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Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group key messages 23 May 2023

Key topics discussed at the Tax Practitioner Stewardship Group meeting 23 May 2023.

Last updated 11 July 2023

Welcome and introduction

Co-chairs Michael Morton and Robyn Jacobson opened the meeting. Conflicts of interests were canvassed, none declared.

Michael Morton reflected upon:

  • the importance of the group and stewardship being about ‘what are you leaving for others?’ the need to think about the roles we play as stewards
  • maintaining a focus on strengthening and protecting the system and making it difficult for those who intentionally do the wrong thing.

Michael provided an overview of recent changes in the ATO, including the Client Engagement Group restructure, 2023–24 Budget measures, recently released communications, public advice and guidance as well as a focus on Small Business interactions (helping them to survive and thrive).

Member comments

  • Hoa Wood was thanked for her leadership of the group over the last 3 years.
  • Highlighted the continuing need for consultation, particularly in relation to some of the budget measures.
  • A query regarding the application of the legislative instrument for cents per km and interaction with electric vehicle PCG; the query was taken on notice.
  • It was noted that a small number of agents are still having trouble with myGovID.

2030 Tax Practitioner Experience Strategy

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

  • Internal consultation with ATO objection and review stakeholders to obtain insights.
  • Recent consultation with the Tax Practitioners Board to obtain insights and to establish programs of work (in progress or planned) that may impact on the 2030 Tax Practitioners Experience Strategy.

Member comments

  • A member advised the concept was welcomed and they expressed interest to discuss the 2030 Tax Practitioners Experience Strategy with their networks and the broader profession.
  • A suggestion that an out of session meeting be held to progress the strategy.

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

Tax Practitioners Board (TPB)

TPB board member Debra Anderson provided members with an opportunity to ask questions or comment on the report included in meeting papers.

Member comments

Members held a discussion about the different roles of the TPB and ATO, the practitioner community’s perception of independence between the 2 agencies, as well as ways to educate them that would demonstrate independence.

Spotlight on individuals tax gap, with focus on rentals

The ATO provided an overview of the rentals market, the challenges from a compliance perspective, the ATO approach to improving reporting and the intelligence from our direct engagement activities – tax gap, audit and Data Acquisition Prefill and Sharing programs.

  • Tax gap estimates and their trends over time provide useful insights into the longer-term operation of the tax and super systems. The rental component of the net tax gap is estimated to be $1.3 billion with 9 out of 10 taxpayers making mistakes.
  • The ATO has a range of strategies in place that are designed to reduce this gap. They range from prevention to correction.
  • 87% of individual rental owners use a registered tax agent to prepare their income tax returns. Because of this we want to identify opportunities to collectively improve rentals reporting by designing strategies that ensure tax practitioners are applying an agreed level of reasonable care which in turn sustainably reduces the rentals gap.

A discussion about the ways we can work collaboratively to help identify issues prior to lodgment was held. These issues will be explored further in an out of session meeting with interested members.

Member comments
  • It was suggested that consideration should be given to distinguishing the population between those that intentionally misreport and those making genuine mistakes.
  • A suggestion that professional associations can assist with education and inclusion of key messages in their webcasts and learning products.
  • Emphasised the role of educating taxpayers on record keeping requirements, highlighting the onus is on the taxpayer not the tax agent.
  • Discussed the challenges associated with clients not providing the right information and the risks associated with agents not asking enough questions to be able to establish the client’s situation (reasonable care).

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

System integrity / fraud in the system

A confidential discussion was held, noting:

  • Fraud and identity theft is not just a tax problem, it is a significant problem facing individuals and businesses generally. The environment is changing constantly, and as larger institutions harden their controls, others (including agents and taxpayers) are likely to become targets.
  • The ATO is working with the profession to increase the level of controls that practices have in place to reduce the incidence of fraud. This is an ongoing focus area.

Strategic Goal 3 – Improve tax performance for clients of tax practitioners


The ATO provided an update on the new website, key timelines and information about the design.

The current website sits on an aging platform, which is approaching end of service life. The ATO has procured a new website platform and we are progressing towards delivery of a new website in early December 2023.

Extensive validation will be undertaken to make sure the new website is performing as expected before we launch. This will include a period of 4 weeks (our ‘Public Beta’) where the community will have the opportunity to explore the new site.

Public Beta is scheduled for November 2023.

The ATO has engaged extensively with approximately 800 tax professionals and will continue to do so as we progress towards the implementation of the new website.

Member comments
  • The importance of dedicated tax professional web pages and the need to have information that is tailored to tax and super professionals and not a re-direction to individual's content.
  • Educating users on the new navigation and features will be critical.

Modernisation of Trust Administration Systems project

The ATO discussed the intent of the Modernisation of Trust Administration Systems (MTAS) project, outlined planned consultation and anticipated changes that will be implemented in Tax Time 2024 and potential changes under consideration for Tax Time 2025.

The Modernisation of Trust Administration Systems (MTAS) project is an ATO wide strategy to improve the quality, accuracy and integrity of annual income tax return information reported by trustees and beneficiaries.

The project will deliver improvements to the:

  • lodgment experience for trustees and beneficiaries and provide greater support to meet their reporting obligations.
  • administration and processing of trust reporting obligations.
  • ATO’s data driven decision-making process including those which inform compliance and assurance activities.

The project will initially see changes implemented in Tax Time 2024 impacting the lodgment of income tax returns for the 2022–23 financial year for all trusts and beneficiaries. These changes will focus on form changes and reporting.

Continuing consultation will occur in mid-2023 to consider potential future changes for Tax Time 2025 including options that look at the better use of lodgment and reporting data and deliver improvements to ATO systems.

The project will be implemented in close collaboration with digital service providers, and we will seek to engage with a range of internal and external stakeholders on the proposed changes.

Further key messages about the programExternal Link are available.

Members comments
  • A query regarding the percentage of trustees lodging on an online platform.
  • Discussion on the sequencing and value of prefilling the trust return (making it easier, allowing for data to be assured), noting this was not in scope for Phase 1.
  • Acknowledging the assurance that the intent was to modernise the whole experience and that the initial phase of the project was aimed at testing hypotheses and informing the next phase.
  • Acknowledged that the proposed changes will position the ATO to better identify, understand and address the errors observed.
  • Highlighted the advantage of having an alert or nudge message for tax practitioners to identify where a client may have had a trust distribution, acknowledging the myTax nudge message already in place where someone reports a distribution for the first time.

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

Charter review

The ATO provided an overview on the outcomes of the Taxpayers’ Charter review and upcoming launch of the refreshed Charter.

The ATO has undertaken a review of the Taxpayers’ Charter to ensure it is fit-for-purpose and effective.

This review has considered significant external feedback on the Charter including from tax professionals and associations.

The refreshed Charter has been designed to be more accessible, digestible and provides clear avenues for clients who are not satisfied.

The refreshed Charter will be launched ahead of Tax Time 2023 to drive increased awareness of and engagement with the Charter.

Members comments
  • Acknowledgment for the consultation effort and challenge in producing a concise and yet still meaningful document.
  • A Member emphasised the need for internal education and promotion to ensure that the Charter forms a part of each interaction for staff.
  • A suggested inclusion of ‘let us know if your identity is compromised’ in the last point under the ‘What we ask of you’ header.

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

Spotlight on Tax time 2023 – readiness, risks and mitigations, governance

The ATO discussed tax time readiness and risks, as well as challenges for both the ATO and the profession. Members were advised that tax time preparation was on track, covering system changes, web content and forms updates and communications.

Key compliance focus areas for 2023 were discussed, more information on the ATO's sights this tax time is available.

Recognising the valuable role in providing insight and communicating messages to the profession, the TPSG Tax time meeting series will commence from early July and cease in October.

Grant Brodie led a discussion about the tax time call volumes and drivers for the tax agent queues, and the need to balance telephony and processing services. The ATO recognises that there were some services, for example accessing the Commissioner’s deceased estate discretion, that required a tax practitioner to phone.

Members discussed ways to encourage tax practitioners to adopt the digital channel where there was a fit for purpose service available, helping to keep the telephony channel for those things that genuinely require an interaction with a staff member.

An out of session meeting will be arranged to further explore the impact of processing backlogs on call volumes to further inform what can be done to influence digital channel uptake where appropriate. Members are encouraged to nominate.

Members comments
  • Suggestion the ATO more proactively and broadly communicate where there are processing pressures and delays, highlighting that this could help address call volumes about progress of returns or refunds.
  • An indicated level of concern about the increased fraud during tax time and suggested there could be joint communications from the ATO and TPB reminding tax practitioners to be vigilant.
  • The benefits of the new Online services for agent's deferral functionality but it was noted the possibility of receiving subsequent deferral requests as agents may need more than 4 weeks.

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

Lodge and Pay

The ATO summarised the current ATO debt book and recovery approach, including:

  • Current debt levels, noting that 90% of obligations are paid on time (70% for small businesses), 65% of collectible debt relates to small businesses, approximately 43% of the debt is over 12 months old and approximately 22% of the debt is over 2 years old.
  • ATO’s general debt recovery approach.
  • The ATO’s approach to insolvency, noting that having a tax debt is usually a symptom of insolvency rather than a cause and that for most insolvency actions, the ATO is a creditor and not the initiator of the action.
  • Disclosure of business tax debts.
  • Debts on Hold.
  • Small business lodgment amnesty.
Member comments
  • It was noted the likely impacts of the amnesty on the profession and a suggestion that some agents will want more time (beyond the end of December) so that they can assist their clients with overdue lodgments without impacting other clients.
  • The increase in insolvencies and increasingly companies are choosing to de-register.
  • A question whether the introduction of director ID is making any differences to the number of insolvencies noted.

Environmental scan

Members discussed a range of issues, including:

  • improving small business tax performance paid pilot for retailers
  • confidentiality classifications for documents and conversations held with members.

Each of the items was captured for further engagement or investigation.

Other business and close

No other business was raised.

The co-chairs thanked members for their ongoing contribution.


Attendees list




Michael Morton (Co-chair), Individuals and Intermediaries


Elly Stinchcombe, Enterprise Solutions and Technology


Grant Brodie, Client Account Services


Hoa Wood, Individuals and Intermediaries


Jill Kitto, Lodge and Pay


Kath Anderson, Individuals and Intermediaries


Will Day, Small Business

Australian Bookkeepers Association

Peter Thorp

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

Karen Liew

CPA Australia

Elinor Kasapidis

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

Steven Inglis

Tax practitioner

Ursula Lepporoli

Tax Practitioners Board

Debra Anderson

The Tax Institute

Robyn Jacobson (Co-chair)

Guest attendees

Guest attendees




Adam O’Grady, Individuals and Intermediaries


Christopher Ryan, Private Wealth


Claire Miller, Enterprise Solutions and Technology


Emma Chamberlain, Individuals and Intermediaries


John Ford, Integrated Compliance


Katherine Philp, Corporate


Nicholas Bell, Private Wealth


Sean Beven, Corporate


Thomas O’Byrne, Corporate


Ziva White, Individuals and Intermediaries


Apologies list




Emma Rosenzweig, Superannuation and Employer Obligations


Karen Foat, Australian Business Registry Services


Matthew Hay, Enterprise Solutions and Technology


Vivek Chaudhary, Lodge and Pay

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

Michael Croker