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  • BAS Agent Association Group key messages 27 March 2019

    Welcome

    The BAS Agent Association Group (BASAAG) meeting was held via telepresence on Wednesday 27 March 2019.

    External Collection Agencies

    Presenters: Carmen Hickey and John Groom ATO.

    The ATO now uses external collection agencies to follow up unlodged income tax returns and activity statements.  Tax and BAS agents have been consulted along the way in making this change. Tax and BAS agents should expect a similar experience regardless of whether dealing with an external collection agency or the ATO in making arrangements for income tax returns or activity statements to be lodged. The ATO is open to feedback on BAS agents’ experience when dealing with external collection agencies.

    Tax Practitioners Board

    Presenter: Michael O'Neill Tax Practitioners Board.

    Legislative review

    On 5 March 2019, the Assistant Treasurer announced a review into the effectiveness of the Tax Practitioners Board (The Board), and the operation of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and Tax Agent Services Regulations 2009. The review will consider whether the legislative and governance framework for The Board, delivers on its policy objectives to ensure that tax agent services are provided to the public in accordance with appropriate standards of professional and ethical conduct.

    The review will provide another opportunity for the government to address issues arising from the Black Economy Taskforce’s final report. Mr. Keith James has been appointed to chair the review and will be assisted by the Department of the Treasury. Terms of reference for the review, including the timeframes to make submissions, can be found on the Treasury’s website.External Link

    Whistleblower legislation

    New whistleblower legislation passed on 19 February 2019, creating a regime for disclosures of information by individuals regarding breaches of the tax laws or misconduct in relation to an entity’s tax affairs.

    The new regime will encourage whistleblowers to disclose information relating to actual or suspected non-compliance with taxation laws to the ATO, or others who can take action or investigate the alleged misconduct and introduce new protections for tax whistleblowers.

    These reforms protect whistleblowers who often expose themselves to significant personal and financial risk to help play a critical role in the early detection and prosecution of corporate or tax misconduct. The new law ensures that eligible whistleblowers are not subject to any civil, criminal or administrative liability (including disciplinary action) for making the disclosure, and that no contractual or other remedy may be enforced against them on the basis of the disclosure.

    Information products

    The Board will undertake a dedicated review of policy and guidance material.

    Information sheets (TPB(I) 09/2011: Software providers and the TASA External Linkand TPB(I) 31/2016: Payroll service providersExternal Link) have been updated to provide further clarity, and incorporate a relevant reference to Single Touch Payroll (including replacing the term ‘software provider’ with ‘digital software provider’).

    Continuing Professional Education reviews

    Continuing professional education reviews are being extended to include tax practitioners who are members of a recognised professional association. The continuing professional education policy requires practitioners to maintain records and evidence of education activities completed. The Board will ensure all tax practitioners comply with the policy and maintain the knowledge and skills relevant to the services they provide. Failure to comply may lead to a formal investigation that could result in an administrative sanction being imposed.

    Learn more about CPE requirementsExternal Link

    Branch registration

    The Board will no longer issue branch registrations. The Board will take a pragmatic transitional approach to work with tax practitioners that hold existing branch registrations to reduce numbers over time.

    Proof of identity requirements

    New proof of identity requirements commenced from November 2018. The process links into the Document Verification Service to help protect a practitioner's identity and aligns with Australian government standards. The process must be completed by all new individuals applying for registration, and all registered tax practitioners with annual declarations due from 1 December 2018.

    Refer to POI and password resetsExternal Link for more information.

    Online services for agents

    Presenter: Sonia Corsini ATO.

    Online services for agents has been made available through a progressive public beta rollout that commenced on 16 January 2019. All BAS agents and tax agents now have access.
    Throughout the public beta, agents will continue to have access to the existing Tax and BAS Agent Portals. The existing portal login page for BAS agents now provides a direct login option for Online services for agents and BAS Agent Portal login.

    This new service enables tax professionals to better support their clients by providing some new functionality and client information that is not currently available in the Tax and BAS Agent Portals.

    New functionality and client information that is not currently available in the BAS Agent Portal:

    • customisable user interface with a contemporary, streamlined design and improved search functionality
    • consolidated client view including lodgment and payment obligations
    • ability to establish new and view existing payment plans
    • simplified process to add and remove clients
    • access to single touch payroll reporting functionality.

    BAS agents are encouraged to start using the system and to tell the ATO about the experience by using the ‘Give us feedback’ link at the bottom of the screens. The ATO has received a lot of positive and constructive feedback from those agents that have started using the new system.

    The existing Tax and BAS Agent Portals will remain available. For more information and support material, refer to Online services for agents

    Digital Identity

    Presenter: Claire Miller ATO.

    The ATO is delivering two core components of the GovPassExternal Link program. The first component is the myGovID that will allow users to establish their identity once and use the myGovID credential to access government services online. The second component is the Relationship Authorisation Manager. This will be used initially to manage authorisations across government services for business authorisations and their staff. Tax and BAS agents will need to be authorised in Relationship Authorisation Manager to access ATO systems on behalf of a practice.

    These two components will ultimately support the transition from AUSkey, that will reach end of life in March 2020. All AUSkey holders who require access to the Business Portal and ATO Online services for agents will require a myGovID credential by March 2020. myGovID will not be integrated with Tax and BAS Agent Portals.

    Single Touch Payroll

    Presenter: Angela Lehmann ATO.

    Legislation was passed to extend single touch payroll reporting to all employers from 1 July 2019. The Treasury Laws Amendment (2018 Measures No. 4) Bill 2018. Royal Assent was passed on Friday 1 March 2019.

    Single Touch Payroll changes the way employers report their employees' tax and super information to the ATO. Employers are required to report payments such as salaries and wages, pay as you go withholding and super information directly from their payroll solution at the same time they pay their employees.

    Employers do not need to change their pay cycle. They can continue to pay their employees weekly, fortnightly or monthly, as they do now. When they run their payroll, they will send their tax and super information for each employee. This is a more streamlined way of reporting.

    The reporting requirement extending to all employers will help ensure all Australians get their full superannuation entitlements, give greater transparency and help ensure a level playing field for small business. This initiative is also an important step in streamlining business reporting and keeping pace with the digital age.

    Employers who report an employee’s payment and withholding details through Single Touch Payroll may not have to provide that employee with a payment summary at the end of the financial year. The ATO will prefill payment summary information in ATO Online services. Employees will be able to view their information in myGov. Tax practitioners will be able to access this information via the Tax Agent Portal or Online services for agents.

    The ATO has streamlined the process for registered agents to provide payroll services to their clients.

    • If a registered agent reports through single touch payroll for an employer, they can obtain written authorisation to make this declaration through an annual agreement.
    • This written agreement will evidence a registered agent’s authorisation to prepare single touch payroll pay events on behalf of an employer. It will allow the registered agent to make the relevant declaration to the Commissioner at the time of lodging each pay event.
    • The single touch payroll engagement authority is subject to eligibility criteria and must only be used for lodging a single touch payroll pay event. not the authority to lodge other approved forms.

    An authority must be reviewed and signed by an employer and their registered agent every twelve months or any time there has been a significant change in the industrial relations, taxation or payroll process.

    The ATO consulted with industry representatives and facilitated an expert focus group that included small business, tax professional and industry association representation during May to November 2018. The aim of this group was to explore practical solutions for helping micro employers transition to single touch payroll, especially those with little or no digital capability.

    The group helped develop pathways to support small employers including:

    • the option of using a simple, low cost or no cost, alternative reporting solution
    • deferrals for any small employer who needs more time to start single touch payroll reporting
    • no penalties will be applied to any small employer that makes a genuine attempt to switch to single touch payroll reporting or put in place arrangements for the first year.
    • no penalties will be applied for missed or late single touch payroll reporting in the first year.
    • exemptions for employers experiencing hardship, or in areas with intermittent or no internet connection.
    • allow micro employers with 1-4 employees the option to lodge their single touch payroll report quarterly through their registered tax or BAS agent at the same time as they lodge their activity statement.

    The ATO will support small employers with closely held payees by:

    • delaying the start date for employers with closely held payees by offering them an exemption
    • providing an ongoing option to report the closely held payees’ salary, wage and/or directors fees quarterly, rather than each pay day.

    They will also have an extended finalisation due date (the due date of their income tax return) for the closely held payees in line with existing concessions for pay as you go payment summaries.

    Employers with 19 or less employees and their registered agents will be able to apply for a deferral or exemption using an online form that will be available from April 2019. If an employer is able to start reporting before 30 September 2019, they do not need to apply for additional time to start reporting. Where the employer requires further time to start reporting beyond this date, they will be able to use the online tool to apply.

    Changes to deductions for non-compliant payments to workers

    Presenter: Karen Hyland ATO.

    While the ATO works to implement this measure and at the same time supporting employers that are making the transition to single touch payroll reporting, the ATO will not be looking to undertake compliance activities around mistakes in reporting pay as you go withholding amounts. The ATO may still take compliance action if there is evidence of deliberate non-compliance or tax avoidance.

    A payer will not lose their deduction for payments to workers for failing to check an Australian Business Number (ABN). There is no pay as you go withholding requirement to check an ABN every time a payment is made, unless the payer had reason to suspect that it might not be genuine or that it did not belong to the supplier that quoted it.

    The ATO’s view on checking ABN’s is outlined on the ATO website and also at Taxation Ruling TR 2002/9 Income tax: withholding from payments where recipient does not quote ABN at paragraphs 63-64 and 120-125.

    These references relate to the pay as you go withholding requirements for checking an ABN. The requirement to check an ABN may be different under GST law.

    The ATO website has more information on when you can claim a GST credit and when you need a tax invoice

    More information

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

      Last modified: 21 May 2019QC 58974