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Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group key messages 18 March 2022

Summary of key topics discussed at the Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group meeting 18 March 2022.

Last updated 5 September 2023

Welcome and introduction

ATO co-chair Deputy Commissioner Hoa Wood welcomed attendees and noted that co-chair Gavin Swan was taking a leave of absence. Members were asked that any conflicts of interest be declared (none declared) and reminded the group of confidentiality requirements.

Hoa thanked members for their participation in recent out of sessions and recognised both tax professional and ATO member contributions to this group over a challenging 2 years.

Action item update

All action items from the November 2021 meeting are closed.

Environmental scan

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson led a group discussion to identify what is being experienced, trends, issues and items that may be impacting the tax profession.

Three main issues were identified prior to the session:

  • Flood disaster – the ATO noted that the Rapid Response Protocol has not been activated for the recent flooding in QLD and NSW.
  • Debt activity (discussed at a later agenda item).
  • Section 100A and Division 7A guidance, including concerns about retrospectivity and the approach to compliance, including tax practitioners board (TPB). Members noted that many agents are very concerned about the implications of the guidance and the application of promoter penalties for agents who have provided advice based on what they thought was the correct application of the law. Additional guidance would assist agents, as would assurance that the ATO is not intending to invest significant resources in compliance activities except in exceptional circumstances. An ATO webinar scheduled for next week will cover the intent of Section 100A and Division 7A Public Advice Guidance (PAG) products. Details sent to members to ensure that there is visibility in profession to enable them to register to hear directly from the ATO.

Further environmental issues discussed by members included:

  • The ATO directly contacting clients represented by an agent in relation to debt matters.
  • Significant delays when calls that come in on the tax practitioner line are transferred to a different queue. Deputy Commissioner Grant Brodie responded to members at the meeting with insight as to the fact that it may be that the choice of fast keys has placed the agent into a different line.
  • Concerns regarding difficulties accessing client accounts when they are locked due to a compromised TFN. Further information to be provided by profession members to enable the ATO to better understand concerns.

Tax and BAS agent strategy

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson discussed the draft vision and principles guiding the Tax and BAS agent strategy being developed.

The principles have been designed to ensure the agent experience is considered in the initial design phase for changes potentially impacting on agents. Members were asked to consider if the guiding principles would help to improve the ATO’s relationship with agents and provide feedback on any gaps.

Member comments

Member feedback was positive and agreed that the use of the guiding principles will lead to an improved agent experience. Themes from member feedback were:

  • Members recommended better defining the partnership between the ATO and the TPB as the relationship between the 2 parties is currently not clearly understood by many in the profession and is likely being undersold.
  • Members suggested acknowledging that the ATO will consider interactions with agents differently to those with taxpayers; this is already happening with the priority line for agents but needs to be included in the strategy.
  • The ATO needs to understand that ‘one size does not fit all’ and should allow agents to pick the best path to make improvements for each individual practice; the ATO needs to be flexible.
  • Concern that there was an inference that development of products or tools provided by the ATO are only via Online services for agents, disadvantaging agents without a digital business model.

Lodgment program review

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson discussed the initial findings from the first phase of the lodgment program review, noting that the mechanics of the current program were a contributing factor to the pressure being experienced by some agents.

Four key categories where the ATO can support agents more broadly were identified for further discussion in phase 2 of the review:

  1. Environmental factors including impacts of natural disasters, staffing issues, increased workloads associated with client support payments and cumulative impact of new government initiatives.
  2. Lodgment and payment pressure points; sequence and timing of due dates.
  3. Exception and deferral processes.
  4. Access to the program, performance and management including 85% performance measure.

Phase 2 of the review will involve forming several agile focus groups to further discuss these issues identified in these areas and develop solutions.

Member comments

Members were supportive of the review and the direction of the Lodgment Program Review Working Group (LPRWG). It was recommended that prior to forming smaller focus groups the LPRWG should brainstorm to collectively understand the desired outcomes and formulate strategies that could be adopted for phase 2.

Lodge and pay

Deputy Commissioner Vivek Chaudhary provided an update on the debt management approach, noting the challenges arising from the current landscape including impacts of bushfires, floods and COVID-19 on individual taxpayers and agents. As a result, individual solutions need to balance engagement requirements and enforcement actions.

This year almost 500,000 payment plans have been arranged and 95% of proposed arrangements accepted by the ATO without the need for further negotiation.

Assistant Commissioner Les De Wind advised that firmer action recommenced in November 2021 and includes director penalty notices (DPNs) and disclosure of business tax debts. The ATO will be refining communication around DPNs to ensure the message is reaching those who don’t realise they have obligations as directors. Clients already proactively engaging with the ATO are not captured under these strategies.

The ATO noted the planned re-raising of non-pursued debts.

Member comments

Members offered general feedback and discussed issues being experiencing in the current environment, including:

  • Payment plan processes have improved although still challenging for more complex arrangements or where a 50% upfront payment is requested.
  • Inconsistency in debt collection quality of service, including concerns about use of external collection agencies.
  • The impacts of collapses in the building and construction industry and rising interest rates.
  • Some accountants are not aware that each director is personally responsible for the whole debt in DPNs. Further overt messaging on this point would be helpful.
  • Members recommended establishing a working group to consider current and future issues and approaches, particularly considering the increasing debt burden.
  • Members sought clarity regarding the offsetting of debt when the ATO has deemed non-pursuit and when the debt will be automatically re-raised in the system.
  • Members asked the ATO to advise if the business viability tool has been updated to factor in current environmental issues such as COVID-19 and natural disasters.

Action items

It was agreed that the ATO will put together information and communication to assist agents and clients to prepare for lodgment and payment conversations with the ATO.

Members were encouraged to provide feedback and report negative experiences when engaging with the ATO regarding outstanding liabilities.

Single Touch Payroll

Assistant Commissioner Jason Lucchese provided an update on Single Touch Payroll (STP) Phase 2 implementation and the onboarding of closely held payees.

  • Currently approximately 60,000 employers covering over 900,000 employees are reporting through STP Phase 2.
  • The ATO is being proactive in working with Digital Service Providers (DSPs) who may require more time to finalise their products and transition their clients. A number have deferrals in place and these deferrals cover their client base. Many are progressively releasing additional functionality within their current products.
  • An online bulk agent deferral process was released on 8 March 2022 and will be monitored to ensure it is being used appropriately.
  • Penalty notices have started to issue to employers failing to commence STP reporting despite receiving several nudge messages and offers of support.
  • The onboarding of closely held payees will continue to be monitored with approximately 40% of the population having transitioned, noting the pathways that are available to report.
  • To assist with visibility of onboarding, tax agents have been issued with client status lists for STP reporting including closely held payee clients.
  • The ATO acknowledged the work of professional associations to drive changes in the behaviour of businesses. The ATO continues to consult with various consultative groups on the development of practical guidance resources and website content and acknowledged and thanked members for their ongoing feedback and input.
  • A roundtable will be held in April 2022 to discuss opportunities to enhance support for clients and align communication and promotion activities of the ATO, professional associations and larger DSPs.

Intermediaries engagement strategy

Members were provided with an overview of the focus of the intermediary engagement strategy, which was to better understand how the compliance of their clients is influenced by their tax professional.

The purpose of intermediary engagement strategy is to ensure that we are better understanding what strategies can be utilised to ensure that the clients of tax practitioners comply with their tax and super obligations. It was acknowledged that tax practitioners play an integral role in ensuring that their clients understand their obligations.

A key program of work under this strategy is our early intervention strategy, which is where we engage with an agent when there appears to be indications of potential issues relating to their client’s returns. This strategy has been applied in the Shadow Economy program with 1,700 agents engaged since in 2018–19. It has been viewed as successful when many of the agents proactively taking steps to address the concerns raised by the ATO, and general feedback has been that it is useful for agents to see a more holistic view of how the ATO views risks in their client base.

For more serious risks such as fraud we take an approach that seeks to contain the risks and establish the level of the agent’s influence in relation to those scenarios. Where we see evidence that a practitioner may not be complying with their obligations under the Tax Agent Services Act 2009, we refer those matters to the Tax Practitioners Board. For criminal conduct the ATO will consider criminal investigation and liaison with state law enforcement where appropriate.

Member comments

Members were grateful for context provided in the update and agreed that analysis of processes at a practice level is useful to identify risks.

Members noted that agents can advise clients to comply but cannot force them to disclose information. The concept of taking action against agents to protect clients does not fit the strategy context provided and only protects clients at the pointy end – a more nuanced approach and language in the different tiers is needed.

The ATO advised that the early intervention/engagement work is focused on what we are seeing in client compliance ratings and undertaking proactive work and education to address issues identified.

Members advised that by knowing their risk ‘score’ and what underpins it will allow agents to set goals. Agents have an incentive to identify clients that don’t assist the score, keep those clients who can adjust their behaviour or removing those who will not change their behaviour.

Members emphasised their support in protecting clients from rogue agents and note the transparency of the process helps buy-in from agents.

Sharing economy reporting regime

Assistant Commissioner Andrew Watson advised that sharing economy reporting regime (Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No 7) Bill 2021) measure has not yet been passed by Parliament and therefore the ATO is limited in providing specific details at this stage.

The bill proposes transactions are to be captured from 1 July 2022. With limited details the ATO is working with platforms likely to be covered by the legislation and the types of data available, building on the experience of Special Purpose Acquisition Data collected from some platforms.

The ATO acknowledge and appreciate the interest and goodwill of the profession and envisions that the data will be used in a similar fashion to taxable payments annual report data.

The shadow economy task force is identifying omitted income not in the system including top-down distributed payments that are likely to become income to several participants.

Member comments

Members acknowledged that the policy intent is clear and easy to understand and ideally the data will be included in prefill or as a flag to enable agents to have conversations with relevant clients.

Tax practitioners board update

Tax practitioner board (TPB) board member Debra Anderson provided an update in addition to a written report tabled in the agenda papers:

  • A revised continuing professional education (CPE) policy to include CPE requirements for BAS agents has been developed. The new policy will commence from 1 July 2022.
  • The recent Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision highlighted franchisee supervisory arrangement risks and as a result the TPB are seeking to improve guidance around these arrangements.
  • TPB COVID-19 concessions are due to end 30 June 2022 but may be reviewed based on the impact of environmental disasters and the COVID-19 situation closer to the date.
  • As of 3 March 2022, the TPB had 31 litigation cases on hand, 171 investigations in progress (of which 47 are unregistered preparers). Since the November 2021 meeting there were 23 terminations and 9 suspensions with caution.

Member comments

Members raised concerns that clients are not made aware if their agent’s registration is cancelled. The ATO noted that when a tax agent surrenders or cancels their registration clients are not notified, and in termination cases the ATO work closely with the TPB.

The TPB advised the TPB register shows the tax agent’s status however it is updated 28 days after termination.

Members raised concerns about the process for verifying the identity of clients. It was agreed that client identity verification can include the sighting of a driver’s license and a note recorded to this effect. The TPB noted that guidance has been provided on this topic.

Action items

The ATO will respond to members out of session on whether the new agent of a client would receive the same lodgment program concessions as the previous agent in the situation where the original agent is suspended or deregistered.

The TPB and ATO will review customer verification guidance material to check that key dates for mandatory adoption of the digital component of the guidelines are included.

Australian Business Registry Services (ABRS)

Director ID

The ATO provided an update on the onboarding of new registrants for director ID, noting that 320,000 applications have been received since November 2021. The ATO acknowledged the efforts of practitioners, professional associations and DSPs in contributing to this take up.

Commencing from April 2022 the ATO will implement a communication and engagement strategy for over 2 million directors that still need to apply for a director ID.

Member comments

Members noted that finding and reaching offshore directors is challenging and many don’t have Australian identification. Several professional associations have a reasonable international client base and offered to share ideas on engaging with that cohort. The ATO noted that offshore applicants will need to submit a form and the Department of Foreign Affairs can assist with some of the certification process.

Members queried whether the need for a director ID will hold up the setting up of a company? The ATO advised that if a company has a foreign director and there is a delay obtaining the director ID then they will need to lodge an extension of time request and approval is based on individual circumstances.

ABRS Companies release and ABRS agent model

The project team noted the complexities in bringing together 31 different registry and tax systems, acknowledging the opportunities to leverage off centralised data, but emphasising the challenge in meeting different legislative and data usage requirements.

The companies release will enable companies to register, view and maintain their registration obligations in a more streamlined way.

  • The release will migrate over 3 million current company records from Australian Securities Investments Commission (ASIC) into the ABRS, including 30 years of historical data and microfiche and paper records
  • 17 million transactions are performed annually and the ABRS will provide efficiencies.

A focus has been identifying all the stakeholders in the eco-system that will need to be engaged and educated, recognising that not all stakeholders have industry representation.

The ABRS agent registration process required identifiers and experience and qualification levels needed to be an ABRS agent are still being determined in conjunction with key stakeholders. Tax agents are key stakeholders who currently interact with the register while ASIC agents and DSPs will need to be onboarded noting that:

  • ASIC agent registration conditions are less than the requirements for TPB registration.
  • A DSP must be a registered with the ABRS for the software to flow through and maintain the integrity of the system.

Member comments

Members highlighted the importance of distinguishing between tax and BAS agents and ABRS agents in communications and guidance material.

Members are invited to continue sharing feedback and raising queries through the TPSG secretariat. Ongoing consultation is being conducted with various ATO consultative groups including the Modernising Business Registers Business Advisory Group and Modernising Business Registers Design Working GroupExternal Link.

Requests for copies of tax documents

The ATO have observed an increase in the number of incorrect requests for copies of tax documents. Using the right process avoids delays and helps minimise backlogs.

A Copies of Tax documents request form PDF 241KBThis link will download a file must be completed to access:

  • income tax returns and notices of assessment from 1997 to 2009
  • payment summaries from 2002 to 2008
  • FBT Returns from 2001

Common errors in submitting requests include:

  • an incorrect subject or heading
  • an email message without attaching the required form
  • contacting the call centre when an online option is available
  • requests by unauthorised agents.

Member comments

Members suggested that agents are time poor and experience frustration when online systems are slow leading to incorrect requests.

Members noted that the infrequency of requesting copies of tax documents for some agents may contribute to errors.

The online process needs to be easy to apply and be supported by guidance material or education.

Other business and meeting close

Members were informed that updated guidance on the deductibility of rapid antigen tests (RATs) will occur once legislation has passed.

Members provided some feedback on the visibility of ATO consultation with the tax profession. Members were invited to review the ATO monthly consultation report and What we are consulting about and advise where there are gaps in the visibility of consultations, or if the monthly consultation report is useful and is being reviewed.

Members were reminded they could contribute to the Australian National Audit Office auditExternal Link via the links provided in the meeting papers.

Following the recent cyber-attack on a South Australian government payroll provider, members discussed the impact of compromised client accounts. Members expressed concern that identified clients remain on the compromised list indefinitely.

The ATO advised that clients do not remain indefinitely on the list and emphasised that the restrictions placed on the client accounts are a form of protection from any misuse of the client account or information.


Attendees list




Hoa Wood (Co-chair), Individuals and Intermediaries


Audra Paskevicius (Secretariat), Individuals and Intermediaries


Deborah Jenkins, Small Business


Emma Rosenzweig, Superannuation and Employer Obligations


Grant Brodie, Client Account Services


Kath Anderson, Individuals and Intermediaries


Vivek Chaudhary, Lodge and Pay

Australian Bookkeepers Association

Darren Haggarty

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

Michael Croker

CPA Australia

Elinor Kasapidis

CPA Australia

Richard Webb

Income Tax Professionals

Scott Bailey

Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

Matthew Addison

Institute of Public Accountants

Tony Greco

National Tax and Accountants Association

Rodney Wilson

Tax & Super Australia

Neville Birthisel

Tax practitioner

Keith Clissold

Tax practitioner

Ken Thomas

Tax practitioner

Phil McCann

Tax practitioner

Shanna Hunter

Tax practitioner

Steven Inglis

Tax practitioner

Warren Seeto

Tax Practitioners Board

Debra Anderson

The Tax Institute

Robyn Jacobson

Guest attendees

Guest list




Amanda Keeble, Client Account Services


Andrew Watson, Small Business


Ben Spargo, Individuals and Intermediaries


Chontelle Weyman, Individuals and Intermediaries


Darryl Richardson, Individuals and Intermediaries


Elena Kerr, Australian Business Registry Services


Haydon Green, Superannuation and Employer Obligations


Jason Lucchese, Superannuation and Employer Obligations


Katie Constance, Superannuation and Employer Obligations


Katrina Donelan, Individuals and Intermediaries


Les De Wind, Lodge and Pay


Martin Jacobs, Australian Business Registry Services


Mary Arrowsmith, Australian Business Registry Services


Melanie Casey, Individuals and Intermediaries


Nicole Dykstra, Client Account Services


Ross Edwards, ATO Corporate


Reveka Kotsiaris, Enterprise Strategy and Design


Robin Hayes, Australian Business Registry Services


Siobhan Spencer-Arnell (Secretariat), Individuals and Intermediaries


Stephen Munic, Australian Business Registry Services


Tina Ford-Doe, Individuals and Intermediaries


Tracie Crowden, Superannuation and Employer Obligations


Tracy Littlewood, Individuals and Intermediaries


Wendy Perdrisat, Individuals and Intermediaries


Zoe Russell, Client Account Services


Apologies list




Alex Adams, Enterprise Solutions and Technology


Michelle Crosby, Australian Business Registry Services

Australian Bookkeepers Association

Peter Thorp

H&R Block

Mark Chapman

Tax practitioner

Gavin Swan

Tax practitioner

Mark Morris