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  • Tax Time update – 4 August 2020

    Service Delivery

    Call volumes received by the ATO continue to be busy, with calls still 20% up on last year. The ATO assured members that the situation in Victoria would not impact on the ATO’s service standards for calls.

    At the last meeting members requested an analysis of the top phone calls received by ATO contact centres from tax professionals. This was in response to a 20% increase in phone calls received by this segment. The most common call topics include:

    • JobKeeper applications.
    • JobKeeper payments.
    • Cash flow boost eligibility.
    • JobKeeper enrolments.
    • account explanations and lodgment enquiries.

    The volume of queries regarding stimulus measures accounts for the increase in tax professional calls received by ATO contact centres.

    Information on the demographics of callers will be shared with members at a future meeting.

    Support for Victorian based professionals

    The ATO appreciates the challenging situation faced by Victorian tax professionals at this time and will do whatever possible to support those affected from an administration perspective.

    Members would like to see something similar to the response to the bushfire disasters from the ATO as the Victorian Government has declared a state disaster. The key points discussed were:

    • Members noted that what was done in response to the bushfire disaster should be considered for this situation, ensuring maximum flexibility without penalties as much as possible.
    • Other suggestions included allowing Victorian businesses to vary their PAYG instalments to “nil” without penalty and the prioritisation of refunds through adjustments to reporting periods for GST (noting these administrative measures remain available to affected businesses as outlined on the ato.gov.au COVID-19 homepage).
    • It was noted that access to some of the stimulus measures is based on lodgment of an activity statement.
    • Members noted the difficulties that the restrictions would cause from a practice management perspective such as access to files, receiving paperwork from clients and even accessing post-boxes and collecting incoming mail.
    • Not all businesses use cloud-based software and members noted that additional assistance will be required for these clients for essential services such as completing payroll and administering JobKeeper payments.
    • Consideration also needs to be given to the emotional and financial impact the restrictions will cause to many tax practitioners.

    Communications

    Tax Time 2020 video series

    The ATO are tailoring specific communications to those affected by the situation in Victoria, the overarching message is about acknowledging what is currently happening and how the ATO can best assist those who are affected.

    Communications will include reference to the support already available:

    • Deferring due dates for payments.
    • Varying PAYG instalments.
    • Arrangements for payment by instalments.
    • Working with clients to put these arrangements in place.

    The ATO understands that taxpayers are reliant on stimulus measures and will be working on communications regarding this. The ATO requests that those who are able to lodge continue to do so, and to make contact to discuss any difficulties being experienced and for support. We would look to continue our flexible lodgment approach to business activity statement obligations that fall due during August and September which in practice means that there won’t be failure to lodge penalties applied.

    A personalised message from the Commissioner will be issued to those affected by the situation in Victoria, with information on their options during this difficult time.

    Focus of the next Tax professional’s newsletter

    • Support for Victorian tax professionals:
      • Reiterate support available to all agents, including access to lodgment and payment deferrals and General Interest Charge (GIC) remissions.
      • Let Victorian agents know that the ATO will continue to take a flexible approach to lodgments, noting that GIC will still accrue but we will be flexible with remission requests.
      • The ATO will also be providing support messages to other audiences in the community, including through our social media channels, small and large business newsletters and various stewardship groups.
       
    • This week’s focus includes:
      • A reminder that applications for superannuation guarantee (SG) amnesty ends on 7 September 2020.
      • An update to Operation Elbrus outcomes.
       

    Articles in development

    Tax time

    • Tax Time 2020 short tips video series - promotion of the whole series of videos that are now available on ato.gov.au.
    • 2020 Tax time - summary of non-individual form changes.

    COVID-19

    • Monthly JobKeeper business declaration for July due on 14 August.
    • Treatment of JobKeeper overpayments.
    • COVID-19 website update – Answers to FAQs have been integrated across our website. Archived FAQs can be found in our legal database.

    Other topics

    • Deferred GST on imported goods – new applicants who lodge deferred GST applications can be backdated to a monthly cycle from 1 July 2020.
    • Fuel tax credits (FTC) rates - no changes to FTC rates for businesses on 3 August.

    Early release of Superannuation update

    The Government has recently announced their intention to extend the timeframe to apply for Early Release of Super to 31 December 2020. At this stage no legislation has been passed and when that occurs we’ll notify members of that development.

    The ATO will share further information on compliance activities being undertaken regarding applications for the Early Release of Super and the associated risks such as fraud and
    re-contribution schemes at a future meeting.

    Cash flow boost stimulus measure

    The ATO has contacted the majority of businesses which cases had been escalated in relation to cash flow boost, to advise them that progress is underway. It is expected that all businesses will have been contacted within the next two weeks.

    Members are asked to provide details of specific cases where taxpayers are eligible for JobKeeper, and not for the cash flow boost so the ATO can ensure that these cases have been correctly assessed.

    Members would like further information on how the Inspector General of Taxation’s office is handling cases where the eligibility requirements have not been met and what their processes are.

    Tips and links

    • The ATO have clarified their position on loans that have been put on hold during COVID-19.
    • See new guidance on employer Pay as you go (PAYG) withholding registration, for employees working in Australia temporarily due to COVID-19 effects on travel.
    • The ATO must receive your or your clients' superannuation guarantee (SG) amnesty applications by 11.59pm local time on 7 September 2020. Check you and your clients have the necessary payment reference numbers (PRNs) required to make payments.

    Next meeting date

    The next Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group Tax time 2020 meeting will be held on Tuesday 11 August.

    Last modified: 12 Aug 2020QC 63417