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  • Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group special briefing 25 March 2020

    COVID-19 impacts and response for the tax profession

    Issues raised around extensions

    The National Tax Liaison Group (NTLG) raised the following issues around lodgment deferrals:

    • What types of lodgments are professionals concerned about most?
    • What types of time extensions are being expected?
    • Would a blanket deferral be sufficient? Or would this not be fair?
    • The ATO is working with different areas of the organisation to make it as easy as possible for deferrals. Blanket deferrals are not currently being considered, though members are encouraged to let the ATO know if there are particular obligations or sectors where more help is needed.


    Professionals agreed that there should be a joint message developed and signed from both the ATO and the tax profession, taking a united stand on the need for the profession to maintain high levels of integrity at this time.

    Some agents were going to need to check with their chief executive officers that they would be comfortable with joint messaging. Overall the ATO message would be one of support and would like to see professional associations to push these messages out themselves - this will be something that needs to be considered.

    Suggestion for the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) to develop an advertising campaign warning tax professionals who may consider doing the wrong thing. This may have a positive effect on the regulated part of the profession.

    Communication from Commissioner Chris Jordan and Deputy Commissioner Alison Lendon has been sent to TPSG members. Members are encouraged to share this information with members.

    COVID-19 landing page was discussed and was advised this was a one-stop-shop for information and is updated regularly. It will continue to be updated and is the best way for people to receive the latest information.

    Key feedback is that the stress pain points are not about lodgment but more around payment deferrals. More clarity is required on payment deferral and includåes pay as you go (PAYG) instalments.

    The ATO thanked members for their very valuable feedback which is being used to inform education and implementation activities. Feedback will be collated and discussed each week.

    Superannuation early access and cash flow measures

    Assistant Commissioners Sonia Corsini and John Ford provided an overview of the measures and professionals agreed that a frequently asked questions or help sheet on the COVID-19 ATO webpage would be helpful on both the Superannuation early access and cash flow measures and provided feedback on inclusions, noting in particular:

    • the ATO cannot accept applications now, they are working towards a mid-April date
    • applications are only available through myGov and will not be available through Online Services for Agents. A fix is being worked on for those who cannot access myGov
    • client eligibility especially where circumstances change, and applicable to sole traders and closely held entities
    • a separate cash flow measure discussion will be scheduled. Members are requested to provide feedback on scenarios outside the 'norm' so they can be considered.

    Tax profession concerns

    A range of concerns were raised at the discussion; some were previously raised in last week’s meeting. New items discussed included:

    • relationship between the NTLG and ATO
    • consideration of Tax Agents as essential services, given their important role in the system
    • impacts of deceased estate; Commissioner remedial power delays; use of Commissioner General Power of Administration
    • BAS agents are lodging PAYG instalments and some are not skilled in this area, although they are legally able to do so. There are TPB implications
    • some small businesses appear to be giving up right away and seeking Government assistance.

    Previous issues discussed:

    • superannuation guarantee amnesty; the six month period will not be effective and the ATO needs to make a decision on how they will disregard someone who discloses from the amnesty
    • accountants are not able to bill some clients due to them shutting down and having no funds
    • pressure on industry.
      Last modified: 30 Apr 2020QC 62397