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  • Small Business Stewardship Group minutes 18 October 2016

    Meeting details

    Venue: ATO Offices, Canberra

    Date: 18 October 2016

    Chair: Steve Vesperman

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

    Attendees

    Chris Jordan - 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

    Graham Baxter - Business Enterprise Centres Australia

    Michael Renshaw - Newsagents Federation

    Michael Croker - Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

    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

    Peter Strong - Council of Small Business Australia

    James Pearson - Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

    Bede Fraser - Treasury

    Apologies

    Tony Mahar - National Farmers Federation

    Gillian Stapleton - Direct Sellers Association of Australia

    Paul Mather - Employer Obligations Australia

    John Hart - Restaurant & Catering Australia

    Matt Elliston - Small Business Owner

    Wally Tallis - Indigenous Business Australia

    Jock Kreitals - Real estate Institute of Australia

    Tim Dyce - Deputy Commissioner, Indirect Tax

    Agenda items

    1. Welcome and introductions

    The Chair, Steve Vesperman opened the meeting welcoming members and noting apologies.

    2. Commissioner's remarks

    The Commissioner discussed the ATO’s journey of reinvention over the last three years and how we are working together with the Small Business community to improve the client experience. He highlighted several key pieces of work including the mental health initiative, the ability for business people to connect to services without using an AUSkey, improvements to web content and design and increasing our focus on using natural systems to simplify processes and improve voluntary compliance. He asked members for feedback on whether our engagement activities with small businesses are making a differentiable difference and for suggestions on how the ATO could improve engagement with small business through targeting clusters of small businesses with similar characteristics or optimising the channels available through industry associations, tax agents and bookkeepers.

    3. Strategic discussion of business

    The Chair posed three focussing questions for discussion:

    • Recognising our reinvention journey to date, what differences can you see in the small business community?
    • What could we do more of?
    • What are the key issues impacting small business?

    Discussion included:

    • Change slowly being embraced but we need to understand current blockers and how to overcome the challenges associated with them, such as: generational differences, provision of services in remote localities, long held views of ATO as unhelpful or ‘big brother’, new ways of communicating with audiences at times that suit them – not the standard 9am – 5pm.
    • Uptake of ATO offerings such as newsletter articles, webinars and information which members can tailor for their audiences to deliver via various channels including newsletters and social media.
    • The Commissioner offered our corporate services to members wanting to tailor articles and information for their client base.

    4. Single Touch Payroll

    John Shepherd gave an update on Single Touch Payroll.

    • STP reporting will not require a business to capture information that they don’t already hold in their system.
    • The feedback from a consultation paper published by the ATO and Treasury will be used to help keep employers obligations under this measure as simple as possible.
    • STP will deliver: simplified payroll reporting, a level playing field, individuals less likely to accumulate debt, streamlined employee commencement process.
    • The pilot participants will help us to explore and confirm the benefits of STP for employers with 19 or less employees.

    5. Cash Flow Management

    The Chair provided an overview of the Cash Flow Management Package.

    • Cash flow problems are an endemic issue for small businesses and it has been raised as a major issue in numerous consultations and research.
    • We are taking a different approach to address the drivers of the problem by developing a ‘wholesale’ package which will not be ATO branded.
    • Businesses which effectively manage their cash flow are more likely to succeed and meet their tax and super obligations in the future.
    • The challenge is helping time-poor small business navigate the content and translate the outcomes into their business.
    • We have worked with key stakeholders to develop a program to assist small businesses effectively manage their cash flow.

    6. ABR reinvention

    John Dardo outlined the program of work to design the future of the Australian Business Register. The following key features will improve the ABR experience for clients and partners.

    • Help getting it right when you are ready to be in business
    • Community confidence and integrity, knowing the system is fair
    • Easy to manage business information through contemporary digital tools
    • Coordinated services across Government, tell us once.

    6. Fix-it Squad update

    Judy provided and update on the Fix-it squads. Of the five squads which have been completed to date we have consulted with 296 small business owners and 23 industry and advisor groups. We’ve collaborated with 30 government agencies to deliver 28 squad recommendations that have saved small businesses a significant amount of time and money.  The red-tape savings for small business from the first three squads alone have been calculated at an estimated $29.5 million per year.

    The Regulation and the sharing economy: getting the balance right Fix-it squad was recently finalised with three recommendations being presented to the Steering Committee concerning:

    • consistency of the approach between the ATO and Department of Human Services in relation to the two areas of treatment of income and expenses, and when a participant in the sharing economy might be ‘in business’
    • developing a central resource for people starting in the sharing economy on business.gov.au
    • delivering a simple record-keeping app that allows people to keep track of their income and expenses (the ATO’s Record-keeping tool for sole traders scheduled for issue in December will address this recommendation).

    The Drought Assistance 'Town Hall' program Fix-it squad recently completed a second workshop also with three recommendations identified:

    • develop a central resource for farmers, recognising that drought is part of the business cycle of farming. The resource will house consolidated information about drought assistance and best practice for preparing and recovering from drought.
    • form a cross agency reference group, composed of stakeholders that both provide services to farmers and who may play a role as trusted information providers
    • explore the possibility of a telephone based service to assist farmers based on the existing Small Business Advisory Service currently offered by the Department of Industry Innovation and Science.
      Last modified: 27 Feb 2017QC 51390