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  • Communication preferences for tax professionals

    Communication preferences is a service in Online services for agents that lets you and your client choose where our digital communications are sent.

    It is a result of your feedback about sending communications directly to a client's myGov Inbox and reducing the amount of paper we send you.

    Find out about:

    Using communication preferences

    You are able to set a client's communication preference to reflect their circumstances and your engagement with us. You can choose to apply preferences to as many or as few clients as you wish. Communication preferences will not change activity statement lodgment channels or who will receive activity statement notifications.

    Before setting a communication preference you must:

    • be appointed by the client as their registered agent
    • have their written authority to set the communication preference.

    In addition to your Practice mail Inbox, communication preferences introduces a new mailbox called the Client mail Inbox.

    If your client’s preference is:

    • for their communications to be sent to your practice – we will send these communications to your new Client mail Inbox in Online services for agents
    • to receive their communications directly – we will still send communications to their myGov Inbox (if they are registered and linked to the ATO) or to the postal address we have on record (which may be your practice postal address).

    Note: Selecting Client as a preference won’t change how your client currently receives communications. If you set a client's communication preference to your practice and they have a myGov account linked to the ATO, they will no longer receive a notification that they have mail. They can still view their communications in Online services for individuals and sole traders.

    You will be responsible for notifying your client about those communications.

    If you don't set your client's communication preferences we'll continue to send communications as we do now.

    The six communication types you can set (based on a client's authorisation) are:

    • income tax
    • activity statement related
    • study and training support loans
    • superannuation
    • debt
    • employer and business obligations.

    Note: BAS agents can only set communication preferences for activity statement related and debt communications.

    Some communications cannot be sent digitally. These will continue to be sent by post. We will progressively enable more communications to be sent digitally over the coming years.

    Client authorisation requirements

    You should only set communication preferences for communication types a client has authorised you to act on. Before you set or update their communication preferences, ensure you have clear and written authorisation from a client. You should:

    • talk to your client and agree on what communications you will receive (on their behalf) and what they will receive and action. For example, Online services for agents allows you to set a client’s communication preferences to receive debt communications – this may or may not be a service you provide and you may not want to receive their debt communications
    • let your client know what happens if they want you to set their communication preference to either you as their agent or themselves.

    Note: You can view a client's digital communications relevant to your role in Communication history.

    Find out about:

    Preferred address for service

    Every taxpayer is required to give us at least one preferred address for the service of ATO communications. The taxpayer’s preferred address for service must be in Australia and can be:

    • a physical address (for example a street address)
    • a postal address (for example a post office box), or
    • an electronic address (for example a digital inbox).

    A taxpayer can nominate, change or withdraw their preferred address for service by giving us notice in the approved form.

    Agent and client declaration requirements

    When you set or update your client’s communication preferences, legally you are lodging an approved form on their behalf to change their preferred address (or addresses) for the service of ATO communications.

    Because of this, and before you set or update a client’s communication preferences, the law requires you to:

    • have first received authorisation in writing (either electronically or on paper) from your client, and
    • provide a declaration that you have received authorisation from your client to change their preferred address or addresses for service.

    Each time you set or update your client’s communication preferences, you will be asked to tick a declaration box.

    A client is required to retain the authorisation (or a copy) they give you for up to five years, depending on their circumstances. We recommend you also keep a copy for your own records.

    The authorisation can be stored electronically regardless of whether it was received by email or in paper form. Paper authorisations can be scanned and stored electronically.

    How to obtain written authorisation from your clients

    When you engage a new client, you could incorporate their written authorisation into your letter of engagement. You may ask them to provide this by email, fax or in paper form.

    For existing clients, it may be more efficient to ask for their written authorisation via email or during your next interaction with them.

    To meet the legal requirements, we recommend clearly explaining to your client which ATO communication types you want sent digitally to you and which will be sent directly to them.

    If your client is responsible for multiple entities, they can provide written authorisation for you to set the communication preferences for more than one entity at the same time, if:

    • it is provided by the primary contact – for example an individual, trustee or director
    • it clearly states the communication preferences for each entity and communication type.

    If you represent your client in both their capacity as an individual and trustee – for example, for their family trust – then their written authorisation (as a primary contact) will need to clearly state their communication preferences relating to their individual and trust tax affairs.

    Written authorisation template

    This is an example of a template you could use for obtaining a client’s authorisation to set their communication preferences. Alternatively, you could combine this information with other written authorisations, such as new clients or lodgment declarations.

    Example: Template to client

    Dear <client>,

    As part of the Australian Taxation Office’s commitment to improving online services, a new service known as communication preferences has been introduced.

    With your written authorisation, this service will allow tax agents to set which ATO communications are sent to <my/our> practice digitally (on your behalf) and which communications are sent directly to you.

    Communication preferences will be set on your behalf based on your instructions. To allow <us/me> to set your communication preferences I will need your written authority.

    <We/I> recommend that the following communication types are sent directly to <us/me> digitally:

    <Income tax>

    <Superannuation>

    <Study and training support loans>

    <Activity statement related>

    <Debt>

    <Employer and business obligations>

    If you agree, the ATO will send digitally enabled communications for the above communication types to our new secure inbox.

    If you agree to have the above communication types sent to <me/us> digitally, please respond to this email and tell <us/me>.

    If you do not respond by <insert date>, <we/I> will assume that you do not agree to allow us to set which ATO communications are sent to <us/me> on your behalf, and there will be no changes to how you receive ATO communications.

    If you have any questions please feel free to contact <me/us> on <contact details>.

    Kind regards,

    <Agent>

    End of example

    Note: You are not required to obtain written authority for Activity statement lodgment notifications. These are a notification that the activity statement is ready to lodge, not the lodgment itself.

    Setting preferences

    Before setting a preference, consider if its functionality will benefit your entire practice.

    You need to set default communication preferences before you can set any individual preferences. This allows you to set, at the practice level, the default communication preferences (or favourites) that can be applied to your clients. This is particularly useful if your practice has multiple clients with similar requirements.

    Find out about:

    Setting default communication preferences

    Only a Principal Authority or an Authorised Administrator can set and change default communication preferences. When the default is set for the first time, these settings will not be applied to your clients.

    How to set your default communication preferences:

    • at the agent home page select Communication then Preferences
    • select Practice or Client to determine who we should send communications to for each communication type
    • select Apply.

    Note: To update your default communication preference, you will need an updated written authorisation from any clients who have your default setting. The default preferences will be automatically updated for all clients who had the default setting originally applied.

    You can download a list of your clients that you have set with default preferences, by selecting:

    • Advanced search and filter by  
      • Communication type – select the communication type (you can only filter one type at a time)
      • Destination – select Set to my practice default
    • Download and print or save the search results as a HTML or CSV file.

    Setting client communication preferences

    To set a client's communication preferences, you can either apply your default preferences or set personalised communication preferences tailored to each client. This is useful if you have clients with communication needs that are different to your other clients communication preferences.

    Communication preferences can be added:

    • to a client when you add them to your client list
    • individually in their Profile page
    • to up to 25 clients at a time using the Bulk preferences functionality.

    Note: You must receive written authority from your client before you can set or update their communication preferences.

    You can set communication preferences for a single client, if you:

    • select a client
    • at the Client summary select Profile then Communication preferences
    • then select either
      • set to My practice default communication preferences, or
      • a combination of Practice or Client to determine who we should send your client's communications to for each communication type.

    To use the Bulk preferences function:

    • select Communication then Bulk preferences
    • create a list of up to 25 clients
    • select Apply default communication preference or a combination of Practice or Client to determine who we should send these clients' communications to for each communication type
    • select Submit.

    Client mail Inbox

    The Client mail Inbox allows you to view your clients' communications that have been sent to you digitally.

    You can access the mailbox when you:

    • customise the home page in Online services for agents to add the Client mail feature, which will show you when there are new unread communications in the inbox, or
    • select Communication then Client mail.

    The mailbox will display the last 35 days of undeleted communications and can be filtered by client, date or communication type.

    You can also retrieve up to 60 days of undeleted communications.

    This mailbox will not have all your clients' communications, only those communication types where the preference is set to you. You will need to check Communication history for communications sent to your clients or other communication types such as SMS and paper.

    Any communication issued to your Client mail Inbox will also be visible in your:

    • Communication history (previously the Client Communication List (CCL)) or
    • client's Communication history.

    How to provide feedback

    If you have any feedback about the communication preferences feature, let us know via the 'Give us feedback' link located at the bottom of each screen in Online services for agents.

    Communication types

    The digital communications included in communication preferences are listed under the following communication types:

    Income tax

    The digital communications for income tax are:

    • Adv – AMIT notice of assessment – EFT
    • Div 293 – Notice of Assessment
    • Income tax – Certainty check – Requirements met
    • Income tax – Individual – Tax receipt
    • Individual income tax – Processing delay advice
    • Lodgment – Early reminder notice
    • Lodgment – Overdue – Final Notice
    • Lodgment – Overdue – Reminder
    • New PAYG instalment – Individual / Consolidated group member
    • New PAYG instalment – Introduction
    • New PAYG instalment / Payment options
    • Notice of assessment – Company or Fund – EFT refund
    • Notice of assessment – Company or Fund – Payment due
    • Notice of assessment – Individual or Trust – EFT refund / Payment due
    • Notice of assessment – Individual or Trust – Payment due
    • PAYG instalment – Entitlement advice
    • PAYG or FBT Instalment(s) credited after the processing of a return
    • Payment – Superannuation Div 293 tax – Account discharge liability
    • Payment summary – Interest withholding tax
    • Penalty notification – Failure to lodge
    • Penalty payment – Administrative penalty incurred
    • Penalty warning – Lodgment
    • Registration confirmation/update – PAYG instalments allowed
    • Registration confirmation/update – PAYG instalments consolidated group allowed
    • Registration update – PAYG instalments disallowed
    • Statement of account – Payment slip
    • Statement of account – Possible refund
    • Superannuation – Excess concessional contributions – Determination advice
    • Superannuation – Excess concessional contributions – Information sheet
    • Superannuation – Excess non-concessional contributions – Determination

    Superannuation

    The digital communications for super are:

    • PAYG payment summary – Superannuation lump sum / Departing Australia Superannuation Payment
    • SHAsa annual statement
    • SHAsa opening account statement
    • SHAsa payment confirmation advice
    • SMSF – Trustee obligation advice
    • Statement of account – Superannuation – EFT refund / payment due
    • Statement of account – Superannuation – Payment slip
    • Superannuation – Nominate active super fund account
    • Superannuation – Unclaimed super money – Rollover benefit statement – Individual
    • Superannuation contribution – Fund/RSA account required
    • Superannuation entitlement overpayment transfer advice individual
    • Superannuation government contribution entitlement paid
    • Superannuation guarantee – Account transfer advice
    • Superannuation guarantee – Overpayment advice – No action required
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Company deregistered – Query closed
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Debt collection progressing
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Employer bankrupt – Investigation closed
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Employer debt established
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Employer in administration – Investigation closed
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Employer in liquidation – Investigation closed
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Further information not provided - Query closed
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Investigation closed
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Investigation progressing
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Investigation started
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Lapsed time frame – Query closed
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Legal action started – Debt collection progressing
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Nil recovered – Investigation closed
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Not entitled – Query closed
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Payment confirmed – Query closed
    • Superannuation guarantee employee entitlements – Query received

    Study and training support loans

    The digital communications for study and training support loans are:

    • Notice of Overseas Levy
    • Statement of account – Loan account

    Activity statement related

    The digital communications for activity statement related are:

    • Lodgment – Early reminder notice
    • Lodgment – Overdue – Final Notice
    • Lodgment – Overdue – Reminder
    • Registration cancellation – GST
    • Registration cancellation – PAYG withholding and branch
    • Registration confirmation – Fuel tax credit
    • Registration confirmation – GST branch
    • Registration confirmation – PAYG withholding and branch
    • Registration update – GST lodgment cycle
    • Registration update – PAYG withholding payment change
    • We are holding your refund
    • Your activity statement details have changed

    Debt

    The digital communications for debt are:

    • Confirming your payment plan
    • Debt – additional payment overdue
    • Debt – Overdue reminder
    • Debt – Payment demand – Warning
    • Debt – Payment required
    • Debt – Re-engaging overdue debt
    • Debt – Referral notification – Debt collection agency
    • Debt – Warning notification
    • Warning: additional payment overdue
    • Your payment plan may default

    Employer and business obligations

    The digital communications for employer and business obligations are:

    • Lodgment – Overdue – Taxable payments annual report
    • Lodgment – Overdue – Taxable payments annual report – Further reminder
    • Notice of assessment – Superannuation guarantee charge – EFT refund
    • Payment – Superannuation guarantee additional charge
    • Payment – Superannuation guarantee charge shortfall
    • Penalty notification – Failure to lodge
    • Statement of account – Payment slip
    Last modified: 16 Mar 2020QC 61788