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  • Tax Time update – 28 July 2020

    Service Delivery

    Call volumes received by the ATO continue to be busy, with calls being 20% up on last year. The average wait time for calls is currently less than 2 minutes.

    The nature of calls remains consistent with past weeks and key topics include:

    • income tax return related questions such as assistance with returns not necessary, and progress of returns
    • stimulus measure enquiries regarding JobKeeper and early release of Super. We have not yet seen a spike in calls following recent JobKeeper announcements.

    The ATO is still seeing a similar lodgment trend to previous weeks, with increased numbers compared to the same time last year.

    The tax agent phone line is continuing to operate on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00am – 4:00pm (local times) throughout July. Over the weekend there was a total of 255 calls received.

    Systems and maintenance

    ATO systems have been stable, however there were some minor impacts on SBR2 on Saturday 25 July, and Monday 27 July. These impacts were resolved quickly and did not affect the community.

    A proof of concept solution has been put in place that aims to resolve the performance issues with the ATO Legal Database. This solution will be monitored for the next few weeks to further refine and to ultimately establish whether it is successful or not.

    Tax practitioners should review the ATO’s system maintenance page for details of scheduled maintenance and links to troubleshooting advice, technical help and the Performance Dashboards.

    Subscribe to Tax professionals alerts to receive email or SMS notification for unplanned Online services for agents or PLS maintenance windows and functionality issues.

    Communications

    Tax Time 2020 video series

    This week’s video External Linkfeaturing Assistant Commissioner Trent Jakubowski focuses on rental deductions and instant asset write off. Trent also speaks about the impacts COVID-19 may have on rental income and the importance of getting deductions right this tax time, as well as the expansion of the instant asset write-off.

    Supporting articles include:

    Own a rental? – what you need to know this tax time – linking to media release from 25 June 2020.

    Articles in development

    Tax time, and part of the supporting agents to self-serve online strategy

    • Reminders for agents they can submit a non-lodgment advice of update financial institution account details for their clients using Online services for agents.

    Other topics

    • There will be a message in our newsletter reflecting the current issues in the Legal Database, and we will hope to provide ongoing updates pending the success of system fixes
    • Single Touch Payroll (STP) finalisations are now overdue
    • Tax time resources available in 17 languages – directs agents to translated resources for their clients, downloadable from our Publication Ordering Service.
    • Franking account tax return and instructions 2020.
    • Cancelled private health insurance and Medicare levy surcharge (MLS) – Provides information about the MLS that may be applicable if clients have stopped or suspended their private health insurance.
    • Cash flow boost payment estimator calculator

    Individual communication

    • Providing information for individuals to address the issue of prior years’ tax returns appearing in myTax as requiring action.
    • Social media posts this week have focussed on helping individuals:
      • Check the progress of their return
      • Find out about Tax Help
      • The Working from Home advertising campaign has now finished.
       

    Small business communication

    • Updating our Business Losses web content, to make it clearer in preparation for promotion next month.
    • We’ll also be publishing a video featuring Assistant Commissioner Andrew Watson about business losses on Monday 3 August, with further social media promotion during the month.

    Tax Practitioners Board update

    As previously discussed, bulk preparers were concerned about lodging returns prior to Single Touch Payroll finalisation and having to turn clients away. Guidance suggests that it would be good practice for tax practitioners that do have concerns of the reasonable care portion of the code of conduct, to get a declaration signed by clients prior to lodgment acknowledging that the clients employer may finalise their statement with a different amount, or that the tax return may need to be amended and any additional tax pay be payable by the client.

    Cash flow boost stimulus measure

    The ATO has implemented an approach starting Monday 27 July following feedback from this group, where after a client contacts the ATO contact centre asking about eligibility and the request needs to be escalated, they will now receive an acknowledgement email containing a reference number. This ensures the client that their enquiry has been received by the right area and it is being actioned. The reference number will also be visible to the contact centre therefore if contact is made again, the process is not restarting.

    As discussed last week, the ATO has started issuing correspondence to a small group of cash flow boost recipients as part of compliance activities. The letters have been issued to cash flow boost recipients where we have seen out of pattern behaviour, or unusual amounts recorded in Activity Statements in the salary and wages amounts, or PAYG withholding. We are concerned that these errors could impact the cash flow boost credit amount received.

    Letters started to issue on Friday 24 July, and an example of these letters was issued to TPSG members on the same day for their information and awareness. Also included in the communication to TPSG members was a link to the ATO’s new cash flow boost estimator tool that is available on our website.

    JobKeeper update

    On Tuesday 21 July the Government made the announcement regarding the extension of the JobKeeper program from 6 to 12 months. There is a fact sheetThis link will download a file and information available on the Treasury website.

    Key points in the fact sheet are:

    • Re-test of eligibility for all organisations, this is a case of moving from projected, to actual GST and covers all quarters. To go forward post September, you must pass the turnover test for both the June and September quarters. There is then another retest at the end of December for eligibility for the last three months of JobKeeper.
    • Payments are decreasing in value from $1500 per fortnight for everybody into a tier system of $1200 and $750 for the first three months, and then $1000 and $650 for the last three months of the program. This is based on a work test of 20 hours or more per week.

    The ATO has limited information available to be shared with members while the measure is pre-law, however we are anticipating that the law should be passed with time before people have to make decisions about continuing in JobKeeper. Once the law is in place, the ATO will publish guidance to assist employers and tax professionals in making decisions regarding JobKeeper.

    Information regarding JobKeeper overpayment is yet to be published on the ATO website, we are expecting this to go up shortly. The ATO encourages those who have identified an error to correct as quickly as possible to minimise the risk of over payment.

    Tips and links

    Next meeting date

    The next Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group Tax time 2020 meeting will be held on Tuesday 4 August.

    Last modified: 03 Aug 2020QC 63333