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  • Tax Profession Digital Implementation Group key messages 15 August 2019

    Tax Time reflection of digital changes in 2019

    There have been significant digital changes that occurred in the tax practitioner space during 2018–19 with the implementation of Single Touch Payroll (STP), granular data, expansion of the taxable payment reporting system and the transition to ATO Online services.

    The group discussed how these changes have impacted the profession over tax time, the way in which they were introduced and their response to the level of ATO support received.

    Members highlighted some positive aspects of tax time to date:

    • positive uptake, compliance and finalisations of STP data by employers
    • ATO systems have performed well given the unprecedented increase in the early lodgment of returns
    • functionality provided by online services for agents including
      • superfund access and visibility of details
      • availability of prefill information
      • useful information provided on summary screen
      • the improved search function
      • payment plan arrangements
      • visibility of current tax or BAS agent authority and the ability for agents to remove themselves from a client
    • granular data reported will assist tax practitioners to review and amend returns in the future.

    Members provided feedback on areas where there are opportunities for improvement:

    • taxpayer confusion about obtaining their income statement from myGov
    • concerns regarding ‘un-finalised’ STP data being shown in prefill and discrepancies between data being shown in practice software and online services for agents
    • the type of private health insurance information being included in prefill (notwithstanding that it has not changed from previous years) is not as comprehensive as information that was previously on paper statements
    • providing agents with the ability to inform the ATO that they have amended or removed pre-fill data based on substantiation provided to them
    • granular deduction keying functionality such as acceptance of rounding, special characters and validation errors
    • excessive SMS alerts and email nudges dissuade agents and clients from reading all communication and therefore they may miss the important information being sent
    • functionality provided by online services for agents including suggestion to improve the taxable payment annual report feature.

    The ATO will conduct analysis on the quality and accuracy of data received during tax time and the overall implementation of single touch payroll later in the year.

    The group discussed the number of individuals who have completed the identification process for myGovID. Further discussion on the transition from AUSkey will be discussed at a future meeting of the AUSkey transition working group.

    Taxable payments reporting system

    Director Marcus Chew led a discussion with members on the general taxable payment reporting system (TPRS) experience and using the taxable payment annual report (TPAR) online form.

    The development of an online form was in response to an announcement in the 2018 Federal Budget to enable those without access to software to comply with TPRS.

    This online solution is designed to provide an option for the lodgment of simple returns with limited contractors.

    Initial ATO analysis on the effectiveness of the reporting system has found it to have had a positive impact on lodgments by contractors, and increased the overall tax performance of the industry.

    Next phase

    Online functionality will be refined based on feedback from user testing. A TPAR ‘Return Not Necessary’ form for the annual report is currently being designed.

    The ATO is looking to develop an application programming interface for digital service providers to include the form in practice software.

    Communication preferences

    Assistant Commissioners Sarah Vawser and David Allen provided an update on the private beta testing and rollout of a communication preferencing solution via ATO Online services for agents.

    Preferencing provides the ability for a client, or their agent with the expressed permission of their client, to tell the ATO who to direct outbound communications to.

    Tax and BAS agents are able to set the communication preference for approximately 90 communications templates under the following six different categories (communication types):

    • income tax
    • activity statement related
    • student and training support loans
    • superannuation
    • debt
    • employer and business obligations.

    Communication preferences will not cater for communications that cannot be sent electronically. These will continue to be sent by post. The ATO will continue to progressively enable more communications to be sent electronically.

    The ATO will continue to work with the tax practitioner community to support the integration of obtaining expressed authority into tax practitioner business practices.

    Initially the preferencing solution will be available to agents through ATO Online services for agents. Some early testing has been underway since December 2018 with a small number of agents and the ATO expects to expand this private beta in September 2019.

    The ATO is also working to deliver this functionality in application programming interfaces to enable it to be incorporated into practice software.

    The progress of the private beta and timeframes for development of the application programming interfaces for practitioner software will be discussed further at the November 2019 meeting.

    Activity Statement Financial Processing project overview

    Deputy Commissioner David Diment provided an overview of the Activity Statement Financial Processing (ASFP) project which will transition indirect tax accounts, primarily activity statement and franking deficit tax accounts, and related processes into the one ATO system.

    The transition will provide an improved client and staff experience through the majority of client account information being held in one single accounting system.

    This integration is a stepping stone to the ATO's 2024 vision building a contemporary system allowing for future changes.

    Benefits of the project include:

    • reducing the duplication of effort required to maintain data in two systems
    • new and consolidated approach to debt management including the use of new analytics and better debt case selection system and payment plans
    • removing the disjointed client experience
    • taxpayer accounts in one place (excluding excise), complete client financial position in one view
    • improved screens and presentation
    • automated ‘wash-up’ process for payment transfers and offsetting arrangements.

    The deployment is proposed for December 2019 (during the ATO Christmas shutdown period) contingent on the successful conversion of client accounts and data.

    Although this is a major change for the ATO in terms of scope and internal process, the changes will be less visible for the broader community.

    Increased communication with the tax professional community is planned towards the end of 2019.

    Activity statement due date forecasting

    Assistant Commissioner Sonia Corsini informed members of changes to the displayed activity statement due dates in 2020.

    Currently ATO systems show the legislative due date under the law for activity statements and do not reflect the concessional due dates provided for activity statements lodged electronically or via an agent.

    The system changes resulting from the ASFP project will enable the ATO to more accurately reflect activity statement due dates for tax and BAS agents and their clients. Lodgment concessions including those provided for electronic lodgment of forms will be displayed.

    Communications from the ATO, Tax Practitioners Board and tax professional associations will highlight the change and endeavour to ensure that all practitioners are aware to no longer manually change the date for their clients.

    Other business

    2020 Company tax return (CTR) instructions

    Members were provided with details of the program of work to improve the 2020 CTR instructions.

    If tax practitioners or professional associations have members wish to provide comment or suggestions for improvements we would be interested in receiving that feedback via the TPSG mailbox.

    For more information, refer to:

    ATO Online services for agents

    The public beta for Online services for agents ended on 17 August 2019 and Online services for agents has become the default service option.

    The portals will remain available and can be accessed through the link at the bottom of the login page. No decision has been made on when the portals will be decommissioned, although the ASFP system transition over the ATO Christmas closure period will result in information becoming ‘read only’.

    The ATO is committed to providing a contemporary service and will continue to build on the functionality of the Online services.

    The ATO thanked members and their colleagues who assisted through the beta processes and provided feedback. This testing allowed for issues to be identified and refinements made based on user feedback. The ATO now have a contemporary system, co-designed with the tax profession to be intuitive, user friendly and efficient.

    Access to deceased taxpayer information

    The ATO have formed a working group with tax practitioners and representatives from the tax professional associations and Public Trustees to discuss access to deceased persons’ information from the ATO.

    Currently the ATO provides tax professionals with deceased taxpayer information through the tax and BAS agent portals which will be decommissioned in 2020. This information is not provided through ATO Online Services for Agents.

    The ATO will work with the tax profession to identify and examine all the associated issues relating to the provision of this information and work towards a resolution.

      Last modified: 26 Sep 2019QC 60198