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Client-to-agent linking in online services

Understand the client-to-agent linking process in online services and access information for you and your clients.

Last updated 30 November 2023

Overview of linking process

We're further strengthening the security of our online services to help protect you and your clients against fraud and identity-related theft.

From 13 November 2023, all types of entities with an ABN excluding sole traders will need to nominate you as their agent before you can add them to your client list. They will need to use the new agent nomination feature in Online services for business when they:

  • engage a new tax or BAS agent or payroll service provider to represent them
  • provide extra authorisation to you as their existing authorised agent (for example, you start representing them for a new obligation, such as income tax or a new entity in their group).

Existing client links aren't affected. You don't need to do anything if your client doesn't change their existing arrangements.

Rollout schedule

Businesses and organisations included in the rollout:

  • public and multinational businesses who are part of the Top 100 and Top 1,000, effective from 19 June 2022
  • most public and multinational businesses, effective from 13 December 2022
  • businesses in the Top 500 privately-owned wealthy groups where that group has a significant level of ownership of the business, effective from 13 December 2022
  • government entities, effective from 24 February 2023
  • all types of entities with an ABN excluding sole traders, effective from 13 November 2023, including the following entity types
    • companies including strata title bodies
    • partnerships
    • trusts
    • not-for-profits
    • joint ventures
    • cooperatives
    • self-managed super funds (SMSFs)
    • APRA-regulated superannuation funds.

As we roll out each phase, we'll update this list. The process doesn't currently apply to individual taxpayers or sole traders.

Why we're making this change

We need to strengthen the security of the client-to-agent linking process so all parties – including you, your clients and the ATO – can have confidence your client has authorised you to:

  • have access to their information
  • act for them.

This will help us to defend against increasingly sophisticated criminal attempts to defraud the system.

Reducing identity theft

Identity theft and fraud can occur to taxpayers and registered agents. Criminals may pose as:

  • taxpayers and engage an agent to help them (unknowingly) commit fraud (for example, they get the agent to make fraudulent lodgments that result in refunds)
  • agents to gain access to client information and services available on our digital platforms (such as Online services for agents).

Reducing your workload

We’ve worked with agents where they or their clients, or both, have been the victim of identity crime. In these instances, there was a significant and disruptive impact on the agent, which took extensive time to resolve.

If you or your clients are affected by identity crime, you may have to:

  • arrange to have your identity documents re-issued and apply for a new myGovID (in instances where the agent has been targeted)
  • contact your client to explain that they have been the victim of identity fraud and manage the client's next steps
  • notify clients that you have been a victim of identity fraud and that client information has been compromised
  • work with us to correct the tax position for each affected client
  • undertake security reviews of your practice and IT systems, which can sometimes also involve external contractors
  • deal with the consequences of employee fraud, including engaging with relevant law enforcement agencies
  • notify the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner of a data breach.

What we are doing

To counter the increased risk, we're strengthening our front-end controls to:

  • help protect you and your clients
  • give you confidence about the identity of a new client
  • bring our processes more into line with best practice and community expectations.

This is part of a broader program of work to strengthen the security of our systems and data. It complements enhanced security measures such as client verification practices and Relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM).

We recognise this security enhancement will change your processes when engaging a new client who needs to interact with us. We've provided support information to assist with this change. We understand that this may add some time and effort to the client-to-agent linking process. However, this is necessary to balance the greater need for security in today’s environment.

What you need to do

When you take on a new client or change authorisations for an existing client, you must tell them to nominate you in Online Services for business first before you can access their information and act for them. You should follow these steps:

  • Review our detailed agent linking steps.
  • Provide your client with your registered agent number.
  • Provide your client with a copy of the linking steps or direct them to our website. Refer them to our support information or to the Client-to-agent linking steps.
  • Remind your client to tell you when they've completed the nomination, because you won't receive an automated system notification telling you it's been completed. You can generate an on demand report in Online services for agents to view a real-time list of your pending nominations.
  • Once your client completes the agent nomination, you'll have 28 calendar days to add or update the client in Online services for agents or your practice software, as normal.
  • Use the troubleshooting guide if you or your client needs help.

Linking at the right level

Your client does not choose the account or role type in the nomination process. Your client is only nominating you as an agent so you can link at one account type.

It is your responsibility to link at the right level, depending on the needs of your client.

If you do not link at the correct level or remove another existing authorised agent, you will need to ask your client to complete the nomination again in Online services for business.

If you link at the wrong level or to levels that result in a duplication of access, you may remove a currently-linked agent. If that happens, your client will need to re-nominate the other agent before they can re-link.

We have provided more information to ensure you correctly add your client with only one nomination.

Actions available to agents after being nominated

Through our consultation with you we've been able to make updates to the nomination process to ensure that your client only needs to complete a nomination when they're increasing your authority or when they're a new client. The updates we've made are as follows:

Registered agent number to registered agent number client transfer

Where a client-to-agent relationship exists, transferring clients/authorisations between registered agent numbers under the same practice ABN does not require a client to complete an agent nomination. This means that a change can be made to allow agents with multiple registered agent numbers under the same ABN to transfer authorisations for their existing clients without an agent nomination.

Maintaining account authorisations – Fringe benefits tax

Tax agents who have added clients to their client list at the income tax level are already authorised to view and maintain all accounts for their client. However, if an agent acts on behalf of a client for both income tax and fringe benefits tax (FBT), they may need to add their client at the FBT account level in order to receive FBT agent concession due dates.

We have changed the nomination process so that tax agents linked at the income tax level will be able to add a client at the FBT account level without an additional nomination from their client.

If you receive an error message

If you try to link to a client in online services and you receive an error message, check that your client has completed the agent nomination.

The nomination is valid for 28 calendar days. You'll receive an error message if you try to link beyond that time and you'll need to ask your client to complete the nomination again.

You can use our troubleshooting guide to help you if you need help with the process or your client does. This guide also details when an agent can contact us for help and when the client should contact us.

What your clients need to do

What your clients need to do to complete the agent nomination process will depend on whether they're:

You can't complete the agent nomination process on behalf of your client. However, you can assist them understand what to do using these linking steps.

Already set up to use our online services

Many businesses and organisations are already set up to use our online services. If your client is already set up, the agent nomination process only involves 3 steps. The client will need to:

  1. log in to Online services for business
  2. nominate you as their agent
  3. let you know they've completed the agent nomination.

You can now use the client-to-agent linking process, where your client completes the agent nomination through our online services, as one of the approved client verification methods.

Not set up to use our online services

If your client is not set up to use online services but they have a myGovID, or are able to get one, they'll need to complete the following steps first:

  1. Set up their myGovID.
  2. Link their myGovID to their ABN.

Once they are set up, they can complete the nomination in our online services.

If your client isn't already set up to use Online services for business, we have information available at Online services for business to help them get started.

If your client needs more support, they can speak with a customer service representative on 13 28 66 to help them through the process.

Can't get a myGovID or doesn't have an ABN

We know there may be clients who can't get a myGovID or whose business doesn't have an ABN. In these circumstances, you can seek assistance by contacting us through our secure practice mail. For information on when you should contact us and how, see the troubleshooting guide.

Support information

We’re committed to supporting agents and clients through this change. For more information, see the:

 

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