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  • 3 March 2017

    The Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group meeting was held on Friday 3 March 2017.

    The information provided below is to assist professional associations to communicate key messages to members.

    Treasury transparency measure

    In the 2016-2017 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the government announced that from 1 July 2017 the ATO will be able to disclose to credit reporting bureaus the tax debt information of businesses that have not effectively engaged with the ATO to manage these debts.

    The ATO will report tax debt information for taxpayers with an Australian business number (ABN) where the debt balance exceeds $10,000 for at least 90 days and the taxpayer is not effectively engaged. The ATO will have discretion to disclose tax debt information to credit reporting bureaus; the measure does not oblige the ATO to disclose this information.

    While the specific circumstances and exceptions for disclosure will be confirmed through the consultation and design process, tax debts can be reported where the debt balance:

    • is greater than $10,000 for at least 90 days
    • relates to a taxpayer with a ABN (including individuals operating a business)
    • is not under an active payment plan to repay the debt
    • is not subject to a dispute with the ATO.

    Implementation will occur under a phased approach to assess and assure processes, with only a small number of taxpayers being reported to credit reporting bureaus initially.

    Together with the Treasury, the ATO will consult with the community, including business, industry groups and associations, to ensure this transparency measure is implemented and administered effectively, with appropriate management of identified risks.

    Cash flow management program

    The cash flow management program is an education program designed for accountants and trusted advisors to deliver to their small business clients. To date around 190 accountants, bookkeepers and business advisors across the country have been involved in testing the program with their small business clients. Feedback has been very positive and recognised to be different to current offerings in the market place.

    To support the completion of the Cash Flow Management Program, the ATO Payment Recognition Initiative has been implemented during the pilot period, from 1 February 2017 to 31 March 2017. The initiative provides eligible small businesses who are already experiencing cash flow issues, availability of an 18 month GIC-free payment plan (except on superannuation guarantee charge) and encourages small businesses to use the Cash Flow Management Program and take action to get their cash flow back on track.

    Recently, two industry groups and a franchise group have engaged in the Pilot to test the program from an industry perspective.

    The effectiveness of the program is being evaluated with participants and key stakeholders with the final evaluation report due late April 2017.

    Taxable Payments Annual Reports

    In June each year, the ATO contacts businesses in the building and construction industry to advise them of the due date for lodging their Taxable payments annual report. The report must be lodged by 28 August of that year.

    Each year the ATO follows up on annual reports that are overdue. Since October 2016, businesses have received a blue labelled letter as a gentle reminder to lodge. Annual reports that remained un-lodged were sent an orange labelled reminder.

    In December 2016, tax practitioners were sent a list of their clients with overdue Taxable payments annual reports. Where annual reports still remain outstanding the ATO will commence sending businesses a red labelled letter as a final reminder to lodge. These final reminders will start to issue in the week beginning 13 March 2017.

    The red labelled letters will be sent to the client’s postal address. This may mean some letters will be delivered to the tax practitioner.

    Tips and links

    For more information about taxable payments reporting go to ato.gov.au/tpar

    Scam emails, SMS or phone calls can be very convincing but there are some things you and your clients can look out for to recognise or report a scam.

    The client communication listExternal Link has undergone significant improvements to provide visibility for tax and BAS agents. A video of handy hints and tips can be found on atotv.External Link

    The tax profession is going through significant change. Open forums provide a platform for discussion on how the environment and systems are changing, and to encourage and support practitioners to get ready for these changes.

    More information

    Tax practitioners can obtain more information on these topics from the professional association representatives. Tax practitioners should contact their representative to contribute items for future discussions.

    11 November 2016

    The Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group meeting was held on Friday 11 November 2016.

    The information provided below is to assist professional associations to communicate key messages to members.

    Digital Services

    The ATO will continue to work with tax practitioners and the community to co-design and deliver services that are attractive for people to transition from paper based transactions and interactions. The focus is to provide digital service options that make it easy for people to use, fit with natural systems of tax practitioners and encourage those that are able to transition to digital interactions to do so.

    The ATO has made significant progress in making more digital channels available to tax practitioners and the community with respect to inbound contact and electronic payments. There is still opportunity to transform outbound contact, with currently 65 million pieces of paper correspondence still issued to the community.

    Improving online services

    In March 2016 the Commissioner made a commitment to improve online services for tax and BAS agents.

    Incremental release of new services to software developers will occur from December 2016 to provide tax practitioners with additional functionality within their practice management software. Software developers will include the functionality as and when they see a value proposition for them and they have capacity.

    The new ATO Online platform portal services are also being developed with an initial pilot with a small number of agents to commence in late November 2016. The existing Portals will remain available during and after the transition to the new ATO Online for agents.

    Foundation work is currently underway to support the ability for a tax practitioner and their client to choose how correspondence should be delivered (preferencing).

    Practitioner Lodgment Service

    The new practitioner lodgment service is being incrementally implemented into practice management software during Tax Time 2016. A number of software developers have already delivered the services to practitioners through practice management software and several thousand tax practitioners have been using the practitioner lodgment service to lodge 2016 income tax returns. The ATO will continue to work with developers to gradually release the new service to more users.

    Those that are already making the transition and lodging using the practitioner lodgment service are supported by guides and checklists, troubleshooting pages and a dedicated phone service 13 72 86 FKC 3 1 2 for support. Eventually, the practitioner lodgment service will replace the electronic lodgment service (ELS) to be the primary lodgment channel for income tax returns and other forms.

    Tax Time 2016

    During Tax Time 2016 the ATO conducted a series of weekly meetings with tax practitioners to discuss the progress though Tax Time 2016. The discussions covered return processing, contact centre performance and volumes and emerging issues. Overall, Tax Time 2016 went smoothly. The main community concerns were in relation to the scammers impersonating the ATO.

    Comparative lodgment statistics up to 31 October 2016 will be provided to members out of session The ATO continues to include messages about using a tax agent when people are choosing the best Tax Time experience for their circumstances.

    More information

    Tax practitioners can obtain more information on these topics from the professional association representatives. Tax practitioners should contact their representative to contribute items for future discussions.

    Tips and links

    Scam emails, SMS or phone calls can be very convincing but there are some things you and your clients can look out for to recognise or report a scam.

    The client communication listExternal Link has undergone significant improvements to provide visibility for tax and BAS agents. A video of handy hints and tips can be found on atotvExternal Link.

    The tax profession is going through significant change. Open forums provide a platform for discussion on how the environment and systems are changing, and to encourage and support practitioners to get ready for these changes.

      Last modified: 14 Sep 2018QC 27350