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  • Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group special briefing 29 April 2020


    Service Delivery

    Deputy Commissioner Grant Brodie provided an update on the ATO’s contact centres. The ATO is experiencing a significantly high number of calls each day.

    From Monday 4 May 2020 the ATO contact centre times will change from 8.00am– 10.00pm to 8.00am–8.00pm AEST.

    Common questions about JobKeeper, Cash flow boost and early release of super are being captured on our website at Top calls about COVID-19.

    Interactive voice response messaging is being updated to include common answers to questions for clients to hear while waiting in queues.

    Cash flow boost

    Assistant Commissioner Kasey Macfarlane advised that cash flow boost credits are being allocated to clients as March activity statements are lodged.

    Our focus is to ensure that eligible businesses are receiving the credits they are entitled to. In circumstances where clients have not lodged and are required to provide evidence of eligibility, they should contact the ATO. Functionality to enable clients to supply evidence via the Business portal and Online services for agents is currently being tested.

    We encourage clients to contact us if they receive credits they are not eligible for, or if they have not been paid their expected entitlement after lodging their March activity statement.

    Early release of Superannuation

    Assistant Commissioner Sonia Corsini provided an update on the early release of superannuation. There continues to be a strong demand for early release of superannuation although the number of applications has steadied.

    We are seeing common errors being made in application forms including incorrect bank details and incorrect release amounts, particularly where a zero is left off – for example $1,000 instead of $10,000. We are asking applicants to take care when completing their application form as any errors will slow down the release process.

    Communication activities

    Assistant Commissioner Sally Bektas provided an update on communication activities. The ATO continues to ensure that information is being updated on the website as quickly as possible. Other communication products in development include a series of JobKeeper podcasts and additional guidance videos.

    The ATO is working closely with Treasury to include myth-busting advice and key messages in their media campaign.

    Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) representative Jenny Trustrum advised the TPB are drafting a fact sheet designed to highlight tax practitioner obligations.

    A joint webinar with the ATO is scheduled for 12 May at 11.00am AEST featuring Deputy Commissioner Hoa Wood and Michael O’Neill. The webinar will focus on compliance and support available for tax practitioners. Details will be available on the TPB webpageExternal Link later this week.

    Digital service providers

    Assistant Commissioner Martin Mane advised that the ATO has been working closely with digital service providers (DSPs) since the stimulus measures were announced.

    No technical changes to software were required to deliver the cash flow boost. The ATO made guidance information available to DSPs to incorporate into software to ensure an experience that is consistent with using Online services for agents.

    Some DSPs have incorporated additional functionality into payroll software to report on the eligibility of employees and detect if an employee is eligible for JobKeeper, and if so for which period. The speed with which measures have been implemented and software product limitations have precluded some DSPs from releasing additional functionality, and in many of these cases they have provided their clients with guidance information.

    A key message for employers is that they should contact their software provider in the first instance. The ATO can assist with alternative pathways if their software does not enable them to process the JobKeeper administration.

    Member feedback

    Member suggestions for web-content updates and further clarification on topics included:

    • circumstances where the estimated reported downturn in turnover, based on the information provided by the client, falls short for stimulus measure eligibility and how this may reflect on agents. There may be significant consequences for clients in the future.
    • information to the community on errors being identified in stimulus measure applications
    • JobKeeper
      • agents would like to see a list of clients enrolled without going into individual client screens
      • alternative turnover test – still unclear
      • clarification on cash verses accruals reporting.

    Tips and links

    • The Commissioner has exercised his discretion by extending the time available for employers to pay their employees, and still be able to claim back the first JobKeeper payments. A media releaseExternal Link was issued by the Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Michael Sukkar MP, on 27 April 2020.
    • For a quick reference guide to what’s been updated on JobKeeper information on our website see our JobKeeper timeline of content updates.
    • To view other frequently asked questions, you can visit ATO CommunityExternal Link, which is available 24/7 with questions, answers and regular updates.
    • We have also updated our trouble-shooting page to include key issues impacting stimulus measures. Refer to the Online services for agents section.
      Last modified: 08 May 2020QC 62545