Show download pdf controls
  • 1. Welcome and introductions

    The Chairperson opened the meeting, welcomed members and noted apologies.

    Minutes from the last meeting held on 29 August 2017 have been distributed and published to the ATO website.

    Members had a discussion about the system availability around key due dates. Members put forward the idea that when an ATO system issue or scheduled maintenance occurs on a lodgment due date, an announcement could be made via the ATO Tax professionals newsletter, the ATO website or the home page of the tax agent portal that a grace period will be provided and clients will not incur penalties. Tax practitioners can then refer their clients to this announcement if they wish to.

    Action items

    Action item tabled at the meeting held 29 August 2017 to demonstrate the new portal screen and do a preferencing consultation with members of this group.

    Reference

    BASAAG – 2908/01

    Agenda topic

    New ATO online portal

    Action item

    Sylvia to speak to Enterprise systems technology and present an example of what the new portal looks like at the next BASAAG meeting

    Responsibility

    Sylvia Gallagher

    Update

    New ATO online portal will be covered in agenda item 4 at the meeting on 28 November 2017

    Status

    Closed

    2. Debt Transparency Measures

    In the 201617 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook the Government announced that it will allow the ATO to disclose tax debt information to credit reporting bureaus. We anticipate the proposed draft legislation will be tabled in Parliament in March 2018. We also anticipate public consultation on the law and explanatory memorandum will take place from December 2017 through to February 2018.

    The purpose of allowing the ATO to report tax debt information to credit reporting bureaus is to:

    • Support more informed decision making in the business community by making overdue tax debts more visible. This will enable businesses and credit providers to make a more complete assessment of the creditworthiness of a business when they consider extending credit or terms of trade.
    • Reduce unfair advantage obtained by businesses that do not pay their tax on time. These businesses may have a competitive advantage over businesses who comply with their obligations.
    • Encourage businesses to engage with the ATO to manage their tax debts and, where an entity is unable to pay a tax debt in full, enter into a sustainable payment plan, which will exclude them from credit reporting.

    The ATO will have the discretion to report the tax debt information where a business meets all the following criteria:

    • Has an ABN and is not an excluded entity. Some examples of excluded entities include charities, not for profit organisations and superannuation funds.
    • Has a tax debt, of which at least $10 000 is overdue by more than 90 days including any activity statement, income tax, superannuation, fringe benefits tax, and penalties and interest. The total outstanding figure will be reported.
    • Has not effectively engaged with the ATO to manage its debts. Some examples of effectively engaging with the ATO include a payment arrangement and meeting the terms of the payment arrangement or have lodged a formal dispute with the ATO.

    Effective engagement is likely to include payment plan and disputes though this will be confirmed through consultation. Businesses are encouraged to engage with the ATO and pay debts in a timely manner to avoid credit reporting.

    Credit reporting bureaus will be required to register with the ATO to obtain access to tax debt information. The ATO will have agreements with these credit reporting bureaus with governance requirements to ensure integrity in the process.

    The ATO recognises the important role businesses play in the Australian economy and will take a measured approach to implementation of the measure. Even where the business satisfies all of the criteria for reporting, the ATO will have a number of additional safeguards such as being able to provide a temporary reprieve for exceptional circumstances. The ATO is consulting with industry to ensure that business are given sufficient opportunity to engage with the ATO.

    Initially the ATO’s debt collection activities would normally involve a number of attempts to collect a debt giving sufficient opportunity to engage with the ATO. The ATO’s current design will consider a debt overdue by 90 days from the later of the due date or the process date. Members requested the Transparency of Debt Frequently Asked Questions be updated to reflect when a debt is considered overdue by 90 days.

    There will be additional safeguards including within The Act that the ATO are required to give the client notice. Once ATO debt collection activities have been actioned a pre-reporting warning letter will be issued to the business address giving the business a further 21 days to take appropriate action. There will be a phone number for the business to contact the ATO and a business does have a right of review if they feel they do not meet the criteria or their debt is not overdue by 90 days.

    Entities can request a temporary suspension to reporting in exceptional circumstances such as family tragedy, serious illness, impacts of a natural disaster and other exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances do not include cash flow issues or financial hardship.

    These additional safeguards show the measured and considered approach the ATO will take in the administration of the measure, acknowledging the impact reporting could have on businesses that get behind in their tax debts.

    The absence of tax debt information on a business’ credit file should not be relied upon as evidence that there is no tax debt owing. The operation of the reporting criteria and the additional safeguards mean that tax debt reported to credit reporting bureaus will always only be a subset of the clients who owe tax debts to the ATO.

    Implementation of the Transparency of Tax Debts measure will occur gradually, starting with companies. The ATO will also focus on raising community awareness of the measure and its implications in the period leading up to, and during the initial stages of implementation. This will include newsletters, articles, forums and speeches.

    The ATO recommends tax practitioners talk to their clients about engaging with the ATO prior to the measure coming into effect in order to manage any outstanding tax liabilities.

    Members were asked to provide feedback, if it would be helpful for the ATO to provide information about which clients from their client list meet the criteria before the measure is implemented?

    Tax professionals can access a recording of the webinar held on 22 November and documents for consultation at Transparency of Tax DebtExternal Link.

    For more information refer to Transparency of Debt measure FAQ or contact TaxDebtTransparency@ato.gov.au

    Clarify when the 90 day count starts under the Debt Transparency measure

    The intent for the system design is to start the 90 day period from the later of the processed date or the effective date. The following scenarios demonstrate when the 90 day count starts:

    • Where a taxpayer lodges on time and the liability is due at a point in the future, 90 days will start from the date the liability becomes overdue (this is the effective date)
    • Where a taxpayer lodges late or amends, the 90 days is calculated from the date the ATO records the liability (this is called the processed date)
    • Where the ATO re-raises a debt that was previously non-pursued, the 90 days will run from the date the debt was re-raised on our system (this is the processed date).

    The ATO will have the discretion, but will not be obliged, to report the tax debt information of a business to a registered CRB where the business meets all the following criteria:

    • Has an ABN and is not an excluded entity.
    • Has a tax debt, of which at least $10,000 is overdue by more than 90 days.
    • Has not effectively engaged with the ATO to manage its debts. i.e. has entered into a payment arrangement and is complying with the terms of that arrangement or has lodged a formal dispute.

    Once a liability becomes overdue (noting several days grace for the receipt and processing of payments), the ATO will commence its pre-legal debt recovery processes. These processes may vary depending on an entity’s past compliance history. This pre-legal recovery activity seeks to engage the entity to address its overdue tax debts in a timely manner.

    Where an entity has multiple tax debts across different ATO accounts, they will be added together to determine if the entity’s total overdue tax debt meets the debt threshold test noting that future dated liabilities are not included in calculation of the account balance for meeting the threshold test.

    As an additional safeguard for entities not yet reported, the ATO will look at an entity’s tax debts for the past 14 days as a proportion of its total overdue tax debts. The ATO will delay the reporting of an entity with a large recent increase in its tax debts. This is designed to give the entity additional time to respond to the sudden increase and pay the debt or enter into a payment plan.

    Information on how to find out the balance of an entity’s overdue tax debts can be found at how much you owe.

    Additional information on the measure and some frequently asked questions can be found at this link: transparency of tax debt measure

    3. Small Business Superannuation Clearing House

    The Small Business Superannuation Clearing House is scheduled to transition from the Department of Human Services to the ATO in late February 2018.

    The Small Business Superannuation Clearing House had as at the end of September 2017 approximately 303,000 registered employers, with 275,817 active users and 204,261 employers who made a successful payment in 2016/17.

    The ATO will directly communicate with users expected to make payments in February 2018 to advise them of any system accessibility restrictions during the system transition. Key dates, accessibility restrictions and preparations for readiness will also be communicated to tax practitioners via updates in the ATO Tax professionals newsletter.

    The Small Business Superannuation Clearing House will no longer be accessible with a username and password combination. Clients will require a credential to access the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House from early 2018.

    Users will then have the ability to access the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House via:

    • ATO Online
    • Business Portal
    • Tax and BAS agent portals

    The Small Business Superannuation Clearing House communication and transition will be over 5 phases.

    • Phase one is now completed and was an awareness campaign
    • Phase two will be on the business portal services available to small businesses and how to access these
    • Phase three will be the key communication period around the requirements of the new Small Business Superannuation Clearing House system and any accessibility restrictions
    • Phase four will be the transition period
    • Phase five the transition of the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House system has been completed and access will be via the online portals.

    All employer users will receive five Small Business Superannuation Clearing House newsletter alerts informing them of the changes to the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House during each key communication phase of the transition. These are intended to provide information and instruction on how to prepare for and access the ATO Small Business Superannuation Clearing House.

    For more information refer to Small Business Clearing House and the Small Business Clearing House webinarExternal Link

    4. New ATO online services

    The new online services portal will have one entry point for tax and BAS agents. A tax practitioner’s level of authorisation will determine access and what they are able to view online. The new agent homepage is tailored based on whether the user is a tax or BAS agent.

    Before and after screen shots of the tax agent portal homepage were shown to members with the disclaimer that this was a demonstration model and may change. Member feedback was welcomed.

    The new agent homepage has a notifications and alerts tab. When logging into the new online services for the first time the first notification will be a request to set preferences.

    Other features of the new online services agent homepage include the homepage being personalised to the individual user.

    Elements of the agent homepage include:

    • notifications and alerts for example system maintenance times
    • practice mail
    • lodgment program status
    • favourite clients can be used to compile a list of client appointments for the day.
    • customise quick links.

    Members suggested that a link or similar showing all activity statements outstanding for all clients would be helpful and eventually having this type of solution available in practice management software.

    Reference

    BASAAG – 2811/01

    Agenda topic

    New ATO online services

    Action item

    The ATO will explore the options to provide BAS agents with a list of overdue lodgment obligations and upcoming overdue lodgment obligations

    Responsibility

    Sylvia Gallagher, Doug Wickham

    A private pilot group will commence testing these new functions in December 2017. Subject to current planning processes and feedback from the private pilot group, the ATO anticipates broadening the pilot group after the next system release on 30 April 2018. Testing will continue until the tax professional community informs the ATO that the system is ready for transition to the new online services.

    Reference

    BASAAG – 2811/02

    Agenda topic

    New ATO online services

    Action item

    The ATO will investigate the use of ‘cookies’ to provide BAS agents with the option to set the default systems (old portal services or new portal services), or switch between the services at a time they feel they are ready.

    Responsibility

    Sylvia Gallagher, Doug Wickham

    Lodgment, debt and payment plans information in the client summary will all be on the one page view (subject to your level of authorisation for that client).

    Reference

    BASAAG – 2811/03

    Agenda topic

    New ATO online services

    Action item

    Members requested a future agenda item to discuss the ability for BAS agents to view income tax debit account balances.

    Responsibility

    Colin Walker

     

    Reference

    BASAAG – 2811/04

    Agenda topic

    New ATO online services

    Action item

    Investigate the possibility of viewing notification that a client has been reported to a credit reporting agency, and whether a BAS agent has authority to view that type of communication or notification.

    Responsibility

    Sylvia Gallagher, Doug Wickham

     

    Reference

    BASAAG – 2811/05

    Agenda topic

    New ATO online services

    Action item

    The ATO will continue the current design intent when making lodgment due dates visible, to display concessional lodgment due dates where prior statements have been lodged electronically via a tax or BAS agent.

    Responsibility

    Sylvia Gallagher, Doug Wickham

    Depending on your authorisations tax practitioners will have access to an extended list of accounts including:

    • tax accounts (24 accounts vs 8 currently available)
    • loan accounts (5 accounts vs 3 currently available)
    • excise and resource rent tax accounts (5 accounts vs 4 currently available)
    • super guarantee account
    • overpaid super account (displays 2 roles)
    • super fund administration accounts (3 accounts
    • displaying 19 roles).

    There are a number of significant irritants identified with the existing ‘Add client’ function including:

    • client name mismatches
    • the need to enter account sequence numbers
    • no visibility of other agents linked to the client.

    The ‘Add client’ feature addresses known portal irritants and ensures a streamlined process for agents. Improvements include the ability to see whether another tax or BAS agent is linked to the client at an account level. Currently, if a tax agent adds themselves to an activity statement role it will remove a BAS agent from that role with no notification given to the tax agent or the BAS agent that this has occurred. This feature will provide visibility to a tax agent that a client has an existing link to a BAS agent for that role. To remove or replace an existing link tax agents and BAS agents have to make a conscious decision to do it. For the moment, the current design does not prevent a tax agent from replacing a tax or BAS agent but it does provide visibility that a link exists.

    Agents can set communication preferences for their practice and can choose to:

    • apply their practice communication preferences to some or all of their clients
    • set specific communication preferences for a client.

    There will be an area where BAS agents can view notifications relating to correspondence contained in the client communication list, the name for which is currently proposed to be practice mail and mail that is exchanged between the BAS agent and the ATO via what is currently known as portal mail. The ATO asked members for feedback on how to ‘name’ the services to make the differences meaningful to the BAS agent.

    Tax practitioners will be able to set specific communication preferences for their practice, these will be digital communications. By law when selecting a digital correspondence preference on behalf of someone, authorisation is required from the client. Correspondence requested by the tax practitioner will be viewable in their Practice mail by:

    • filter and sort
    • identify whether correspondence has been read
    • view linked correspondence
    • dismiss correspondence

    Tax practitioners will be able to conduct both a quick search and an advanced search including:

    • save a list of their favourite clients for easy navigation from their homepage
    • search for a client using a client’s identifier or client name
    • search using name displays with predictive matches as the agent types
    • access their full client list
    • filter their client list based on entity type (partnership, company) or tax product (income tax, GST).

    5. Simpler BAS

    The ATO is committed to on-going engagement and consultation to ensure that the Simpler BAS client experience is optimal for both small business and tax practitioners.

    BAS Agent Association Group members were thanked for their contribution with the Simpler BAS process, key messages and for helping to ensure Simpler BAS was a practical solution for small business.

    BAS Agent Association Group member Matthew Addison and the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers were thanked for their contribution to the Bookkeeping Reference Guide.

    Simpler BAS went live on 1 July 2018 and has two distinct components of:

    • reduced the reporting on the form to 3 labels
    • flexible component with a voluntary option of does a small business make changes to their accounting software to reduce the number of GST codes. This change may not suit all businesses.

    From 1 July 2018 there are 2.56 million businesses that have successfully transitioned over to Simpler BAS reporting, with 38,000 businesses not on Simpler BAS reporting. Of the 38,000 businesses 8,500 businesses stayed on full reporting in recognition of the business either having a very large income tax turnover, small to nil GST turnover or businesses like financial suppliers that require extra detail for reporting to other government agencies.

    Moving forward the ATO has tax practitioners involved in co designing any future changes to the online services portal. Software developer partners have from 1 July 2018, a reporting solution in place to allow for a three label BAS to be lodged and all standard business reporting enabled software have these processes in place.

    A survey was externally run with approximately 1200 businesses surveyed showing results that a high priority for businesses was streamlining and reducing reporting on BAS.

    The top five software developer partners all have a process that can manually reconfigure the accounting software, this process although relatively simple for tax practitioners can be somewhat convoluted for a small business to perform.

    Expected to be endorsed in December 2017 is an operational framework for the standard business reporting services which will provide a two way data exchange to accounting software packages. This will enable software developers to build new services such as, the software can see which clients are Simpler BAS and will deliver a prompt to them asking would they like to consolidate tax codes, have they discussed this with their tax advisor to make sure this is right for their business. If the answer is yes, the software can automatically update the software package.

    If a client wishes to change back from Simpler BAS to full reporting, they can call the ATO and the change will take effect from the next reporting period. Early in 2018 online services are scheduled to become available so the change can be made digitally without having to phone the ATO tax practitioner line.

    Social media interest in Simpler BAS has been quite large with 603,000 views and the Bookkeeping Reference Guide is receiving up to 16,000 views. Refunds and compliance are being closely monitored to ensure refunds are not being delayed and cycle times have actually become shorter.

    The ATO’s priority moving forward is around finishing off the commercial solution so clients can choose to use either reduced codes or complex codes. The ATO would like feedback as to whether clients have seen any changes to their accounting software or if they have updated their accounting software.

    Reference

    BASAAG – 2811/06

    Agenda topic

    Simpler BAS

    Action item

    The ATO will update members on the number of activity statements that are being completed by self-preparers using the simpler BAS reporting method

    Responsibility

    Richard Robinson

    6. Reducing paper activity statements and instalment notices

    At the BAS Agent Association meeting held on 29 August 2017, options for removing paper instalment activity statements were discussed.

    The discussion was continued at this meeting, and the ATO advised they are investigating the viability of various options discussed at the last meeting.

    A response was provided to a query asked in August around the legality of generating instalment notices to BAS agents. The ATO legal team have confirmed that these forms are able to be issued to the registered BAS agent.

    A current limitation to the BAS Agent Portal requires clients to have an ABN for them to be added to the client list in the portal. The ATO have worked to implement changes in the new portal to be deployed next year. Provided that a client has an Integrated Client Account, BAS agents will be able to add them to their client lists.

    It was noted that agents will not receive notification of instalment notices via their notification email, as instalment activity statement forms R, S and T are not included. This is why the ATO continues to send paper forms even though clients and agents are viewing and lodging (where required) electronically.

    The ‘Outstanding Activity Statements’ report available in the current portal was discussed, and the ATO asked for feedback on the usability of this report. The report provides information including client name and identifiers, document identification number, type and name of the form, period start and end dates, and form due dates and status. Agent feedback was that the report was not instant, there was a lengthy delay before the report was available, and this was not a good user experience. The ATO will look into the possibility of improving the report to provide information in real time.

    Members discussed online channel transition options. The majority of lodgments are made online, the ATO wants to transition clients from paper to online lodgment channels. Functionality has been built to send SMS and email messages to clients who lodge paper activity statements to encourage online lodgment. Members recommended both the messages and the steps to register for online lodgment be kept simple. Members provided suggestions for the myGov landing page including providing screen shots to show that registering for myGov and online options can be quick and easy.

    Members discussed the wording of the messages the ATO will send to clients to encourage online lodgment and how to make it easier and simpler for a new user to register for online lodgment while reminding clients of the option of engaging the services of a tax practitioner.

    Members recommended myGov be the channel to register for online services lodgment rather than the business portal.

    Members were asked for feedback on the timing of sending out messages. Currently the ATO is looking at sending out a message once the paper BAS lodgment is received. Members suggested attaching a paper message to the front of the next paper BAS being sent out to clients as clients who are not currently lodging digitally are not likely to respond to a text or email message. On the paper message attached to the paper BAS include the URL link with screen shots walking the client through the digital lodgment and the message that online lodgment will have a two week lodgment extension. Members were thanked for all their feedback which will be very useful.

    The ATO intends to pilot automatically updating the channel preference to digital for new GST/PAYGW clients.

    A discussion of the protocol regarding the ATO contacting clients of tax practitioners directly was held. Members suggested:

    • The ATO issue a statement of authority and certainty with the paper BAS advising the client there will be a two week lodgment extension by lodging electronically through an agent. This would provide the agent a tool to show their client a better preference would be electronic lodgment.
    • The ATO contact and advise all agents with paper lodgers that the ATO is moving to a digital environment and wherever possible clients need to move to a digital platform.
    • Possibly the ATO could determine that in twelve months’ time there will be no paper BAS lodgment available.

    7. Tax Practitioners Board update

    As of 31 October 2017, the Board had received a total of 79,977 tax practitioner registrations. Of these 15,398 (19%) were BAS agents. This figure includes approximately 3,000 company and partnership entities.

    The final renewal date for tax (financial) advisers is 31 January 2018, which will result in a very high volume of applications to process. As a result, tax practitioners may experience some delays in having their renewal applications processed over the next few months.

    Despite expected delays in processing renewal applications, BAS agents will continue to be registered and maintain ATO portal access throughout this period so long as they submit their renewal application on time.

    Since 1 July 2017 the Board has received a total of 2,338 new registration applications. This included 582 for new BAS agents.

    Of the total individual BAS agent population 7,638 (63%) identify as members of a Tax Practitioner Board accredited recognised professional association.

    About 99% of practitioners required to lodge their annual declaration each month do so by the due date. The Board has had to take action against a small number of BAS agents for not submitting their annual declaration. This has resulted in 14 written cautions, 6 orders and 3 registration terminations since 1 July 2017.

    Tax and BAS agents are continuing to download the Registered tax practitioner symbol from the Board’s website. As of 1 November 2017, 62% of BAS agents in business have downloaded the symbol. The symbol is a way BAS agents can show they are registered and raise awareness of the importance of being registered with their clients.

    The Board’s webinar program continues to be very popular. Since August 2017 the Board has delivered seven webinars:

    September 2017 webinars:

    • AFS licensees – do you have the 'sufficient number' required to renew your registration? – 134 attendees
    • A level playing field – 403 attendees
    • Completing your bulk renewal (for tax (financial) advisers) – 43 attendees

    October 2017 webinars:

    • Ready to renew your TPB registration? – 107 attendees
    • Confidentiality and conflicts – 550 attendees

    November 2017 webinars:

    There are a further two webinars scheduled for December 2017:

    The Board recently participated in several face-to-face events for BAS agents and also presented at the BAS agent-specific ATO Open Forum held on the Sunshine Coast on 5 October 2017.

    Face-to-face events for BAS agents:

    • IPA Bookkeepers Masterclass on 4 October 2017
    • Australian Bookkeepers Network Bookkeepers Radio segment on cyber security on 25 October 2017

    Since 1 July 2017, the Board has received 530 complaints and referrals. This included 29 complaints concerning BAS agents.

    229 BAS agent cases were finalised as at 1 November 2017. 208 of these cases are from annual declaration matters, non-lodgment or exceptions, which do not arise from complaints (note that some cases have multiple breaches).

    The Board released two policy documents for comment and is currently considering feedback received for the draft practice note on outsourcing, offshoring and the Code of Professional Conduct and is currently considering feedback received. The other is a draft information sheet about corporate governance requirements for recognised professional associations. Comments closed on 17 November 2017.

    The Tax Practitioners Board Annual Report 2016–17 was tabled in Parliament on Friday 27 October. The report captures the Board’s work supporting all registered tax practitioners and those seeking registration with the Tax Practitioners Board.

    In his review of 2016-17, Ian Taylor, Chair of the Tax Practitioners Board noted:

    “It has now been over seven years since BAS agents were first given official recognition under the TASA. Over time, we have seen their successful transition into the tax practitioner population and a significant increase in the professional recognition of BAS agents. As at November 2016, when all transitional registration arrangements ended, all registered individual BAS agents had met the necessary education and experience requirements, reinforcing the skills and qualifications of the BAS agent profession. 

    We always see a strong representation of BAS agents at our webinars and face-to-face events. This group has taken up the use of the registered tax practitioner symbol most extensively, and demonstrates a high level of compliance with the Code. 

    I would like to acknowledge BAS agents for their positive and important contribution to the professionalism of the registered tax practitioner community and the Australian tax system.” 

    The annual report is available from the Tax Practitioners Board websiteExternal Link.

    The latest edition of summary of penalties, sanction and terminations is now available on the websiteExternal Link and provides a summary of some recent compliance outcomes, including Federal Court, Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Board Conduct Committee matters.

    The Board has recently been working in partnership with the ATO Public Relations team to promote awareness among the small business industry of the importance of using a registered tax practitioner. This campaign has been picked up by news outlets such as Money Management, Accountants Daily, MyBusiness, and the Financial Standard. It was also shared through the ATO’s Small Business Stewardship Group.

    On 21 September, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman used the Boards use a registered agent traffic light imagery through their communications channels (sharing the message with their 823 followers on Twitter).

    8. Other business, forward agenda items and meeting close

    Members suggested agenda items for the April 2018 meeting:

    • Single Touch Payroll to discuss what Single Touch Payroll means to the agent
    • Small Business Superannuation Clearing House.

    Next meeting scheduled for Friday 20 April 2018 – Venue and format of meeting to be announced

    Agenda items can be forwarded to BASAAG@ato.gov.au at any time.

      Last modified: 06 Feb 2018QC 54509