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  • Tax Time update - 30 June 2020

    Lodgment stats as of 02 July 2020

    Lodgments – type and channel

    Overall - year to date returns received as at 02/07/2020

    Current year returns received as at 02/07/2020

    Comparison - Current year returns received as at 02/07/2019

    Individual – electronic

    270,928

    230,050

    165,759

    Non-Individual – electronic

    22,589

    2,585

    1,995

    Self-Preparer – myTax

    222,458

    210,174

    142,947

    Tax Practitioner – Practitioner Lodgment Service (PLS)

    70,058

    21,805

    23,275

    Please note: Paper statistics have been removed from this table as lodgments via paper may not be represented in statistics during the 56–day processing service standard.

    Service Delivery

    Deputy Commissioner Grant Brodie advised that calls received yesterday were 7% higher than the same time last week, with an average wait time of 7 minutes. The nature of the calls remains consistent, focusing on linking codes and stimulus measures. It is anticipated that calls will increase significantly from tomorrow with the commencement of tax time.

    Assistant Commissioner Frances McMorrow advised that almost 4,000 lodgments have been received in the safety net pilot, with 2,800 received through PLS and the remainder via myTax and paper returns. It was noted that the volume of paper returns received to date is lower than the same time last year.

    A small number of returns have been released through the safety net with correspondence and refunds issuing yesterday. No significant issues have been identified through the pilot to date and ATO systems are processing returns correctly.

    Debt and Lodgment

    Deputy Commissioner Vivek Chaudhary provided an update on debt and lodgment activities. The current focus is on responding to the high volume of requests being received by clients for assistance with managing their outstanding lodgment and payment obligations.

    The ATO temporarily suspended intervention processes and are now looking to recommence some outbound activities using a gradual phased approach. The first phase is piloting a SMS campaign to a small group of taxpayers. The Payment Receivables Management (PRM) system capability implemented with the Activity Statement Financial Processing (ASFP) deployment in December has not yet been fully utilised. Letters associated with the recommencement of engagement activities will be generated through PRM.

    Members are advised that tax practitioners may start to receive SMS and letters on behalf of their clients or by clients directly. Members requested that communication not be sent via SMS when the communication preference is set to be delivered to tax practitioners, as this is difficult for agents to manage. The ATO is conscious of this and is testing in the first phase of the pilot.

    Communications

    Director Michael Job provided an update on upcoming communication activities. The ATO’s planned and proactive tax time messages are ramping up to unsure that tax professionals have all the information they need to support their clients.

    Upcoming communication products

    Upcoming Tax professionals newsletter articles include:

    • Tax Time 2020 video series
      • This week’s video focuses on Tax Time Toolkits, work-related expenses and gifts and donations.
       
    • Tax Time
      • 10 things to know this tax time
      • 2020 Tax Time Toolkits
      • Are your client's residents for tax purposes?
       
    • COVID-19
      • JobKeeper turnover test for non-government schools
      • COVID-19-relief: Changes to the ACR and SMSF IAR instructions
       
    • Work-related expenses
      • Tax inVoice podcast – Work-related expenses Part 2
      • Gifts and donations
       
    • Lodgment
      • Lodgment program
       

    Social media

    • LinkedIn posts:
      • Video: Tax Time Toolkits, WRE and gifts and donations
      • Article: 10 things to know this tax time
       

    General toolkit and Occupation guides

    The ATO will release a suite of occupation toolkits from 1 July 2020. These include:

    • Ten new occupation posters on the ATO website (for agriculture, lawyers, bus drivers, factory workers, paramedics, pilots, engineers, performing artists, fire fighters and call centre operators).
    • Tax Time toolkits (for aviation, construction, education, government, health, real estate, retail and transport and logistics, rental properties, Small Business).

    Some occupation posters will be translated into five different languages, with 19 new translated products for this Tax Time. Products will also be promoted to culturally and linguistically diverse third-party contacts.

    From 1 July we will promote our Tax Time 2020 General Toolkit; which is a combined view of all the industry-based toolkits and a central location for tax professionals to access the information they may need to assist their clients. The General Toolkit also includes the new rental property damaged/destroyed posters which are part of the rental toolkit. All toolkits and occupation posters will be available from ato.gov.au/taxtimetoolkits.

    Digital Services

    Assistant Commissioner Kerry O’Loghlin provided an update on Digital Services.

    Pre-fill data

    • The loading of data received to date to pre-fill has commenced.
    • A number of annual investment income report (AIIR) files, predominately dividend files have been received.
    • The pre-fill availability webpage on ato.gov.au for Tax Time is live and will be updated daily as data is made available in pre-fill.

    Digital service provider (DSP) update

    • Overall DSP readiness is at 80% (compared to 70% last week), which is similar to last year’s trend.
      • Income tax return is at 76% (67%) readiness and on track
      • Partnership tax return is at 85% (78%) and on track.
       
    • All major tax professional software providers have confirmed with the Digital Partnership Office (DPO) they are ‘Tax Time 2020 ready’.

    Online services for agents (OSfA)

    For the week 22 - 28 June there were 108,000 logins to OSFA, which is 21,000 less than the week prior. Usage will continue to be monitored on a weekly basis.

    The reduction in OSFA logins may be due in part to the increase in PLS transactions, signifying a shift in focus for agents. This is consistent with expectations at tax time.

    PLS

    For the week 22-28 June, 440,059 transactions received (compared to 400,992 last week).

    Self preparers

    Tax Time 2020 products are ready for 1 July. There is a focus across a number of products in ensuring that clients are aware of the COVID-19 changes where there may be different obligations/ entitlement this year.

    Small Business

    Assistant Commissioner Andrew Watson provided an update on Small Business activities.

    The ATO are continuing to communicate the changes for the Instant Asset Write-off and provide advice for claiming home office expenses. A small business tax time toolkit will shortly be published linking to useful factsheets for small business.

    There are approximately 500,000 employers finalising their single touch payroll for the first time this year. Although not due until 31 July, the ATO is encouraging employers to finalise as early as possible so that their employee information is ‘tax ready’ and can be included in pre-fill data.

    Members advised that some payroll software being used is sending the ATO final messages because it was the last pay run of the year. The user is unaware that the software has automatically done this, and no declaration has been completed prior to sending to the ATO.

    Members raised concerns that current EOFY media advertising encouraging clients to purchase assets prior to 30 June may be misleading clients regarding deduction claims for assets if they are also planning to use the short-cut deduction method. The rules and advice regarding depreciation and the decline in value for future years should also be highlighted by the ATO.

    Small Business Superannuation Clearing House

    Assistant Commissioner Sonia Corsini responded to members reporting that issues are still being experienced since the upgrade.

    Members advised that inactive employees are still being displayed causing issues with the submitting of forms for active employees. This issue should now have been resolved.

    There are still a few residual issues relating to circumstances when an employee has changed superannuation funds or their fund has undergone a fund transfer and either the unique superannuation identifier has changed or the member number has changed. Where this has occurred, and it is an invalid number the form will not submit. Users will now receive a message informing them of what the problem is.

    Members are invited to provide examples of any ongoing issues to the TPSG mailbox.

    Supporting tax professionals to self-serve online

    Assistant Commissioner Alex Pereira provided members with an overview of a proposal to encourage tax professionals to self-serve using ATO online options.

    The aim is to increase the use of Online Services for Agents (OSFA) for those functions that can be self-served, resulting in shorter wait times for calls that tax professionals cannot self-serve for. It should also provide a time saving benefit as self-serve options are quicker and can be done at any time that suits the tax professional’s schedule.

    This encouragement will involve providing tax professionals with clear information and communication through the right channels. ATO call centre staff will also have improved information so they can provide better support and educate about using OSFA when tax professionals call.

    The current priority is to increase online interactions for three functions this tax time, and reduce the flow of calls for these topics:

    • Checking the progress of a return.
    • Updating financial institution details.
    • Submitting non-lodgment advice.

    Members observed that many agents are using practice management software for all their client interactions and not all features are available to effectively interact with the ATO. They may prefer not to change to OSFA for some transactions and therefore prefer to contact the ATO by phone. They recommended that functionality be made available via software in the first instance.

    Some agents may also have had negative experiences in the past with transactions not being successfully processed and therefore lack confidence in the system. In calling the ATO they have confidence that the transaction is completed and a receipt number provided for their assurance.

    Members recommended the ATO perform more profiling on tax professionals performing actions over the phone to determine what the drivers for contacting the ATO by phone are.

    Digital services for tax professionals - masterclass education series

    Assistant Commissioner Kerry O’Loghlin and Director Ben Lurje provided members with an overview on a concept to develop a masterclass education series to support tax professionals to optimise their use of ATO digital services.

    The ATO recognise that there have been significant digital changes for tax professionals over the last few years with the move to the Practitioner Lodgment Service (PLS) and Online Services for Agents (OSFA). Many tax professionals have a solid, foundational understanding of these digital services but may not be optimising the full functionality of these services.

    The masterclass education series aims to:

    • Build the competency and confidence of tax professionals in using digital services
    • Potentially improve productivity within the practice
    • Improve online security controls and practices.

    The ATO will partner with the tax profession to co-design the content, prioritise the topics and determine the appropriate delivery channels. The ATO is also looking into the possibility of the education counting towards continuing professional education (CPE).

    Members supported the initiative and the benefits that it could deliver. Members were also open to the inclusion of an optional assessment component for relevant topics.

    Members highlighted that tax professionals are currently under an extreme amount of pressure, so the availability of content that can be accessed ‘on demand’ is a key design consideration.

    Members suggested a social media campaign highlighting the top 10 tips for using ATO digital services. These could be a series of short tips with one tip per post that professionals can share.

    Further discussion on this masterclass concept will continue at the next meeting of the Tax Profession Digital Implementation Group.

    Cash flow boost stimulus measure

    Assistant Commissioner Kasey Macfarlane provided an update on cash flow boost payments.

    The ATO has worked to clear the backlog of escalated cases. There are a small amount of cases remaining that require further review due to:

    • backdated PAYGW registrations
    • ABN registrations post 12 March that have been backdated
    • no evidence of business activity for the entity from 1 July 2018
    • not satisfying the aggregated turnover test.

    Some of these cases may have received misleading information as to their eligibility. Guidance information for ATO contact centre staff has been updated to enable them to better respond to client queries regarding their eligibility.

    Tax practitioners are advised to refer clients to the Eligibility companion guide for cash flow boost to review their eligibility and for reasons that payments may not have been applied.

    Clients who received the first cash flow boost payment should expect to receive the second payment within 3-14 days of lodgment of their June activity statement.

    JobKeeper program

    Director Michael Karavas provided an update on JobKeeper payments. The next round of declarations will commence this week for the June fortnight. As there have not been any changes this month the ATO anticipate that this round will progress smoothly.

    Communications have issued to prompt employers that have not completed the three required steps for payment and remind employers to complete May declarations before the end of the month to avoid having to contact the ATO to have payments processed manually.

    Changes for childcare providers were announced recently and the ATO are expecting updated rules to be issued within the next week for a start date of 20 July. The ATO are contacting impacted businesses to clarify the changes and advise what they need to do.

    Upcoming system updates include:

    • The landing page is expected to be updated in late July to provide employers with a receipt number.
    • There will be screen updates at the beginning of September to allow for the three fortnights in August.

    These changes will be communicated to tax practitioners and employers prior to being deployed.

    Tips and links

    Next meeting date

    The next Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group Tax time 2020 meeting will be held on Tuesday 7 July from 9:45am – 11:15am (AEST).

    If there are any concerns in relation to any aspect of Tax Time 2020 meetings, please contact us via TPSG@ato.gov.au.

    Last modified: 06 Jul 2020QC 63120