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  • Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group special briefing 20 May 2020


    Cash flow boost

    Assistant Commissioner Kasey Macfarlane provided an update on the cash flow boost measure. On Wednesday 20 May we deployed a new system tool to review cash flow boost eligibility by checking for new information received by the ATO. The tool does not assess all client records instantaneously but works through each client record individually. Credits from this process should be allocated to eligible clients by the end of this week. We hope that this alleviates the need to contact the ATO requesting an update on their payment.

    Final infrastructure is being put in place to allow clients to provide additional information to substantiate eligibility over the phone from next week (week beginning 25 May). This is a declaration process for those who have an income tax return deferral in place. Eligibility will be confirmed over the phone, with credits processed shortly after.

    The ATO have developed a cash flow boost companion guide to assist agents and clients to determine eligibility. This guide covers different elements of eligibility and any discretion that may be available. Members have been asked to provide feedback on the content and also the practical use of the guide.

    JobKeeper Update

    Deputy Commissioner James O’Halloran provided an update on the JobKeeper measure. In terms of the overall JobKeeper program things are progressing well, with payments being issued within four or five days.

    In addition to focusing on processing payments as quickly as possible we have started verification work to confirm information provided on applications. Entities who have had no signs of business activity are given 14 days to confirm and demonstrate that they are still in business.

    SMS are being sent to some clients to advise that some risks will be reviewed and how these risks will be treated in a post issue environment, and instances that will attract our attention.

    We received feedback from this group regarding the communication being received by agents after JobKeeper applications have been received by the ATO. To assist agents to identify the client being referred to, the message will now include the first five digits of the ABN, allowing agents to search their client list. The message will now issue as follows:

    ‘Thank you for applying for the JobKeeper Payment. Information relating to the ABN starting with #####, or that of your nominated employee(s), is being examined by the ATO to ensure that there is no incorrect payment. We may be able to process your payment without the need to contact you but if we require further information from you we will contact you in the coming days. If you wish to speak to the ATO about your application you can contact us on 13 28 66. Please disregard this message if you have already received your payment.’

    There is a chance that that agents may have multiple clients with the same first five digits of an ABN however we would expect this to be rare, and in any case the agent should be able to determine which client the communication relates to. We will also be updating our scripting for ATO contact centre staff to reflect this change.

    Members provided feedback about the date by which an employer needs to enrol if they ever intend to claim JobKeeper is unclear on the website.

    Service Delivery

    Deputy Commissioner Grant Brodie provided a short update on Service Delivery activities.

    Calls coming through the ATO contact centre have eased slightly, although calls are 100% up on call volumes for the same time last year.

    JobKeeper is continuing to drive phone calls; 36% of calls received are from individuals, 26% of calls are through the business line and a small percentage of calls coming through the Superannuation line.

    The nature of calls are general enquiries on JobKeeper payments, cash flow boost where people have lodged a BAS but not received their credit, and around superannuation fund details. Linking code phone calls are increasing as tax time approaches.

    Early release of Superannuation: temporary resident visa holders

    Assistant Commissioner Sonia Corsini advised that temporary resident visa holders will not be eligible to apply for early release of super after 30 June 2020. Anyone in this category that wishes to apply must submit their application by 30 June 2020.

    This does not apply to citizens and permanent residents of New Zealand who are able to apply under the general eligibility criteria for the 2020–2021 income year.


    Assistant Commissioner Sally Bektas provided an update on communications activities. In this week’s Tax professional’s newsletter, the ATO advised the Commissioners remedial power regarding deceased estates being approved, as well as a reminder on deferrals.

    The kit being developed to assist tax professionals and their clients will be in the form of special addition newsletter, and we are aiming to issue this by the end of the week (week ending 22 May).

    Based on feedback received, the ATO are increasing communication to manage client expectations on the timeframe for the receipt of stimulus payments.

    On time lodgment performance requirement

    In response to member queries regarding the lodgment performance widget displayed on online services for agents, the ATO would like to direct tax practitioners to the following supporting information on our website:

    The ATO acknowledge that your current focus is on guiding your clients to understand and access relevant COVID-19 support measures at this time. Additionally, the devastating bushfires that affected large parts of Australia during 2019–20 may have significantly disrupted your lodgment program for this year.

    You will not be adversely affected if you do not meet the 85% lodgment program performance benchmark and we will be working pragmatically and flexibly to ensure that we provide the right support for impacted tax professionals.

    More information to support for tax professionals is available.

    Tips and links

    • The extended timeframe to enrol for the initial JobKeeper periods from 30 April until 31 May is ending soon. If an employer enrols by 31 May 2020, they will still be able to claim for the JobKeeper fortnights in April and May – provided they meet all eligibility requirements for each of those fortnights. This includes paying employees by the appropriate date for each fortnight.
    • The ATO may send COVID-19 related SMS messages or emails to your clients at short notice. You can check our current SMS and email activities page for more information about how we may contact your clients affected by COVID-19. We will now also include more information to help you identify a client if you receive a JobKeeper reminder on their behalf.
    • The use of the Commissioners Remedial Power to extend access to deceased estate information to appointed agents of executors and administrators of estates has come into effect as of 15 May 2020
    • The Commissioner of Taxation’s remedial power is a discretionary power the Commissioner can use in limited circumstances to resolve smaller unintended outcomes in the taxation and superannuation law. An index listing the Commissioner’s use of this power and links to the relevant instruments and explanatory material is available on the ATO website.
      Last modified: 26 May 2020QC 62719