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  • Small Business Liaison Group minutes 15 July 2015

    Meeting details

    Venue: ATO Sydney

    Date: 15 July 2015

    Start: 1:00pm

    Finish: 4:15pm

    Chair: Steve Vesperman

    Contact and Secretariat: Sandra Wormald

    Contact phone: 0401 141 529




    Nicholas Perrott

    Australian Business Software Industry Association

    John Osborn

    Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

    Heath Michael

    Australian Retailers Association

    Mark Brennan

    Australian Small Business Commissioner

    Kerri Dickman

    CPA Australia

    Peter Strong

    Council of Small Business of Australia

    Michael Croker

    Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

    Kym De Britt

    Franchise Council of Australia

    Jock Kreitals

    Real Estate Institute of Australia

    Carlita Warren

    Restaurant & Catering Australia



    Steve Vesperman

    Deputy Commissioner Small Business/Individual Taxpayers

    James O’Halloran

    Deputy Commissioner Indirect Tax

    David Diment

    Deputy Commissioner Service Delivery

    Alison Lendon

    Deputy Commissioner Superannuation

    Judy O’Connell

    Assistant Deputy Commissioner Small Business/Individual Taxpayers




    Chris Jordon

    Commissioner of Taxation

    Peter Burn

    Australian Industry Group

    Wilhelm Harnisch

    Master Builders Australia

    Marion Whalan

    Pharmacy Guild of Australia

    Kate Preston

    The Treasury, Revenue Group


    Small Business Liaison Group agendas, minutes and related papers are not binding on the ATO or any of the other bodies referred to in these papers. While every effort is made to accurately record the views expressed, the wording necessarily represents a summary of statements of general position only, and care should be taken in interpreting those statements. These papers reflect the position at the date of release (unless otherwise noted) and readers should note that the position on any issue may subsequently change.

    Agenda items

    1. Welcome and introductions

    The Chair, Steve Vesperman, Deputy Commissioner Small Business/Individual Taxpayers, opened the meeting and thanked everyone for their attendance. Apologies were noted.

    The minutes of the meeting held on 30 April 2015 were endorsed without change. There were no action items from that meeting.

    2. Fix it Squads

    Judy O’Connell, Assistant Deputy Commissioner Small Business/Individual Taxpayers, provided members with update on the Small Business Fix-it squad program.

    Recommendations from the ‘Taking on an employee’ squad are currently being implemented with the ATO, Fair Work Ombudsman, Department of Industry, and Digital Transformation Office.

    The Fix-it squads use a combination of workshops, direct interviews, online consultation through the Let’s TalkExternal Link platform and surveys of small business employers.

    Two further Fix-it Squads will be completed by the end of the calendar year. These will run in parallel and will examine;

    • Starting a business – preparing for success
    • Making it easier to report and pay GST

    Members noted this work with interest and commented on the specific needs of employers with just one or two employees, including the option for direct phone support. Another issue for consideration is working holidaymakers and the complexities of determining residency and status of the worker as an employee or contractor.

    Steve Vesperman noted that the Fix-it squads are an excellent example of our work with other agencies and small businesses themselves to make genuine improvements in their experience.

    3. Every year counts

    Steve Vesperman opened discussion, which is a continuing conversation about the work the ATO is doing with the community to improve services and design them around the needs of the use. This program of work will continue over several years, with changes being co-designed, tested and continually refined.

    Every year counts is a 12-month view of improvements we're making to the experience everyone has with the ATO. They’ll be continually updated as more initiatives are confirmed and completed.

    Contemporary digital services

    The group heard an update on the digital services strategy from Rowan Fraser, Assistant Commissioner Cross-Agency Digital Transformation. This program of work supports the Commonwealth Government Digital Transformation Agenda, led by the Digital Transformation Office.

    There is strong take up of new services, for example over 780,000 people registered a voiceprint and over 3.5 million people have linked their myGov account to the ATO.

    An aspect of this work is to make better use of technology so that reporting and record keeping for business can be more automated. Most people and businesses will make a successful transition with broad and general support, about 25% are expected to need active support and around 5% may need intensive support.

    The ATO will continue to provide updates on the reinvention work at future meetings.

    BAS simplification

    James O’Halloran, Deputy Commissioner Indirect Tax, explained that the ATO is reviewing options for simplifying the Business Activity Statement (BAS). This work is just commencing however some options to explore include reviewing the need for the information labels on the BAS; whether a simple BAS for smaller businesses may be appropriate; and alternatives to lodging a nil BAS.

    Members were invited to contribute their views on simplifying the BAS out of session. This project would also be on the agenda for the next meeting.

    4. SuperStream

    Members were provided with an update on the implementation of SuperStream.

    The transition is going well overall, with all Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) regulated funds and 65% of Self-Managed Super Funds on board. There is now a strong focus on assisting and supporting small business with the transition, noting the encouraging take up of over 20% (150,000) small employers already sending SuperStream transactions.

    The support includes media and marketing targeting small employers, directing them to support material online including checklists, FAQs and video, especially leading up to the quarterly due date at the end of October. The ATO is also trialling work with industry associations and regional outreach sessions for small employers.

    5. Safe harbour

    The Safe Harbour Working Group is one of six working groups established as part of a National Tax Liaison Group (NTLG) initiative aimed at improving the client experience by reducing red tape and compliance costs for our clients.

    The group is seeking submissions around specific safe harbour ideas from a range of interested stakeholders including small business, professional bodies, industry representatives and tax agents.

    Suggestions from members during this discussion included a simpler way to account for the personal/business use split of costs for home office expenses including mobile phones, home internet and wifi where bundled packages present issues and complexity for taxpayers trying to calculate business use costs correctly. This issue also has application for individuals who work from home.

    Chair Steve Vesperman thanked members for the discussion and noted that contributions and feedback are also welcome out of session.

    6. Member organisation update

    Members gave updates and comments on a number of current issues, including:

    Small business debt

    The recent report of the Inspector-General on small business debt was noted. Chair Steve Vesperman outlined that our approach to debt recognises that the majority of businesses pay on time and those who don’t most often just need some assistance to get back on track. It was also noted that the community has an expectation that the ATO will, appropriately, adopt a robust approach with those who deliberately don’t pay. The ATO has scheduled an update at the next meeting.

    One member sought clarification on the rules regarding due dates falling on weekends and holidays. The ATO members confirmed the next business day is then the due date.

    Another member suggested an alternative to a set due date for payments, for example, a requirement to pay a certain amount within a set period to encourage better planning for payments.

    Small Business Commissioner

    Australian Small Business Commissioner Mark Brennan commented on the good working relationship between his office and the ATO, including responsiveness and assistance in clarifying issues in the case of complaints. The Committee considering the legislation for the Small Business & Family Enterprises Ombudsman is due to report on 11 August 2015.

    Electronic correspondence in myGov

    An issue that is of concern for many intermediaries right now is managing the transition to electronic correspondence where clients receive correspondence from the ATO in myGov. The agent receives a notification but needs to log in to view the correspondence. The ATO will continue to work with agents and intermediaries to support them through the change.

    Foreign Investment Review Board

    A number of members noted the ATO’s new role and responsibilities in relation to the Foreign Investment Review Board and land register and will be interested to see how this develops.

    Expanded third party data

    A member requested future discussions on proposals for expanded reporting and use of third party data on real estate, shares and point-of-sale (POS) transactions. While the immediate implications are more for banks and intermediaries, there was interest in potential impacts for small business.

    Dispute resolution

    Members noted some positive reports on the ATO’s new approach to dispute resolution, including that they are seeing cases where smaller businesses are being assisted by an independent officer from an early stage in the resolution process.

    Software developers

    Current issues for software developers were mainly with SuperStream, particularly with the end of the financial year and managing expectations of some super funds on file specifications.


    Anecdotally, some employers are still having difficulty where they fall behind with Super Guarantee payments. The punitive nature of the regime makes it difficult to get back on track with payments, even though the ATO does make efforts to work with the employer’s circumstances. It was suggested that a short term amnesty may assist, although this would require legislation.

    7. Wrap up and close

    Chair Steve Vesperman thanked members for their contributions to the meeting.

    The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday 12 November 2015 in Canberra commencing at 9:30am and concluding at around 1:00pm.

      Last modified: 11 Nov 2015QC 47334