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  • Not-for-profit Advisory Group minutes 15 July 2015

    Meeting details






    15 July 2015








    Tony Poulakis



    Contact and secretariat

    Gess Sottile


    02 6216 2264



    Murray Baird, Assistant Commissioner and General Counsel

    Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, QUT

    Prof. Myles McGregor-Lowndes, Director

    Australian Conservation Foundation

    Elizabeth McKinnon, General Counsel

    Herbert Smith Freehills

    John Emerson, Consultant

    Jobs Australia Ltd

    David Thompson AM CEO, and
    Chair, National Roundtable of Nonprofit Organisations

    Johnson Winter & Slattery, representing Executive Council of Australian Jewry

    Richard Gelski, Partner

    KPMG representing The Tax Institute

    Maria Lui (for Paul Ingram)

    Philanthropy Australia

    Krystian Seibert, Manager Policy & Research

    Salvation Army

    John McIntosh, Charities Tax Advisory Service

    Uniting Care Australia

    Joe Zabar, Director with Uniting Care


    Kirsten Embery, Senior Advisor, Small Business Tax Division


    Tim Dyce, Deputy Commissioner, NFP Client Experience Owner

    Rod Walker, Director, PGH NFP Hub

    Albert Beric, PGH NFP Risk Manager

    Mark Ferguson, PGH NFP Hub

    Gess Sottile, PGH NFP Hub

    Ilana Millar, Assistant Commissioner (Senior Tax Counsel) Tax Counsel Network

    Robert Drummond, Assistant Commissioner, Business Reporting and Registrations, Operations

    Daniel Bamford, Assistant Commissioner, Digital Program

    Jeremy Khaw, Technical Excellence

    Judy Attwood, Technical Excellence

    Connie Sanchez, PGH Compliance Director


    Tony Poulakis, Assistant Commissioner,
    PGH, Policy and Corporate Risks

    Paul Ingram, Partner, Minter Ellison representing The Tax Institute

    Father Brian Lucas, General Secretary, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

    Robyn Ayres, Executive Director, Arts Law Centre

    Record of meeting

    Key messages

    • As part of the Reinventing the ATO Program, the ATO is keen to do things differently and there is appetite for change, there has never been a better time for the community to ask the ATO for changes in the way services are provided.
    • The ATO is taking a new approach to engaging with clients including the largest NFPs and the intention is to take a ‘whole of client’ approach, to look at all issues as they arise in real time and focussing on prevention rather than correction, aiming to improve the client experience by developing and maintaining strong relationships with clients.
    • The ATO and ACNC are working more closely together to collaborate in improving the client experience for charities and deductible gift recipients.


    Members were welcomed to the meeting with an opening statement from the ATO.

    Confirm record of previous meeting

    The record of the 25 March 2015 meeting was confirmed and has now been published, see link below.

    25 March 2015 Not-For-Profit Advisory Group | Australian Taxation Office

    NFP Perspective Presentations

    The Australian Conservation Council gave a presentation about the operation of the Council and the issues that concern the Council’s members, followed by general discussion.  

    Presentations at the 18 November 2015 meeting will be from Jobs Australia Ltd and Philanthropy Australia.

    A word from the ATO's new NFP client experience owner

    Deputy Commissioner Tim Dyce introduced himself as the NFP Client Experience Owner and explained that:

    • the ATO has now put client experience at the forefront of designing change and recognised that the ATO has not done this as well as it could have in the past,
    • now when the ATO considers changes it will ask the community what they want and will try to understand what the community wants,
    • the ATO is keen to do things differently and there is appetite for change, there has never been a better time for the community to ask the ATO for changes in the way services are provided,
    • each market segment has a Client Experience Owner and NFPs are important enough to be recognised in the ATO as a standalone market segment,
    • the role of the NFP Client Experience Owner is to advocate for NFPs within the ATO, looking at what is going on in the ATO and understanding what the impact is for NFPs, and reporting to the Commissioner on progress in improving the NFP client experience,
    • at the Deputy Commissioner level the NFP Client Experience Owner carries authority and can seek to overrule and override decisions if they will have a negative impact on the NFP client experience,
    • the NFP Client Experience Owner is an additional escalation point if issues are not being resolved through the normal channels, and members of this Group are welcome to contact Tim,
    • a major part of the role of the NFP Client Experience Owner is to understand what NFPs want and meetings such as the NFP Advisory Group are an important way of understanding the needs of the NFP segment,
    • in addition to attending meetings of the NFP Advisory Group, as the NFP Client Experience Owner, Tim will link in with other NFP segment representatives, key conferences and policy makers and other government agencies including Treasury and the ACNC.

    Every year counts

    Deputy Commissioner Tim Dyce brought to the attention of the Group, the 2015 Every year counts document and explained the purpose of this document as being a list of experience changes that NFPs can expect when dealing with the ATO in the 2015 financial year.

    Review of private advice

    Deputy Commissioner Tim Dyce also explained that one of his other roles is leading the ATO’s Review of Private Advice and that the review will be looking at what the ATO offers and how to improve this service. All the options and solutions are not yet decided and the ATO is asking clients how they want to apply for and receive private advice, the options could be automated advice, oral, quick, indicative.

    Members were advised that they will be alerted to or contacted about opportunities to contribute to consultation on the Review of Private Advice.


    In relation to the Review of Private Advice, members:

    • welcomed the move to offer more options but noted that the concern will be if NFPs act on the private advice that is provided through automated channels and then get things wrong that there will be significant consequences. Compliance officers will need to be aware of advice received and manage the compliance actions accordingly, Uncertainty inhibits red tape reduction. Hard to get others on board because of uncertainty,
    • pre-endorsement advice for deductible gift recipients and tax concession charities would be a good idea,
    • clear advice is preferable, including case studies or examples that explain how borderline issues would be viewed or handled.

    Tax assurance for the largest NFPs initiative

    The ATO’s NFP Compliance Director gave a presentation about the new Tax Assurance for the largest NFPs initiative, key points were:

    • this initiative is part of a broader ATO compliance move to engage early with its largest clients and comes under the umbrella of the Reinventing the ATO program,
    • the intention is to take a ‘whole of client’ approach, to look at all issues as they arise and the ATO is working closely with the ACNC with those clients that are charities,
    • at this stage the focus is on the ATO’s largest clients and may then be rolled out to other client groups in a targeted way and tailored to the circumstances of the client groups for example, in the case of smaller clients the ATO may contact relevant peak bodies or intermediaries rather than talking with individual small NFPs,
    • this initiative focuses on prevention rather than correction and aims to improve the client experience by developing and building strong relationships with clients,
    • the first steps are to contact the identified clients, organise face-to-face meetings to explain the initiative, to explain what the ATO knows about the client, how we see them, and to give the client an opportunity to explain their circumstances, challenges, concerns, questions,
    • the aim is to work on a real time basis, shifting the ATO approach to thinking in real time rather than looking back,
    • the identified clients will have an ongoing point of contact following the initial meeting and the intention is to form an ongoing relationship.


    Members noted that not many NFPs would have read the ATO’s compliance program and it is important to tailor this product in some way for NFPs taking into consideration what NFPs focus on or what attracts their attention. It is also important for the ATO to consider who in the NFP segment gets this information, how it passes out through the sector and how this information can be made interesting to get the attention of NFPs.

    Reinventing the ATO – contemporary digital services

    The ATO’s Contemporary Digital Services Program Lead gave a presentation about progress of the ATO’s Reinvention program in relation to providing contemporary digital services to clients and the Group was provided with a copy of the presentation. Key points were:

    • that the Contemporary Digital Services Program Lead’s role is to coordinate and lead the delivery of a contemporary digital environment in the ATO and for ATO clients,
    • part of the context for this work is the government’s digital transformation agenda being coordinated by the Digital Transformation Office, the ATO is coordinating changes to align with the mission of the Digital Transformation Office,
    • the drive for change is about taking the provision of a digital service from being the exception to delivering and designing all services in the digital space that is, digital by default. However, the government and the ATO recognise that some non-digital options will need to be available for clients who are unable to access digital services and that there will need to be support for those that that need it to transition to digital over time,
    • high frequency transactions (greater than 50,000 per annum) will be the priority for transitioning to digital by default by December 2017, most NFP interactions are not digital and these are expected to move to digital by default by 2018. Encouragement to take up digital options will commence in the 2016 calendar year and January 2017 will see the start of the transition period for the high volume transactions.


    Members noted that:

    • NFPs will be in the group that will need active or intensive support to transition to digital by default, for various reasons including a low level of computer literacy, lack of access to reliable internet and remote localities,
    • it is important for the ATO to understand the NFP community and that it is segmented and that services, marketing and communications need to be tailored for each segment,
    • the ATO needs to consider ‘what are the experiences that NFPs need?’ Most people have smart phones but with NFPs it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ proposition,
    • it is important to consider how the ‘digital by default’ message is couched when communicating with NFPs, the ATO needs to find a way to make the message exciting and to show the way,
    • authorisation and authentication are blockers for NFPs,
    • government needs to explain what will be done to protect clients from scammers.

    Reinventing the ATO – NFP chat room

    The Director of the ATO’s NFP Hub outlined a new initiative commencing on 22 July 2015 called NFP Live Chat. Members were encouraged to either subscribe to be part of NFP Live Chat events or to contribute to the related Discussion Boards. The NFP Live Chat site can be found on the ATO’s Let’s Talk Platform, here is a link ATO Let's Talk | Not-for-profit communicationExternal Link

    Budget announced FBT meals measure

    Net effect is a $2,000 cap; here is a link to the consultation page, Salary-packaged-entertainment-benefitsExternal Link.

    Ancillary funds

    • The government is consulting on changes to public and private ancillary fund guidelines, including the issue of portability on winding up issue.
    • Private ancillary funds making distributions to public funds issue is still active but no advice from government yet.

    Repeal day measures

    Introduction date is yet to be confirmed for DGR share valuations changes measure.

    Tax White paper

    Discussion paper has issued and public submissions available on website. It was noted that some members made submissions and that there are a lot of NFP submissions on similar themes including widespread support for extending deductible gift recipient status to all charities.

    In Australia’ no update from government on potential law change.

    Change of Treasury Representative

    Treasury advised that there will be a change to the Treasury officer responsible for NFP matters attending future meetings of this group. Members and the ATO thanked Kirsten for her contribution.


    Review of ATO public advice

    A project team has been set up to carry out the review of public advice but no details yet. The Review of Public Advice forms part of the Reinventing the ATO program. Some common themes:

    • initial findings are that the ATO’s advice is not client focussed, not timely, confusing and lacking in real life examples,
    • what is needed is right engagement and genuine consultation,
    • the ATO needs to identify the issues that the community wants to know about,
    • NFP products are out-of-date

    The ATO Advised that:

    • new accountabilities have been set up within the ATO to maintain the currency of the ATO’s public advice products,
    • the ATO is drawing up a plan for the review of public advice products however, no products will be withdrawn until new products are available and changes will be publicised,
    • the ATO will consult with the community about how best to deliver public advice, considering new options.

    Updating ATO’s ‘in Australia’ advice

    The ATO noted that a working group consisting of members of the NFP Advisory Group and key ATO stakeholders met for the first time on 10 June 2015 and agreed on a consultation plan. An initial draft discussion paper was distributed to members on 7 July 2015 with comments on the structure and scope of the paper due back on 7 August 2015. Any comments and feedback will be used to finalise the draft discussion paper when members will be given another opportunity to comment if needed.

    The progress of the ‘in Australia’ working group can be followed on the Consult page on, here is a link Consultation on administration.

    ABR issues

    The ATO’s Assistant Commissioner Business Reporting and Registrations attended and spoke about moves to address ABR issues. Key points were:

    • systemic issues have been documented and are being worked through, an update will be provided at future meetings of this Group, any new issues will be added to the spreadsheet and responses progressed,
    • further changes to make system improvements will be rolled out over the next six months,
    • systems changes identified through individual issue will be progressed at the next opportunity,
    • working with the ACNC to finalise MOU.


    Members noted ongoing confusion around choosing entity type when applying for an ABN for charities and trusts, the ATO noted that updated guidance material has been published, here is a link ABN registration - selecting your entity and organisation type.

    The ATO advised that the update to the ATO’s Building Confidence online product is close to finalisation and includes material relevant to NFPs for example; the ATO will be focussing on self-assessing income tax entities and trends in this population as well as the question of mutuality.

    Other business

    In summary, the ATO agreed to provide the following information to members:

    • Updated copy of the register of ABR issues
    • Link to the updated online Building Confidence product
    • Copy of the NFP Audience Strategy

    Next meeting – 18 November 2015

      Last modified: 08 Dec 2015QC 47456