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  • Client-to-agent linking in online services

    Understand the client-to-agent linking process in online services and access support material for you and your clients.

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    Overview of linking process

    We're further strengthening the security of our online services by adding an extra step to the process of linking to a client.

    Businesses and organisations included in the process will need to use the new agent nomination feature in Online services for business if they:

    • engage a new tax or BAS agent, or payroll service provider to represent them
    • provide extra authorisation to you as their existing authorised agent (for example, you start representing them for a new obligation such as activity statements or a new entity in their group).

    After your client completes the agent nomination, you’ll have 7 calendar days to add them to your client list in Online services for agents or your practice software.

    Existing client links are not affected, and you don't need to take action if your client doesn't change their existing arrangements.

    You can't complete the agent nomination process on behalf of your client.

    Why we're making this change

    We need to further strengthen the security of our online services to respond to increasing efforts by criminals to impersonate legitimate users to lodge fraudulent tax returns, or gain access to data that they can make money from.

    Tax agents, BAS agents and payroll service providers are not immune to fraud and identity theft. To counter the increased risk, we're strengthening our front-end controls to:

    • help protect you and your clients
    • ensure that only an authorised agent or payroll service provider can link to your clients' accounts and access their tax and super affairs
    • give you more confidence about the identity of a new client
    • bring our processes more into line with best practice and community expectations.

    This is part of a broader program of work to strengthen the security of our systems and data. It complements enhanced security measures such as client verification practices and Relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM).

    We recognise this new step adds to what you and your client need to do to interact with us. We’re working hard to balance ease of use of our services with the need for security. We’ll work with you to make improvements to the process where needed.

    Phased roll out

    We ran a successful pilot for this new process in mid-2022. From December 2022 we'll progressively expand the new process, starting with businesses.

    We're consulting with agents and industry representatives to ensure we take taxpayer and agent needs into account as we put this process in place.

    Rollout schedule

    The following businesses are included in the rollout:

    • Public and multinational businesses who are part of the Top 100 and Top 1,000 – effective from 19 June 2022.
    • Most public and multinational businesses – effective from 13 December 2022.
    • Businesses in the Top 500 privately-owned wealthy groups, where that group has a significant level of ownership of the business – effective from 13 December 2022.

    As we roll out each phase, we will update this list.

    How to know if your client is included

    Businesses and organisations in each phase will receive a notification in Online services for business when we apply the change to them. They will also see the new Agent nomination feature. Select Profile then Agent details.

    If you're unsure if your client is required to complete an agent nomination, you can check by trying to add them in your online services. You'll receive an error message if your client must complete the nomination.

    What you need to do

    When you take on a new client or change authorisations for an existing client, follow these steps:

    1. Complete Proof of Identity requirement steps.

    You will still need to verify a client’s identity if they nominate you in Online services for business. You're required to take appropriate Proof Of Identity requirement steps prior to providing tax agent services and BAS agent services and on an ongoing basis, as appropriate. This is in accordance with the TPB Practice Note 5/2022 and the Strengthening client verification guidelines.

    1. Provide your client with your registered agent number (RAN)

    This will help them find you in Online services for business.

    1. Provide your client with a copy of the linking steps, or direct them to our website.

    Refer them to our support information and materials, or send them to Client- agent linking steps.

    1. Remind your client to tell you when they've completed the nomination.

    You won't receive a system notification to tell you they have done the nomination. This is something we will aim to introduce in 2023.

    1. Add or update the client, as normal, within 7 days

    Once your client completes the agent nomination, you'll have 7 calendar days to add or update the client in Online services for agents or your practice software, as normal.

    Your client can extend the nomination if you're unable to complete the linking step before the nomination expires.

    1. Ensure you link at the right level.

    It's important when onboarding a new client that you are linked at the right level depending on the needs of your client.

    For example, some clients have a:

    • tax agent to look after income tax matters
    • BAS agent to manage their GST affairs
    • payroll service provider to manage their employee’s payroll function.

    If you link at the wrong level, or to levels that result in a duplication of access, you may remove a currently linked agent. If that happens, your client will need to re-nominate the other agent before they can re-link.

    If you are a tax or BAS agent with only STP reporting authorisation, you need to link to the Activity statement - STP reporting level. For this authorisation, agents must use the Add payroll only client menu in Online services for agents.

    If you receive an error message

    Once a client has been added to this process, they must do the agent nomination first before you can link the client in Online services for agents or your practice software.

    If you try to link to a client in online services, and you receive an error message, check that your client has completed the agent nomination.

    The nomination is valid for 7 calendar days. You will receive an error message if you try to link beyond that time, and you'll need to ask the client to complete the nomination again.

    Get your client set up on Online services for business

    If your client isn't already set up to use Online services for business, we have detailed information available to help them get started.

    If your client needs more support, they can speak with a customer service representative and we’ll help them through the process.

    Support information and materials

    We’re committed to supporting agents and clients through this change. We have a range of support information and materials available:

    Last modified: 05 Dec 2022QC 69794