2. Digital by Default

Digital by default community consultation was open from 30 November 2015 to 29 January 2016.

There were over 1,000 responses and of these around 90 were from tax professionals or their associations.

Community expectations identified from consultation were:

  • That digital by default does not mean digital only. Digital services will be the primary way to interact, with alternative options available for users who cannot go digital
  • It is a gradual transition, recognising that it takes time for users to adapt to change
  • That vulnerable users are supported and where appropriate exempt from digital interactions
  • The ATO build trust by expanding and improving the quality and capacity of digital services
  • The ATO build awareness of existing digital services and appropriately promote changes.

The next round of consultation will be via a discussion paper that will accompany the draft law (Exposure Draft & Explanatory Memorandum). Due to shifting government priorities delaying the drafting of the law the discussion paper will not be available for release until after the election. There is no clear indication of likely dates for the next round of consultation however the second half of 2017 is still probable.

The ATO heard from tax professionals that they:

  • Support digital transformation and acknowledge the need to move forward
  • Realise it provides opportunities to change the way they do business
  • Are concerned about those who cannot make the change, whether due to age, location or poor internet services
  • Are concerned the ATO is building new systems without proper consultation
  • Are concerned about it interrupting the relationship with clients (for example, the Client Communication List)
  • Are concerned it is part of a larger agenda to minimise the role of tax agents.

The ATO will consider this feedback as part of the ongoing development of digital by default and share more information through further community discussion. The ATO’s investment in transition strategies to support clients is critical and it must continue to offer alternatives for clients who, for a range of reasons, are not able to transact digitally. BAS agents are recognised as key stakeholders and will be approached for feedback when the discussion paper is released.

Members were concerned about the lack of promotion of the benefits of using a tax professional in ATO communications around the digital by default program and the increased risk of errors should taxpayers do more themselves and choose to deal directly with the ATO instead of through a tax professional.

The ATO acknowledged the important role of tax professionals and the need to balance this with its commitment to provide support and advice to community members who want to engage directly with the ATO. To support this commitment the ATO will ensure:

  • Communications include messages that if taxpayers need assistance they can consider using the services of a registered tax or BAS agent - messaging does not push taxpayers towards agents but allows them to make a choice
  • Those who want to engage directly with the ATO can access support and advice
  • The needs of tax and BAS agents to be able to provide a valuable service to their clients is considered
  • Consultation with BASAAG members will continue.

AUSkey/Logging in

Enhancements are required to make it easier to access portal services or use software across multiple platforms and devices. The current AUSkey system has limitations however a range of initiatives are underway to improve the experience.

The ATO is working on browser compatibility issues. These browser extensions will be released in August 2016 to ensure that AUSkey is compatible with Google, Chrome and Firefox and to ensure AUSkey will remain available for those using Internet Explorer and Safari.

ABN Connections

ABN Connections is a Whole of Government (WofG) initiative (part of the Digital Transformation Agenda). The ATO is the lead agency working with the Department of Human Services and Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. It will:

  • Provide an alternative to AUSkey, allowing the user to log in through the myGov account
  • Give individuals in business, and individuals authorised to act on behalf of business, the option to use their myGov user name and password to access government online-business services such as the ATO portals
  • Provide clients using secure business services with the choice to prove their identity by using either an AUSkey or their own personal myGov credential linked to their ABN
  • Agents and their staff will be able to use your/their personal myGov username and password as an alternative to AUSkey.

Manage ABN Connections will not change the authorisations currently held. Further agent consultation will occur to ensure there are sufficient controls in place so they can work away from the office but also have the ability to select which of their employees can use this service.

Cloud authentication

Users who have been reliant on AUSkey and have wanted to use Cloud software have been uploading their AUSkey into the cloud. It is a breach of AUSkey terms and conditions and is a security breach. The ATO has developed an alternative option that allows people to use Cloud software that is secure without the need to use their AUSkey.

The delivery of the Cloud Software Authentication and Authorisation means users of Cloud software can submit information to the ATO without needing to obtain, upload or use an AUSkey. The user completes a one-off notification to the ATO to advise who their software provider is. The Cloud Software Authentication and Authorisation project has released a solution that is now live and clients are lodging through Cloud software in increasing numbers online, anytime from any device.

The Tax Practitioner’s Board have issued a paper on cloud computing. Concerns about data access and security were noted.

The ATO is working with software developers to ensure they are communicating with their clients about minimum requirements and best practice. There is also a focus on software developers talking to clients about the use of their products and services.


BASAAG 0505/01

Agenda Topic

Item 2 – Digital by default

Action item

A discussion regarding a range of security topics, including the end to end framework and review, will be brought to a future meeting (date to be advised).


Claire O’Neil

    Last modified: 06 Jun 2016QC 49265