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  • Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group briefing messages 15 April 2020

    COVID-19 impacts and response for the tax profession

    Varying activity statements

    At the meeting held on 8 April 2020, members asked the ATO to clarify the impact of varying the March quarter activity statement to NIL on the June activity statement. Assistant Commissioner Adam O’Grady provided the following information for members:

    • A variation made on the March activity statement will continue to flow through to the June activity statement. The varied amount or rate will apply for all remaining instalments for the income year, or until another variation is made.
    • Clients can continue to vary the June activity statement both upwards or downwards depending on their circumstances and needs.

    Communications update

    Assistant Commissioner Sally Bektas provided an update on ATO communication.

    The first tranche of high level JobKeeper information was published on the ATO website yesterday. We are currently working on providing more detailed information and further information regarding sole traders this week.

    Information on the cash flow boost measure has also been updated this week and will continue to be improved with more detailed information and examples.

    We are continuously reviewing queries and issues that are being raised through ATO community, social media and other channels and adding them to our frequently asked questions.

    We are also working closely with Services Australia, Treasury and other agencies to gain an understanding of the issues that are coming through their channels and aligning our communications to ensure people are getting the right information as quickly as possible.

    The ATO website has been updated to assist with user navigation and we are using webpage feedback to guide ongoing improvements to assist all client segments to find the information relevant to their needs as easily and quickly as possible.

    You can subscribe to receive notifications of updates to through our email subscription service or RSS feeds. You can select your preferred topic or section of the ATO website to receive updates about, as well as the frequency of these updates.

    In addition, we continue to prioritise and promote important website updates in the weekly Tax Professionals newsletter to guide subscribers to key updates for tax professionals.

    Tax professional’s webcastExternal Link: We had 5,500 attendees and nearly 650 comments and questions raised at our most recent webcast. The ATO will review the frequency of communications with the tax profession and adjust if necessary.

    Tax time 2020 readiness

    Assistant Commissioner Mary Arrowsmith discussed ATO readiness for Tax Time 2020. Key issues discussed included:

    • reliance on prefill data
    • expectation of ‘double peak’ including businesses and individual lodgments
    • opportunity for tax professionals to gather some information now if meeting with business clients
    • pressure to meet lodgment deadlines.

    Tax profession concerns

    A range of concerns were raised at the discussion. Members commented on various pressures that the profession is experiencing at present including:

    • achieving the 85% lodgment benchmark
    • correctly interpreting the stimulus measures, calculations and timing of actions to be taken, and the consequences of making errors
    • overload of information and keeping updated on information as it becomes available
    • fear of providing advice outside of their scope i.e. employment law and Fair Work legislation.
      Last modified: 30 Apr 2020QC 62402