Around 6 million workers will receive a fortnightly payment of $1,500 (before tax) through their employer. The payment ensures eligible employers remain connected to their workforce and will help businesses restart quickly when the crisis is over.

    Members reviewed the recent information published on the Treasury website ResourcesExternal Link, in particular the three fact sheets to support businesses to retain jobs, information for employees and information for employers.

    Information on the JobKeeper Payment was updated on 30 March 2020 asks people to register their interest in receiving more information once legislation has been passed. This page is not a registration to receive the payment. Tax and BAS agents can provide their contact details and their Australian Business Numbers so they can receive one set of information to consider how this measure might apply to their client base. More information can be found at Tax and BAS agents.

    Tax Practitioners Board

    The Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) released a discussion paper regarding the development of a BAS services legislative instrument to expand the services that BAS agents could legally provide, to the recognised professional associations and other relevant stakeholders for out-of-session feedback, with the consultation period closing on 28 February 2020. The feedback received will be considered at the Board’s Professional Practice Committee, and further discussion at the TPB consultative forum meeting on 24 March 2020.

    The TPB and the ATO are due to meet in April 2020 to discuss the proposed draft instrument and how to implement changes in OSfA.

    Several rounds of consultation may be required in relation to the proposed amendment to the current legislative instrument declaring certain services as “BAS services”. In the intervening period (until a new instrument is registered), the TPB proposes to issue a media release confirming that it will not commence any compliance action under Part 5 of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA) against registered BAS agents for provision of services that fall within scope of the draft instrument. This pragmatic approach is consistent with past practice.

    The TPB is also working closely with the ATO to ensure key messages are shared so that clients and tax practitioners can take full advantage of the Super guarantee amnesty.

    More information

    Tax practitioners can obtain more information on these topics at Tax and BAS agents and from the professional association representatives. Tax practitioners should contact their representative to contribute items for future discussions.

      Last modified: 24 Apr 2020QC 62329