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  • Small Business Stewardship Group minutes 14 March 2018

    Meeting details

    Venue: ATO offices, Canberra

    Date: 14 March 2018

    Chair: Deborah Jenkins

    Contact: email Small Business Stewardship Group secretariat or phone (02) 9374 5658

    1. Welcome and introduction

    The Chair, Deborah Jenkins opened the meeting, welcomed members and noted apologies. Deborah also talked about the recent expression of interest process to re-engage with the community and refresh the membership of the group.

    New small business operator members, Michelle Size and Tony Sama were welcomed along with new representatives Susan Franks, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and Magdalene Kaczmarska, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    Deborah acknowledged the importance of having small business operators on the group to provide the ATO with valuable insights into their experience with the tax and super systems.

    2. ATO update since last meeting

    Topics discussed included:

    Small Business Technical Working Group

    A limited life Small Business Technical Working Group (SBTWG) has been established to discuss technical issues that are out of scope of the Small Business Stewardship Group (SBSG). The membership of the working group was identified through those who expressed an interest in joining the SBSG. The working group will initially operate for 12 months and be reviewed at that time.

    The purpose of the working group will include identification and development of proposals that:

    • improve willing participation through making compliance with laws simpler
    • reduce red tape for small business
    • remove irritants for small business.

    The group may also be used to develop or progress proposals relating to:

    • Board of Taxation Review of small business concessions
    • Government response to recommendations of the Black Economy Taskforce.
    • Potential safe harbours for small business.

    Working Group updates will be provided to SBSG meetings.

    Small Business Super Clearing House

    The Small Business Superannuation Clearing House (SBSCH) transitioned from the Department of Human Services (DHS) to ATO online services in late February 2018.

    The clearing house is a free and optional service for businesses with 19 or fewer employees or an annual aggregated turnover of less than $10 million. It is currently regularly used by more than 200,000 small businesses to assist with processing super guarantee payments.

    Incorporating the clearing house with other ATO systems streamlines interaction and support services, and provides easy access to a wider range of services for those businesses who may not have used ATO online services before. This includes preparing and lodging BAS, managing accounts and updating business registration details.

    Users who have not previously used the ATO Business Portal need to register, either by obtaining an AUSkey or using the Manage ABN Connections tool within their myGov account.

    The service will remain optional and free. The ATO is committed to supporting small businesses in meeting their tax and super obligations quickly and easily.

    Meeting discussion

    • A member had used the clearing house on the new platform and observed that it worked well.
    • The need for an AUSkey made the clearing house more difficult for small businesses to use and it was a detriment compared to other clearing houses.
    • Members were advised that Manage ABN Connections is an alternative to AUSkey to access government online business services using your myGov login.
    • Discussion about not being able to use a shared email address to create a myGov account being a hindrance but not inconsistent with other on-line providers.

    Post meeting update

    Some issues have been identified with the SBSCH system that impacted the processing and crediting of payments to some employee's super fund accounts. The ATO has worked closely with super funds to resolve these issues.

    Issues affecting the allocation of payments have been resolved and all affected payments are now with funds. The exception is a small number of payments requiring some manual intervention, such as where incorrect fund account numbers have been supplied. This is in-line with normal practice.

    Single Touch Payroll

    As discussed in previous SBSG meetings, Single Touch Payroll (STP) will change the way employers report to the ATO.

    Employers will report payment details such as salaries and wages, pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and superannuation information to the ATO from their payroll solution at the same time they pay their employees.

    Employers do not need to change their pay cycle - they can continue to pay their employees weekly, fortnightly or monthly. The time for remitting PAYG amounts to the ATO has not changed.

    There are a number of ways to report to the ATO through STP. Employers should speak to their software providers to find out how they will be offering STP reporting. This may mean an update to existing software or alternatively an employer might choose to engage the services of an intermediary or third party such as a sending service provider.

    Key dates for employers:

    1 April 2018 - a head count of employees who are employed on 1 April 2018. This can be done after 1 April 2018, but must only include the number of employees on the payroll on 1 April 2018.

    1 July 2018 - Employers with more than 20 employees are required to start reporting through STP, unless they are granted a deferral or exemption.

    Employers with 19 or fewer employees can choose to report through STP.

    1 July 2019 - Employers with 19 or fewer employees are required to start reporting through STP, unless they are granted a deferral or exemption. This is subject to legislation being passed.

    Some software developers may not have products ready in time for the commencement date of 1 July 2018. They are applying to the ATO for a deferred start date for some of their products which will cover their existing employer clients.

    Meeting discussion

    • The benefits of STP to small employers who report an employee's payment and withholding details through STP for the whole financial year include not having to provide that employee with a payment summary at the end of the financial year.
    • Concern expressed that STP was a deterrent for people going into small business.
    • Possible expansion of STP to employers with fewer than 19 employers. External members shared concerns about the administrative cost that this will impose on small employers, particularly micro entities who employ fewer than five people.

    3. Strategic discussion of business

    Topics discussed by participants included:

    • The role and benefits of the SBSG including the value of additional small business operators joining the group and to hear from an ATO perspective.
    • Tax is not at the forefront of the small business operator's mind when running their business.
    • Employee vs contractor tool and use by small businesses.
    • Impediments to small businesses growing their business, including impact of hiring employees due to the complexity which puts more pressure on very small businesses.
    • Impact and role of associations to support small businesses.
    • Impacts of regulatory compliance, data privacy, red tape, Single Touch Payroll and the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House were big issues for small business.
    • Getting paid on time by other businesses and impact on small business. Discussion about the work of Small Business Commissioners to develop and promote the National Payment Transparency Register.
    • Difficulties faced by small businesses in regional areas, including finding employees/workers, access to reliable internet service and the pace of change.

    4. Small Business Digital Taskforce

    Mathew Umina provided the group with a brief update on the Small Business Digital Taskforce. Although this is not an initiative of the ATO, we have actively supported the taskforce by sharing insights and demonstrating how we are connecting with and educating small business owners.

    The taskforce engaged with small business owners around the country about the benefits of adopting digital technologies to help their businesses operate more efficiently, giving them more time to grow their business.

    Meeting discussion

    • Concerns were raised about cyber security. Members commented that an increased digital presence increased the chance of being scammed.

    Whilst not directly relevant to the discussion on the Digital Taskforce, members were advised that they should contact us if they were unsure about emails from the ATO.

    See also:

    5. Stakeholder engagement and how we can work together

    Susie Smith, Assistant Commissioner Strategic Engagement discussed the role of ATO Public relations and how we partner with tax professionals, industry and professional associations, government agencies and other relevant intermediaries to disseminate messages to small businesses on behalf of the ATO.

    Members play a significant role in disseminating key ATO communications to their small business members with the right message at the right time.

    For more tailored content on topics of interest and relevance to their networks, members are encouraged to contact the ATO Public Relations Unit,

    6. Small business engagement research

    Karen Anstis, Assistant Commissioner Small Business Education, Prevention and Support provided an overview of research the ATO commissioned on small business engagement and the Small Business Newsroom in 2017.

    Small business engagement

    The aim of the research was to better understand the views of small business on their current and preferred engagement experience:

    • with the ATO, tax professionals and business advisors, and
    • to understand the drivers of their engagement with the ATO, tax professionals and business advisors.

    This research:

    • tracks against baselines established in the previous 2015 research and monitors levels of engagement satisfaction
    • explores in more depth the relationship and engagement between small business and tax professionals and business advisors identified in the previous research, and the most effective ways to engage small business using their natural business systems
    • provides actionable information to improve small business engagement strategies and services.

    See also:

    Small Business Newsroom

    The ATO commissioned ChantLink in February 2017 to continue tracking research aimed at increasing the ATO’s understanding of the small business experience of the Small business newsroom email service and the associated Small business newsroom website. A tax practitioner component was introduced to help understand tax practitioners’ response to the service.

    The ATO’s Small business newsroom is part of the website, and provides tax and superannuation information and news in an easily accessible and contemporary format to Australian small businesses. While the site is designed to be accessed via links in a direct email, the site may also be accessed via various other ATO channels, including the ATO website.

    7. Other business

    Members were encouraged to put forward topics for inclusion as agenda items for future meetings.

    8. Meeting close

    • Chair Deborah Jenkins thanked members for their contributions to meetings throughout the year.
    • The dates and locations of meetings of the Small Business Stewardship Group for the remainder of 2018 will be advised to members shortly.


    Deborah Jenkins, Deputy Commissioner, Small Business, ATO

    Robert Ravanello, Deputy Commissioner Debt, ATO

    Emma Rosenzweig, Acting Deputy Commissioner Indirect Tax, ATO

    Mathew Umina, Assistant Commissioner, ATO

    Bede Fraser, Treasury

    Rose Verspaandonk, Dept. of Jobs and Small Business

    Kate Carnell, Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman

    Graham Baxter, Business Enterprise Centres Australia

    Deb Cook, small business operator

    James Coward, Restaurant & Catering Australia

    Richard Dudley, Motor Traders Association of Australia

    Susan Franks, Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand

    Jock Kreitals, Real Estate Institute of Australia

    Heath Michael, Australian Retailers Association

    Debbie Neutze, Australian Veterinary Association

    Maree Petersen, small business operator

    Michael Renshaw, Australian Lottery and Newsagents' Association

    Tony Sama, small business operator

    Michelle Size, small business operator

    Gillian Stapleton, Direct Selling Australia

    Peter Strong, Council of Small Business Australia

    Wally Tallis, Indigenous Business Australia


    Tim Dyce, Deputy Commissioner Indirect Tax, ATO

    James O'Halloran, Deputy Commissioner Super, ATO

    Paul Mather, Employer Obligations Australia

    Magdalena Kaczmarska, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

      Last modified: 04 Jun 2018QC 55830