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  • 16 March 2018

    The Tax Profession Digital Implementation Group meeting was held on Friday 16 March 2018.

    The information below is a summary of topics discussed at the meeting.


    The theme of the meeting was ‘Our digital world continues to change in 2018’ and the group discussed achievements in the digital journey and impacts affecting the whole of the tax profession. Highlights include:

    • the move of main tax returns from the electronic lodgment service (ELS) to the practitioner lodgment service (PLS) with some other forms and services still to come, including the individual income tax form transition on 1 April 2018
    • tax and BAS agent portal services built in the ATO Online platform
    • additional functionality being released into practice management software
    • the release of single touch payroll.

    Practitioner Lodgment Service transition update

    As at 9 March 2018 agents lodged 64% of electronically lodged income tax returns via PLS. There has also been an increase in activity statement lodgment through PLS.

    There is a population of agents that lodged via ELS during tax time last year who are still to lodge a PLS return this year. The ATO is currently engaging with this group to ensure that they don’t have a problem when they come to lodge. Engagement and support activities will continue into Tax Time 2018 for the late adopters.

    The group discussed the proposed ELS closure date of 1 April 2018 and the lack of support that will be available on that weekend should tax practitioners experience issues. Both the ATO and digital service providers highlighted that readiness and contingency plans are in place, and delaying the date in some cases would require an additional update by digital service providers. Tax practitioners need to be reminded that they may need to have taken action in access manager to lodge after the April cut-off.

    The progressive closure dates for minor ELS forms and reports have been proposed working in conjunction with digital service providers. These dates will be finalised and published to shortly.

    Operational Framework and New application programming interfaces (API)

    The Digital Service Provider (DSP) Operational Framework aims to strengthen the security of the digital tax and superannuation ecosystem by establishing a level of certainty and compliance for DSPs and also providing assurance to tax professionals, businesses and individuals.

    DSPs make a range of tax and superannuation related services available to the community through the implementation of ATO application programming interfaces (APIs) and services. Due to the sensitive nature of information consumed, there is a significant level of risk in releasing these services without adequate security measures in place.

    The ATO has categorised it's APIs based on the characteristics of the service such as the sensitivity and type of content, and the potential fraud that could occur through consumption of the API. There may be more conditions placed on DSPs accessing ‘high risk’ services than those accessing ‘no risk’ services.

    The intent of these measures is to ensure that across the ecosystem everyone is doing the right thing. The ATO is working with DSPs to ensure that are taking steps to ensure compliance with the Operation Framework.

    Tax practitioners wishing to find our more are encouraged to contact their DSP and discuss what level of risk rating the DSP has attained.

    Members discussed the release of a number of ‘value add’ software services that are scheduled to be released to DSPs to consume in the near future. Tax practitioners are encouraged to contact their DSP if they wish to know what is available in the ATO catalogue of APIs and request that a particular product or service be built into their software.

    Multi-factor authentication is one of the first controls that agents will see coming out of the Operational Framework and will be mandatory by the end of March 2018. DSPs reported that there has been very little impact by the change and few issues experienced by their clients upon implementation.

    Members discussed cyber security and the need for additional skilling in the profession around the risks and how to mitigate the risk. Tax practitioners storing client data in the cloud or other applications need to take responsibility for ensuring the security of the data. Members recommended that further discussion on cyber security be added to a future meeting agenda.

    ATO Online services for agents

    The ATO is transitioning current Tax and BAS Agent Portal services into the ATO Online services for agents. This means that all ATO Online services will be provided on the same IT platform (ATO Online) in the longer term. Access to functionality and services and to view information will depend on the user’s role in the tax system and permissions to act on behalf of another entity. The view of information and access to functionality will be different for tax and BAS agents.

    Existing tax and BAS agent functionality is being built into ATO Online. Currently around sixty percent of the Portal functionality is available in ATO Online. There will be a larger release of functionality into ATO Online occurring in late April 2018 that will see around ninety percent of the current Portal functions deployed into ATO Online.

    The ATO is currently working with around 110 tax and BAS agents to test the new ATO Online services for agents in a private beta environment. The private beta gives participants access to ATO Online services for agents in a live production environment and the ability to see how the functionality performs. Following the next release in late April 2018, the beta participants will have access to a broader range of functionality and services to test in a ‘live’ production environment.

    Participants have been providing feedback to the ATO on the functions that are currently available and the user guides that will help practitioners transition from using the current Portals to the ATO Online services for agents.

    The ATO will take a balanced approach to expanding the ATO Online private beta to more participants. Prior to opening the beta up to the next group of participants and the public beta stage the ATO will consider factors such as:

    • the technology working correctly and confidence in the robustness of the system
    • change management readiness and support materials and processes
    • timing in relation to other changes impacting on the tax practitioner environment.

    Members discussed the impact of the proposed digital communication solution (correspondence preferencing) and the potential need to review practice engagement letters and procedures once digital communication is available.

    A session will be arranged with this group in the near future to discuss the implications and risks associated with digital communication being implemented, and seek member feedback.

      Last modified: 01 Dec 2020QC 54585