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Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group key messages 22 August 2023

Key topics discussed at the Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group meeting 22 August 2023.

Last updated 8 October 2023

Welcome and introduction

Co-chairs Acting Deputy Commissioner Andrew Watson and Robyn Jacobson opened the meeting and welcomed members.

2030 Tax Practitioner Experience Strategy

The ATO provided members with an update on the 2030 Tax Practitioners Experience Strategy.

Nominated members are holding out of session meetings to inform the development and implementation of the strategy.

The first meeting discussed the high-level purpose and structure of the strategy, noting that whilst it is ATO driven, success will be via collaboration and a partnership approach with the profession.

Member comments

A consolidated list of members on each of the various working groups was requested to facilitate the exchange of feedback and input.

Strategic Goal 1 – Protect the high levels of engagement and integrity in the tax, super and registry systems

Lodgment program review action item

The ATO provided an update on Lodgment Program Review action items:

  • The Lodgment Program Review working group has closed. Actions from the review are being prioritised and managed by various ATO teams; monitored by the ATO’s lodgment program and tax practitioner experience teams; and will be periodically reported to the Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group (TPSG).
  • Working group members’ feedback on the lodgment program’s design, content, timing, pressures, and accessibility is invaluable and has helped the ATO to implement short-term improvements and plan for long-term changes. Examples of short-term changes include
    • implementing a new lodgment deferral functionality in Online services for agents
    • moving the 15 January lodgment due date to 31 January
    • clarifying the ATO's approach when agents cannot meet their lodgment program obligations.
  • The ATO has received positive feedback from the profession regarding the changes. The ATO noted the need to balance whole-of-system considerations (including the impacts on revenue to fund government services and pressures across the year) meant most dates were unable to be moved.
  • The ATO has a lodgment program team who will continue to work on ways to improve the program. This may include engaging with members in the future.
Member comments

Members requested BAS agents be given the same 6-week lodgment deferral tax agents receive when accepting a new client.

Members agreed the ATO and the profession should continue to explore ways to improve lodgment performance and relieve pressure on agents.

Spotlight on early July lodgment

The ATO facilitated a workshop to identify ways to optimise the use of prefill to:

  • improve the accuracy of reporting
  • reduce the burden for agents by providing them with more prefill information.

This follows a recommendation from the lodgment program review, and separately from TPSG members, to consider ways to reduce the pressure on agents in July each year.

The following key points informed the workshop:

  • Approximately 4.2 million individual income tax lodgments are received in July (including agent-prepared and self-prepared returns).
  • Agents are reporting pressure from competing priorities, particularly finalising Single Touch Payroll and payroll activities, end of year reporting, trust distributions and minutes.
  • There is strong evidence that using third party data increases the accuracy of returns. The community is losing revenue in early July, when the ATO cannot verify returns to third-party data.
  • Correction requires an investment in data matching programs, which usually results in a debt for the taxpayer later in the year. This creates a poor taxpayer experience, duplication of work for agents, and increased community expense for the ATO to correct returns and follow up debts.
  • Third party data starts being received in early July and the majority is received by late July. The ATO works as quickly as possible to curate and prefill the growing amount of third-party data and to provide informational prompts to support correct reporting.
  • Agents would prefer to be able to take advantage of prefilling information to complete returns, but members noted there are still issues with the accuracy of some information.

The workshop considered the most appropriate time to lodge and process returns, considering impacts on taxpayers, agents, the tax system and the broader economy. It was agreed that:

  • the ATO will distil the workshop information and report back at a later date
  • the group should explore solutions that will encourage taxpayers to delay lodgment.

Payday Super

The ATO provided an update on the progress of the Payday Super announcement that was part of the 2023–24 Budget. Employers will be required to pay their employees’ Super Guarantee (SG) at the same time as salary and wages from 1 July 2026 (Payday Super measure).

The ATO is consulting with stakeholder groups in relation to the Payday Super measure's administration, impacts on stakeholders and any changes that need to be made. This is in addition to Treasury’s consultation in relation to the policy.

The ATO will engage with representatives from all stakeholder groups (tax agents, employers, digital service providers (DSPs), clearing houses, gateways and super funds, BAS Agents) to co-design an optimal solution allowing for the effective administration of this measure.

The outcomes of the consultation process will inform government of the options available for implementing the Payday Super measure along with legislative changes required.

Member comments

Members highlighted the significant impact Payday Super will have on DPSs.

Members requested a consultation roadmap for Payday Super which can be shared externally. The ATO will provide the roadmap when it is available.

Strategic Goal 2 – Safeguard the security of the tax, super and registry data and IT systems

Intermediaries' engagement strategy

The ATO provided an update on the Intermediaries Engagement Strategy (IES) and how it is informing and supporting the intermediaries risk and strategy tactics and programs across the ATO. The strategy describes how the ATO will engage with tax practitioners displaying different behaviours which impact on the tax performance of their clients. Information can be found on the ATO’s website. The tax agent active verification strategy was discussed at the meeting as an example of how the framework has been applied.

Member comments

Members noted that the risk is shared, and that by better understanding the issues observed by the ATO, the practitioner community can contribute toward closing the gap.

Spotlight on tax agent active verification program

The ATO led a confidential discussion on the tax agent active verification program that was piloted in Tax Time 2022. Members were advised:

  • the ATO notes most practitioners are trying to do the right thing; however, a minority are not
  • the program is part of the overarching IES
  • the program involves a ‘next level’ ATO response for ongoing behaviours of concern from some tax agents with regards to their clients’ work-related expense claims
  • following a successful pilot, the program will be expanded in Tax Time 2023.

Members were asked to consider the value of communicating the purpose and outcomes of these types of programs, including observations and concerns, with the profession more broadly.

Member comments

Members agreed that joint communications with the profession and the ATO should be explored to reinforce reasonable care expectations amongst tax agents.

Members noted that messaging should be conscious that whilst there are those who do the wrong thing, most practitioners try to do the right thing.

Strategic Goal 4 – Increase trust and confidence in the tax, super and registry systems

Better targeted super concessions

The ATO provided an overview of the better targeted superannuation concessions measure confirmed in the 2023–24 Federal Budget:

  • From 1 July 2025, the government is reducing the superannuation tax concessions available to individuals whose total superannuation balance exceeds $3 million.
  • Individuals with balances greater than $3 million at the end of the financial year will be subject to a tax of 15% on earnings. This tax is in addition to any tax their superannuation funds pay on earnings in accumulation, resulting in earnings attributable to balances over $3 million generally attracting a combined headline rate of 30%.
  • This change is expected to affect less than 0.5% of individuals with a superannuation account, meaning that more than 99.5% of individuals will not be affected by this change.
  • The policy parameters for the measure are still being finalised. The ATO will be engaging with external stakeholders to understand the impact to individuals, funds and tax professionals.
Member comments

Members acknowledged the ATO is not the policy maker and policy parameters are awaiting release.

Members noted the need for clarity in relation to whether unrealised gains would be taxed and if indexation was being considered

Tax Practitioners Board

Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) Secretary and TPB Board member Debra Anderson provided an update on the Expanded compliance program, Reform - The Treasury Laws Amendment (2023 Measures No. 1) Bill 2023 and improved telephony services:

  • The TPB’s Expanded compliance program is operational. Increased use of ATO data is providing opportunities to identify agents who might not be fit and proper or who have breached the code, as well as unregistered preparers.
  • Short and longer-term reforms are being worked on. The Treasury Laws Amendment (2023 Measures No. 1) Bill 2023 is yet to be passed by parliament. Subject to passage the TPB will consult with stakeholders to ensure there is guidance to assist tax practitioners understand the operation of the law.
  • There is an opportunity to improve the extent to which co-regulators work together to address shared agent risks.
Member comments

All stakeholders need to drive continuous improvement.

Members noted the definition of disqualified entities requires further clarification, for example, does it include an individual who is not an agent?

Strategic Goal 5 – Empower tax practitioners to add value to their clients through sustainable operations

Data retention discussion

CPA Australia representative Bill Leung led a discussion about current issues with respect to data retention protocols (for practitioners). The conversation recognised the impact of digitisation and increased reliance on digital storage solutions. The conversation explored:

  • the large volumes of accumulated data held digitally and the implications from a cost and risk perspective (for both taxpayers and practitioners)
  • practitioner behaviour in relation to controls in place to manage data risks, particularly where information and data is stored by third parties
  • the potential for the ATO and professional associations to work together to assist and influence the way taxpayers and practitioners manage their risks, including decisions about how much data to retain and for how long (particularly if a taxpayer is no longer a client); this includes education for agents and their clients about the risks of changing service providers (tax agent and/or software provider), and the responsibility for retaining sufficient appropriate records, in accordance with the law
  • guidance or assurance the ATO can provide with regards to the treatment of taxpayers who only keep data and records for the minimum period of 5 years post lodgment; for example, will the ATO release a record-keeping Practical Compliance Guideline?
Member comments

The current responsibility as to who should hold data and for how long (the agent or the taxpayer) should be contained within the scope of engagement letter.

In an era of increasing security breaches, it was acknowledged that both tax agents and DSPs can no longer bear the responsibility as the holder of client data.

Digital Service Providers Australia New Zealand are working on a paper to articulate the issues and options. This emphasises the importance of rules and protocols being developed.

More guidance about responsibilities, protocols and support (including legal considerations) is needed.

Strategic Goal 6 – Improve small business performance and level the playing field

Improve small business tax performance

The ATO provided an overview on the ATO’s Improve Small Business Tax Performance initiative that commissioned 5 distinct pilots, to focus on opportunity areas that drive improved tax performance. The pilots and associated hypothesis include:

  • right time goods and services tax (GST) payments (2 x pilots) - working with select Financial Technology Providers who provide digital services to test whether more frequent GST payments will assist small business operators to better manage their cashflow and prevent future debt
  • monthly GST and pay as your go withholding (PAYGW) reporting - testing whether monthly GST and/or PAYGW reporting (rather than quarterly) will assist some small businesses better provision for their obligations, improving their cashflow management and to prevent new/future debt
  • guidance in software (building confidence and certainty into natural systems) - working with select DSPs and Financial Technology Providers to test whether integrating ATO public advice and guidance into digital systems will support early detection of potential issues/errors through the issuance of prompts and nudges and therefore potentially reducing the tax gap.
Member comments

When evaluating the pilot programs, the ATO should be mindful of:

  • the potential for bias arising from using willing clients in the pilots
  • the experience for clients who are receiving one-on-one assistance in the pilot versus the experience once fully deployed
  • the complexities around the practical application of Division 7A and potential for nudges within software.

Members noted the emergence of new players who provide value-added services, as well as improved services by existing software providers. There is a need to consider the point at which services become 'tax advice'.

Lodge and Pay discussion

The ATO provided an update on the most recent view of client payment behaviours and representation on the ATO debt book. The ATO also outlined the shift in client expectations regarding payment and how it will be reflected across the debt recovery approach:

  • A growing number of businesses who have capacity to pay are not paying in full. They are waiting for the ATO to pursue debts before taking action to pay and some are entering into payment plans.
  • Despite the ATO resuming firmer and stronger actions following a sustained pause in debt recovery activity during COVID-19, some businesses are de-prioritising payment of ATO debts.
  • Restoring and maintaining Australia’s voluntary tax and super payment system requires a shift in the ATO’s approach to payment
    • The ATO expects payment on time and in full, clients should not wait for the ATO to engage them, they know that our approach to concessions is returning to business as usual.
    • The ATO is taking decisive and swift action with those clients choosing not to engage and who purposefully avoid their payment obligations.
  • The ATO will continue to offer help and assistance to those who genuinely need it.
  • There is an opportunity for the ATO to develop more specific materials to support agents to engage with their clients about their debts. The ATO is establishing a fixed term working group.

Following the overview, a workshop was conducted to gain member insights and views of what the shift means for clients in debt and the impacts on tax practitioners. Group leads presented a summary of discussions held, noting the insights and discussions were valuable.

Further consultation will be conducted with members in due course, to explore aspects such as communications, education and practical support for practitioners.

Member discussion in the workshop groups has been collated and provided to the Lodge and Pay Executive, for inclusion in the planning of further consultation.

Tax Time 2023

The ATO provided an overview of Tax Time 2023 processing and progress, noting that overall, things are working as anticipated. Key points included:

  • at the time of the meeting 5.7 million lodgments have been received, which is slightly down compared to the same time last year, recent lodgment numbers may suggest that overall lodgments received may be levelling out
  • several calls received by the ATO are for topics where agents could have addressed the query via a digital service/channel
  • the ATO reiterated advice provided at the TPSG tax time meetings, that staff were being redirected from the phones to assist in addressing processing workloads.

Environmental scan – Client agent linking

The ATO informed members that the client-to-agent linking solution will be rolled out to all businesses with an Australian Business Number (ABN), excluding sole traders from 13 November 2023. This includes entity types such as companies, trusts, partnerships, superannuation funds and not-for-profits.

Businesses will need to nominate an agent in Online services for business before their agent can link to their account, when they:

  • engage a new tax or BAS agent, or payroll service provider to represent them
  • provide extra authorisation to their existing authorised agent.

If a business is already represented by an agent and they don’t make any changes, they will not need to do anything.

This rollout to all businesses with an ABN, excluding sole traders, will complement the businesses already in the program (public, multinational, high wealth and government entities).

The ATO recognises this is an additional impost on agents, but it is necessary to ensure that we maintain robust security over taxpayer data. This is essential to Australians having trust and confidence in the tax and super systems.

We have listened to feedback from the profession, including feedback provided by associations, feedback from the client-agent linking working group set up under the TPSG, and through other consultation with agents and clients who are already involved through earlier releases. Additional work has been undertaken over the last 12 months in response to feedback received

We note the profession has mixed views about the impacts on agents and their clients and are conscious that the solution will impose an additional impost on agents, especially where a client cannot easily establish their identity through myGovID or where they are part of an exception group, for example, trusts.

We will strive to minimise the impacts of our administration on practitioners, recognising the need to balance all risks and considerations, and take a whole-of-system view which extends beyond the agent experience. In this case, the security of taxpayer data and the system overall must be paramount.

Member comments

Members agreed there is a need for a digital solution but requested that the key messages capture their significant concerns about the proposed implementation of client agent linking (CAL) and the practical impact on taxpayers and practitioners, which have been raised in various forums over the last 12 months:

  • taxpayers who are not digitally engaged or literate — multiple technological steps are required, using myGovID, Relationship Access Manager (RAM) and Online services for business to nominate a new registered tax or BAS agent
  • the risk of disengaging taxpayers who may be resistant to embarking on the CAL process
  • the risk of inexperienced taxpayers accessing Online services for business without understanding the impact of actions or selections they will be enabled to take or make in an unguided Online services for business environment once unimpeded access is available
  • the duration of the nomination or acceptance period and the resulting process if the nomination is not accepted within that period
  • the inevitable burden that will fall on agents whose clients have difficulty connecting to Online services for business and/or nominating the agent
  • whether the proposed linking solution for businesses is readily transferrable to and appropriate for individual taxpayers.

Members will continue to work with the ATO to implement the digital solution but remain cautious and concerned about the practical impact on taxpayers and practitioners.

The ATO noted member concerns and advised:

  • the CAL working group will continue to work through outstanding issues
  • alternative processes have been established for those who are unable to establish their online identity and link to their business
  • the ATO is unable to implement an alternative solution (for example, where an agent nominates a client, and the client accepts in an online environment) as the same issues would be encountered in terms of the need for the ATO to be able to engage with the client in a secure online environment
  • the ATO cannot rely on data held in the ATO’s client register due to agents including their own data in the client register (instead of their client’s data) and the risk of out-of-date details
  • an alternative solution might be possible in future when the ATO is able to confidently interact in a secure environment with all taxpayers.

Other business and close

A member highlighted that the system maintenance planned for the weekend of 26–27 August would impact on the lodgment of the taxable payments annual report. The ATO committed to identifying what could be done (by the ATO) to ensure impacted practitioners were not penalised.

The Co-chairs thanked members for their ongoing contributions.


Attendees list




Andrew Watson (Co-chair), Individuals and Intermediaries


Grant Brodie, Client Account Services


Kath Anderson, Individuals and Intermediaries


Vivek Chaudhary, Lodge and Pay


Will Day, Small Business

Australian Bookkeepers Association

Peter Thorp

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

Michael Croker

CPA Australia

Bill Leung

Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

Matthew Addison

Institute of Financial Professionals Australia

Neville Birthisel

Institute of Public Accountants

Tony Greco

National Tax and Accountants Association

Rodney Wilson

Tax practitioner

Ani Tuna

Tax practitioner

Brian Greenacre

Tax practitioner

Dean Forte

Tax practitioner

Julian Shimmin

Tax practitioner

Keith Clissold

Tax practitioner

Ken Thomas

Tax practitioner

Phil McCann

Tax practitioner

Ursula Lepporoli

Tax Practitioners Board

Debra Anderson

The Tax Institute

Robyn Jacobson (Co-chair)

Guest attendees

Guest attendees




Alistair Kemp, Enterprise Solutions and Technology


Anita Challen, Lodge and Pay


Anna Modrzejewska, Individuals and Intermediaries


Annie Ferguson, Lodge and Pay


Ben Lurje, Individuals and Intermediaries


Ben Spargo, Individuals and Intermediaries


Beverley Fernandez, Individuals and Intermediaries


Caryn Kalucinski, Superannuation and Employer Obligations


Jacqui Marchment, Lodge and Pay


Jamie Meredith, Individuals and Intermediaries


Jillian Kitto, Lodge and Pay


Joanne Taylor, Individuals and Intermediaries


Kelly Norwood, Small Business


Kylie Johnston, Enterprise Solutions and Technology


Megan Fisher, Policy, Analysis and Legislation


Melanie Casey, Individuals and Intermediaries


Nathan Lymberopolous, Small Business


Sarah Forza, Individuals and Intermediaries


Tim Loh, Individuals and Intermediaries


Tina Ford-Doe Individuals and Intermediaries


Zachary Levay, Individuals and Intermediaries

CPA Australia

Elinor Kasapidis

Tax Practitioners Board

Janette Luu

Tax Practitioners Board

Michael O'Neill


Apologies list




Emma Rosenzweig, Superannuation and Employer Obligations


Karen Foat, Australian Business Registry Services


Matthew Hay, Enterprise Solutions and Technology


Michael Morton, Individuals and Intermediaries

Tax practitioner

Steven Inglis