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  • Small Business Stewardship Group minutes 14 July 2016

    Meeting details

    Venue: ATO Offices, Canberra

    Date: 14 July 2016

    Chair: Steve Vesperman

    Contact: email Small Business Stewardship Group secretariat or phone 02 6216 6211


    Members Organisation

    Graham Baxter Business Enterprise Centres Australia

    Michael Renshaw Newsagents Federation

    Matt Elliston Small Business Owner

    Jock Kreitals Real Estate Institute of Australia

    Heath Michael Australian Retailers Association

    Debbie Neutze Australian Veterinary Association

    Kate Carnell Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman

    Maree Petersen Small Business Owner

    Deb Cook Small Business Owner

    Richard Dudley Motor Traders Association of Australia

    Wally Tallis Indigenous Business Australia


    Neil Olesen A/g Commissioner of Taxation

    Steve Vesperman Deputy Commissioner Small Business

    James O’Halloran Deputy Commissioner Superannuation

    Robert Ravanello Deputy Commissioner Debt

    Judy O’Connell Assistant Commissioner, Small Business

    Bede Fraser Treasury


    Members Organisation

    Tony Mahar National Farmers Federation

    Daniel Hoenig Direct Sellers Association of Australia

    Michael Croker Chartered Accountants Australia & NZ

    Paul Mather Employer Obligations Australia

    John Hart Restaurant & Catering Australia

    Peter Strong Council of Small Business Australia


    Tim Dyce Deputy Commissioner, Indirect Tax

    Agenda items

    1. Welcome and introductions

    Chair, Steve Vesperman welcomed new and returning members to the first meeting of the refreshed Small Business Stewardship Group (SBSG).

    Steve talked about the ATO’s commitment to assisting small business through working with partners in the community. In this context, the SBSG is considered to be a key partnership in which we share information about changes to the ATO’s products, services and approaches. This also allows us to connect more broadly with members and their industry associates on a consultative basis to ensure we are meeting the needs of small business.

    2. Commissioner's remarks

    Acting Commissioner Neil Olesen outlined the purpose of the ATO’s stewardship groups and how the SBSG is a crucial element influencing the change agenda of the ATO. Neil also acknowledged the importance of the small business market segment and the significant contribution they make to the tax base and that most do so voluntarily. To ensure we are supporting small business, the ATO has a strong focus on:

    • making it easier for small business to complete their tax and super obligations thereby allowing more time for businesses to do their business
    • continuing to shift our staff culture to ensure the client experience is central to all we do
    • designing for the majority of clients who want to do the right thing, while having an appropriate focus on those who do not, to maintain a level playing field.

    3. Strategic discussion of business

    The group discussed the overall strategic relationship and approach to providing a better experience for small business. The discussion included:

    • The ATO culture. Members noted the change in culture of the ATO and the positive consequence for small business.
    • The small business digital showcase. This event was well received by the group. It was recognised that marketing the digital services to small business people needs to be tailored to ensure a good ‘take-up’; that not all small business will want to operate in a digital framework and these people should not be put in position of disadvantage; we need to ensure that the human face of the ATO is not lost.
    • The partnership approach. The members see this as a valuable model and will work with their association members to advocate the improved service offering from the ATO.

    Steve Vesperman outlined some of the work the ATO is doing to develop education and resources for new businesses, including helping small business to better understand cash flow management which is a common issue. This will include partnering with existing programs, for example, through Indigenous Business Australia workshops for business start-ups.

    4. Simpler BAS

    Tim Pulsford provided an update on the Simpler BAS project:

    • This will provide small businesses (less than $2m turnover) with a simpler BAS experience that requires less GST information, drives easier ongoing GST record keeping and delivers red tape reduction.
    • The ATO has consulted with small business, BAS/Tax Agents and software developers; this has shaped the development of the project. This consultation has supported the project and the potential benefits that small business might receive.
    • We will be continuing to user testing with small business during the pilot.

    5. SuperStream

    John Shepherd provided an update on SuperStream and Single Touch Payroll:

    • Overall take up of SuperStream has been very good with over 450,000 small businesses now Superstream ready
    • To support small businesses who need more time, the ATO will provide further education and assistance and a have announced a compliance extension giving them until 28 October 2016 to adopt Superstream
    • The free Small Business Superannuation Clearing House has been well received.

    John clarified that Single Touch Payroll (STP) is a separate project from Superstream.

    • STP is being implemented over a longer timeframe and has broader benefits for employers and employees.
    • STP uses the existing payroll systems and processes of the business to automate reporting and eliminate the need for end of year reports. It will also make the process and tax related paperwork of taking on employees simpler.
    • STP will initially be rolled out for larger businesses (those with 20 or more employees). Recognising that smaller businesses have wider variety in their payroll systems and some who do not use payroll software, there will be a six month pilot for a sample group of small businesses in early 2017.

    6. Mental Health Initiative and Fix-it Squad updates

    Mental Health Working Group update  

    Judy O’Connell provided an update on the mental health initiative, which was initially discussed at the SBSG in December 2016. The ATO was worked in partnership with COSBOA, BeyondBlue and small business to understand the issues facing business owners when they or someone close to them experiences a decline in mental health.

    Through consultation with small business, the ATO has now published a new small business mental health web page and YouTube video to raise awareness of the help and support available. A training module in empathy is also being rolled out to all outfacing staff this year to assist with a better experience for both clients and staff.

    Fix-it Squad update  

    Small business Fix-it squads have now been running for two years and are about small businesses getting together with the ATO and other government agencies (federal and state), tax professionals and other community partners to identify irritants and to fix those irritants.

    The Fix-it Squad is progressing 27 recommendations which have come from five previous fix-it squads. Two fix-it squads are currently in progress:

    • Regulation and the sharing economy – getting the balance right
    • Drought strategy for small business.
      Last modified: 18 Nov 2016QC 50538