Tax professionals community

Welcome


The Tax professionals community has been created to encourage open and interactive conversations about the future of the tax industry.

This community is for people working across the tax industry including tax agents, BAS agents, associations and software developers. It provides an avenue to connect with each other, to talk about issues and ideas for managing change.

My colleagues and I will also be contributing to these online discussions and listening to your feedback. We will regularly add new resources including videos, presentations and live debates to support conversations with your peers and your staff.

I encourage you to participate and look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Chris Jordan AO, Commissioner of Taxation

Registration is required to participate in online discussions.


Welcome


The Tax professionals community has been created to encourage open and interactive conversations about the future of the tax industry.

This community is for people working across the tax industry including tax agents, BAS agents, associations and software developers. It provides an avenue to connect with each other, to talk about issues and ideas for managing change.

My colleagues and I will also be contributing to these online discussions and listening to your feedback. We will regularly add new resources including videos, presentations and live debates to support conversations with your peers and your staff.

I encourage you to participate and look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Chris Jordan AO, Commissioner of Taxation

Registration is required to participate in online discussions.


  • Single Touch Payroll Communication resource pack

    about 2 months ago

    As part of our awareness-raising activities for the upcoming introduction of Single Touch Payroll (STP) we are pleased to provide you with a Single Touch Payroll Communication resource pack and a Tax practitioner presentation for use with your clients. These resources have been developed collaboratively over the past few months with representatives from the tax profession.

    The resources provide information on how Single Touch Payroll will work, resources to help you communicate with your clients, explain what you need to know right now and outline your role in helping your clients transition to Single Touch payroll reporting.

    We hope the resources are useful to you and welcome your feedback. They are part of a suite of communication materials that we will progressively release as we get roll out Single Touch Payroll.

    As part of our awareness-raising activities for the upcoming introduction of Single Touch Payroll (STP) we are pleased to provide you with a Single Touch Payroll Communication resource pack and a Tax practitioner presentation for use with your clients. These resources have been developed collaboratively over the past few months with representatives from the tax profession.

    The resources provide information on how Single Touch Payroll will work, resources to help you communicate with your clients, explain what you need to know right now and outline your role in helping your clients transition to Single Touch payroll reporting.

    We hope the resources are useful to you and welcome your feedback. They are part of a suite of communication materials that we will progressively release as we get roll out Single Touch Payroll.

  • Watch our webcast - Tax Time 2017 and beyond

    about 2 months ago

    Updated: Tuesday 18 April 2017

    At our live webcasts on Monday 10 April our expert panel discussed and answered questions about Tax Time 2017, simpler BAS, our recent system issues and the way forward. The sessions also covered the portals and the practitioner lodgment service (PLS).

    If you missed the webcasts, you haven't missed out. View the morning or afternoon webcast pages to watch the webcasts or to view more information about the sessions and panel members.


    Webcast update

    Did you watch our ATO webcast live?

    To help us improve the delivery of future events we'd like to ask you to take a few minutes to complete this quick survey about your experience.

      Updated: Tuesday 18 April 2017

      At our live webcasts on Monday 10 April our expert panel discussed and answered questions about Tax Time 2017, simpler BAS, our recent system issues and the way forward. The sessions also covered the portals and the practitioner lodgment service (PLS).

      If you missed the webcasts, you haven't missed out. View the morning or afternoon webcast pages to watch the webcasts or to view more information about the sessions and panel members.


      Webcast update

      Did you watch our ATO webcast live?

      To help us improve the delivery of future events we'd like to ask you to take a few minutes to complete this quick survey about your experience.

      • Timeline of change for tax professionals

        about 1 year ago
        Updated March 2017

        Our recently updated timeline of change for tax professionals showcases improvements and new services we have delivered for you and your clients over the past few years, and changes we have planned for the near future.

        We’re committed to providing you a better client experience in your dealings with us. We want to make every year count, so you'll see a program of improvements being delivered now and in the years ahead.

        Email your timeline feedback to ATO-Taxagents@ato.gov.au

        Updated March 2017

        Our recently updated timeline of change for tax professionals showcases improvements and new services we have delivered for you and your clients over the past few years, and changes we have planned for the near future.

        We’re committed to providing you a better client experience in your dealings with us. We want to make every year count, so you'll see a program of improvements being delivered now and in the years ahead.

        Email your timeline feedback to ATO-Taxagents@ato.gov.au

      • Commissioner’s Remedial Power

        3 months ago
        The Commissioner’s Remedial Power (CRP) is now in effect providing the Commissioner the power to modify the operation of tax and super law to resolve certain unforeseen or unintended outcomes for affected taxpayers.

        This discretionary power may be exercised to the extent that it would have a beneficial outcome for taxpayers (or at least leave them no worse off), has a negligible budget impact, and is not inconsistent with the intended purpose or object of the law. The power will only be used as a last resort where the problem cannot be resolved administratively or interpretatively. The Commissioner will consult publicly prior to exercising the power via legislative instrument.

        The CRP will allow for a more timely resolution of unforeseen or unintended outcomes of tax and super law. As a result, we can provide greater certainty for taxpayers, allowing these types of issues to be resolved more quickly with less red tape.

        If you have identified a situation where tax and super law is leading to unintended negative consequences for taxpayers or creating excessive compliance costs, please complete and submit a Commissioner’s Remedial power Assessment Form. Please email any further queries to CRPSecretariat@ato.gov.au or visit ato.gov.au/crp to learn more.
        The Commissioner’s Remedial Power (CRP) is now in effect providing the Commissioner the power to modify the operation of tax and super law to resolve certain unforeseen or unintended outcomes for affected taxpayers.

        This discretionary power may be exercised to the extent that it would have a beneficial outcome for taxpayers (or at least leave them no worse off), has a negligible budget impact, and is not inconsistent with the intended purpose or object of the law. The power will only be used as a last resort where the problem cannot be resolved administratively or interpretatively. The Commissioner will consult publicly prior to exercising the power via legislative instrument.

        The CRP will allow for a more timely resolution of unforeseen or unintended outcomes of tax and super law. As a result, we can provide greater certainty for taxpayers, allowing these types of issues to be resolved more quickly with less red tape.

        If you have identified a situation where tax and super law is leading to unintended negative consequences for taxpayers or creating excessive compliance costs, please complete and submit a Commissioner’s Remedial power Assessment Form. Please email any further queries to CRPSecretariat@ato.gov.au or visit ato.gov.au/crp to learn more.
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      • Roadmap of change for tax professionals

        7 months ago

        A narrative for change

        The ATO (along with tax professional representatives and software developers) wants to support tax professionals through legislative and other changes by providing tax professionals with the right message, at the right time. The ATO strives to deliver consistent messages to tax professionals that align to the shared goal – building a better tax and superannuation system for all Australians.

        This narrative continues the messages communicated to tax professionals in 2015. It outlines the overarching story for 2016, highlighting the key changes and actions required.

        Representatives from the tax profession and other stakeholders have discussed... Continue reading

        A narrative for change

        The ATO (along with tax professional representatives and software developers) wants to support tax professionals through legislative and other changes by providing tax professionals with the right message, at the right time. The ATO strives to deliver consistent messages to tax professionals that align to the shared goal – building a better tax and superannuation system for all Australians.

        This narrative continues the messages communicated to tax professionals in 2015. It outlines the overarching story for 2016, highlighting the key changes and actions required.

        Representatives from the tax profession and other stakeholders have discussed and agreed to this narrative. It may be used by the ATO, software developers and professional associations for communications as required. The narrative is also available in our document library as a PDF booklet.

        Table of contents

        Background

        Focus areas for 2016 and beyond

        Providing services to tax professionals during Tax Time 2016

        What to expect this year for clients

        Improving the services and stability of Portal services

        Stay informed

        Background

        There has been a lot of conversation among tax professionals about how their operating environment and roles are changing. This is due to rapidly developing technology and shifting community expectations.

        Many tax professionals are changing how they operate, and the services they provide to meet their clients’ expectations. Changes include:
        • doing more electronically
        • offering new and different services to clients
        • embedding software into their practices, as well as assisting clients to use software to help manage their tax and financial affairs.
        • Back to top

        Focus areas for 2016 and beyond

        This year the ATO will focus on:
        1. providing services to tax professionals, particularly during Tax Time 2016, including changes to practice management software
        2. improving the services and stability of portal services
        3. preparing for future changes including
          • new services for software developers to build into practice management software
          • developing a new partnership framework.
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        Providing services to tax professionals during Tax Time 2016

        Tax time is an important time for tax professionals and their clients. The ATO wants to give tax professionals the support they need, and will work with professional associations and software providers. This year, dedicated support includes:
        • changes to practice management software
        • the Tax professionals alert – email subscription service
        • the Client communication list (CCL)
        • improvements to ato.gov.au and the online experience
        • information about ATO services and support for tax professionals
        • the Complex issue resolution service
        • Tax Agent Portal and BAS Agent Portal Dashboards
        • information about what tax professionals can expect this year for their clients
        • support for tax professionals with clients who choose to both self-serve and use an agent.

        Changes to practice management software

        Throughout the 2016–17 lodgment year, software will gradually upgrade to connect to the practitioner lodgment service (PLS).

        To ensure the transition is as smooth as possible, software developers will be transitioning their clients and offering the PLS throughout the year, rather than a mandate for everyone to switch on the same day.

        Some tax professionals have been using the PLS since June 2016, with more gradually transitioning to the PLS as part of software upgrades throughout 2016.

        The electronic lodgment service (ELS) will remain available until 31 March 2017 to ensure tax professionals have access to an online service. From this date, all software providers will need to have transitioned their clients to the PLS.

        This transition involves making software Standard Business Reporting (SBR) enabled. SBR is built into business and accounting software and incorporates standard terms used in government legislation and reporting.

        Software developers will tell tax professionals what they need to do as they transition from using the ELS to the PLS.

        Software providers are best-placed to provide their clients with this information, as the transition will be different for each software package. Additional time for training and other preparation may need to be set aside for changes or updates to system accesses.

        Software providers can access a number of ATO services and can choose individual services to build into their software. This includes high-demand and critical services, such as:

        • the individual income tax return and non-individual returns
        • some functions of the tax practitioner management reports suite
        • some client update functions
        • checking a client’s income tax lodgment status
        • activity statements.

        The PLS lays the foundation for significant future opportunities. Software providers will soon be able to add functionality to their software, allowing tax professionals to:

        • pre-fill individual income tax returns
        • add and remove clients
        • create additional reports
        • lodge applications for private rulings
        • arrange direct debit payments for income tax liabilities
        • request lodgment deferrals for clients.

        The ATO is working closely with software developers to ensure they have the information needed to make the necessary changes.

        Tax professionals will see some initial benefits when their software is upgraded to the PLS (depending on which features their software provider makes available).

        For example, tax professionals might be able to:

        • make client updates immediately – email addresses, mobile phone numbers and bank accounts
        • manage client PAYG withholding and GST roles
        • pre-fill individual tax returns easily with the most up-to-date information.

        Unanticipated issues often arise during system changes. The ELS will remain available until 31 March 2017 to ensure tax professionals have access to an online lodgment service. If there are any unexpected issues or changes the ATO and/or software developers will keep tax professionals informed and tell them what they need to do.

        This year, to minimise disruption during the transition, it will be even more important to read communications and follow all instructions from the ATO and software developers.

        For more information, visit ato.gov.au/pls.

        The Tax professionals alert – email subscription service

        Tax professionals told the ATO they wanted a modern alert system. Tax professionals can now subscribe to the Tax professionals alert emails or SMS to receive timely information when there are:
        • significant unplanned portal outages or functionality issues and when they are resolved (email and SMS)
        • other urgent issues that tax professionals need to know about (email only).

        The email alert service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The SMS alert operates seven days a week, 9.00am–5.00pm EST.

        To subscribe to the Tax professionals alert services, visit ato.gov.au/tpalerts.

        The Client communication list (CCL)

        Using the Client communication list (CCL) on the Tax Agent and BAS Agent portals, tax professionals can access most communications issued to their clients, including those who have linked the ATO to their myGov account.


        The ATO continues to work closely with a number of tax professionals to enhance the design and improve the CCL. The latest update to the CCL occurred in in August 2016 and included publishing communication titles using plain English. This makes it easier for tax professionals to differentiate between communication types.

        The ATO continues to develop and co-design the service with the tax profession, so it works within a practice’s normal processes and supports the relationship between tax professionals and their clients.

        Additional information on the CCL is available at ato.gov.au/clientcommunicationlist.

        Improvements to ato.gov.au and the online experience

        The content and the search function on ato.gov.au will become easier for tax professionals to use as it is continuously reviewed and improved.

        Interacting with the ATO online is now easier, with improved mobile optimisation and interactive features such as ATOtv.

        For more information and to provide feedback on the ATO website, visit ato.gov.au/refresh.

        Information about ATO services and support for tax professionals

        Based on feedback, the ATO is providing updated information and additional support products.

        Tax professionals can now access:

        For help with transactions and information that is not available online, registered tax and BAS agents can use the Registered Agent phone line.

        See the most current Fast Key Code information at ato.gov.au/tpphoneguide.

        The Complex issue resolution service

        If tax professionals are unable to resolve a complex administrative or tax technical interpretation issue through ATO online channels, or by telephone, they can submit a query to the ATO’s Complex issue resolution service. The ATO aims to answer these queries within five working days.

        For more information on the Complex issue resolution service, visit ato.gov.au/complexissueresolution.

        Tax Agent Portal and BAS Agent Portal dashboards

        Tax professionals told the ATO they want a monitoring system to show when the portal is experiencing issues.

        The Tax Agent Portal Dashboard, released in October 2015, shows tax professionals, at a glance, if the portal is functioning normally or not. It works on near-real-time data sourced directly from ATO monitoring systems. A BAS Agent Portal Dashboard is also now available.

        The dashboard is in its second phase of release. Tax professionals will progressively be able to view additional status of services such as ‘File transfer’.

        View the Tax Agent Portal Dashboard at tap.status.ato.gov.au or via a link on the Tax Agent Portal welcome page.

        View the BAS Agent Portal Dashboard at basp.status.ato.gov.au or via a link on the BAS Agent Portal welcome page.

        Tax professionals can report portal or other system issues to 13 72 86 Fast Key Code 3 3. All issues reported to this number are directed to the ATO’s system support team for analysis.

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        What to expect this year for clients

        In 2016 the ATO is providing clients with:
        • improved services for individuals and businesses
        • support for tax professionals who have clients who choose to both self-serve and use an agent
        • SuperStream.

        Improved services for individuals and businesses

        Individuals and businesses are demanding the ability to self-serve, accessing services they can use at a convenient time and place, without contact with an ATO customer service representative.

        myGov and ATO online

        The ATO is offering new services in ATO online via myGov to help individuals and sole traders meet their tax and superannuation obligations.

        ATO online services means individuals and sole traders can:

        • receive electronic correspondence via their myGov inbox
        • view and update contact details
        • lodge, view and revise activity statements
        • manage PAYG instalments
        • make a payment for income tax or activity statements
        • create a payment plan for income tax or activity statements
        • view income tax and activity statement account balance and transactions
        • view study and training support loan account balance and transactions
        • see upcoming income tax and activity statement lodgment due dates.

        Visit ato.gov.au/onlineservices for more information.

        ATO app

        The ATO app has been developed to let individuals and small businesses access their tax and super information on the go. The ATO app includes a number of tools and calculators, including:

        • super guarantee contributions
        • business performance check
        • ABN Lookup
        • myDeductions
        • progress of return.

        Clients can use these tools and calculators to monitor their day-to-day super and tax affairs while seeking further professional advice and guidance. For example, the business performance check tool provides small business clients with a quick snapshot of the financial health of their business. It can also compare their performance to similar businesses in their industry. Based on this data, tax professionals can provide small business clients with guidance and advice about their business performance and cash flow.

        For more information, visit ato.gov.au/app.

        What is the difference between ATO online services and myGov?

        ATO online services is the suite of services offered by the ATO. Currently, these services are available to individuals and sole traders who create a myGov account and link to the ATO to manage their tax and superannuation affairs.

        myGov is a whole-of-government authentication solution, accessed via my.gov.au. It is essentially the front door to ATO online services. MyGov functionality currently includes the myGov inbox (for receiving notifications from linked agencies and departments) and the ‘tell us once’ function (allowing individuals to update certain details once, with the updated information shared between linked agencies and departments).

        Support for tax professionals with clients who choose to both self-serve and use an agent

        In consultation with the Future of the tax profession working group, the ATO is co-designing and developing functionality to ensure tax professionals have access to, and are aware of, changes their clients make in ATO online services via their myGov account.

        For example, the CCL gives tax professionals access to their clients’ communications.

        SuperStream

        SuperStream is the new electronic payment standard for the entire super industry. It provides a consistent, simplified way for employers to make super contributions on behalf of their employees.

        SuperStream is helping make the ‘back office’ operation of super funds more efficient. It affects business-to-business interactions from payroll and payment processing to member administration and workflow systems.

        Some small businesses said they need extra time and help to become SuperStream ready. To support these businesses, the ATO will take a flexible compliance approach until 28 October 2016, and will not take action against small businesses who missed the 30 June 2016 deadline. The ATO will continue to work to support small businesses in getting SuperStream ready.

        Tax professionals with business clients who still need to get ready for SuperStream can help them through the following simple steps:

        1. Choose an option
          Clients need to assess and choose the best option for their business. They can use their payroll system, super fund’s online system or a superannuation clearing house - such as the ATO’s Small Business Super clearing house. They must check that their chosen option is SuperStream-ready.

        2. Collect information
          Clients need to collect information from their employees and enter it into their system. This information includes an employee’s:
          • tax file number
          • super fund’s Australian Business Number
          • bank account details
          • unique super identifier.

            For employees with a self-managed super fund, employers also need the fund’s electronic service address.
        1. Start SuperStream
          Clients should start using SuperStream, as soon as possible. This will allow them to enjoy the benefits while ensuring everything is running smoothly.

        For further information to help educate and prepare business clients for SuperStream, visit ato.gov.au/SuperStreamchecklist.

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        Improving the services and stability of Portal services

        Portal services

        The portals are valuable tools, and the ATO will continue to offer this service. Recently the ATO consulted one-on-one with tax professionals to better understand the issues and irritants encountered when using the portal, and how the portals are used within practices. The ATO will progressively address known issues and concerns. Portal services, and other ATO online services will continually improve as the ATO invests in strengthening these offerings.

        New portal services will be built into the ATO online platform with the ATO online style and interface. Existing services will eventually be upgraded to the ATO online platform and interface, starting with priority portal services. The ATO will test ATO online services for tax professionals in 2016 so they are ready for Tax Time 2017.

        The improved tools and services will assist tax professionals to better manage their business practices and relationships, both with their clients and the ATO.

        To support tax professionals with the CCL and portal functionality, the ATO has started a program of ‘Digital services: show me what, show me how’ sessions at ATO Open forums in various metropolitan and regional centres.

        The ATO has released a number of videos demonstrating portal functions, to improve understanding of how the services can benefit clients and tax agents. View these on the atoTV tax professionals channel at tv.ato.gov.au.

        Preparing for future changes

        New services for software developers to build into practice management software

        The PLS provides a foundation for significant future opportunities. For example, software providers will be able to build portal services into their practice management software, so tax professionals will no longer need to switch between different systems.

        Authentication and authorisation

        It will become increasingly easier for tax professionals to transact with the ATO as known issues with AUSkey authentication are addressed. In some cases AUSkeys will not even need to be used. The ATO is not removing AUSkeys, however, alternative authentication options will be available.

        One of the alternative authentication options includes a cloud computing solution to streamline the way users of SBR-enabled online software interact with the ATO.

        Developing a new framework for working together

        As the role of the tax professional changes, the ATO, tax professionals and software developers will need to continue to adapt their relationship and how they work together. A new framework to set out how the ATO and the tax profession can continue to work together to support the community and further strengthen relationships will be beneficial.

        In July, a pilot project commenced to test how the ATO could work with the tax profession to tailor the lodgment program and in August, a second pilot commenced to test improved and integrated client profile views. In coming months, the ATO will work with the tax profession to pilot other new services.

        The ATO wants to hear tax professionals’ views and will continue to work together to pilot different options. During this time the ATO will keep all tax professionals informed to ensure opportunities to contribute and allow tax professionals to prepare for any changes as a result of the new framework.


        2016 and beyond

        In 2015 tax professionals and stakeholders were involved in developing a four-year plan of change with the ATO. This plan details what is changing, highlights when to act to minimise disruptions, and helps tax professionals prepare for changes that may impact them, their practice and their clients.

        These changes will:

        • create one place for tax professionals to interact with the ATO, with a single and secure entry point for online government services and information
        • make it easier through the use of integrated practice management software which can link to client software and the ATO
        • take into consideration individual circumstances and tailor engagement based on a tax professional’s situation and their clients’ preferences.

        These changes will also enable tax professionals to take advantage of new technology to improve systems and provide enhanced services to clients. In future, practice management software will be simplified, reducing the time and cost associated with collating information and submitting reports to government. It will be easier for tax professionals to interact with multiple government agencies and departments, as information already available through practice software will be ‘re-used’ to report to other government agencies.


        Single Touch Payroll (STP)

        The ATO is currently collaborating with stakeholders on Single Touch Payroll, which is among the significant changes planned for 2017 and beyond.

        In December 2015, the government announced that employer reporting of PAYGW obligations and super contributions will be simplified with the implementation of Single Touch Payroll.

        Single Touch Payroll will be implemented in phases, providing sufficient time for tax professionals and their business clients to adjust to the new reporting requirements.

        From 1 July 2017, all businesses will be able to start Single Touch Payroll reporting. However, from 1 July 2018 employers with 20 or more employees will be required to report to the ATO through SBR-enabled software (subject to successful passage of legislation). Through consultation with stakeholders, the ATO is investigating suitable solutions.

        A simulated pilot with small businesses will be held in late 2016 to early 2017. After completion of the pilot, the government will make a decision on timing for rolling out Single Touch Payroll reporting for employers with 19 or fewer employees.

        For further information, read the media release at kmo.ministers.treasury.gov.au/media-release/042-2015/

        More information regarding technical documents and the project status is available at http://softwaredevelopers.ato.gov.au/STP

        The tax professional practice

        With SBR, increasing digital interactions and the increasing ability for clients to self-serve, it is likely some future work of tax professionals will be more streamlined. Many tax professionals have already started taking advantage of technology and are exploring ways to improve processes for clients and establish their roles as strategic advisers.

        If tax professionals do not have access to the internet or fast broadband, they will have access to alternative options.

        The work of tax professionals will continue to be essential, but the needs and expectations of the community are already changing. Tax professionals need to identify what changes will be necessary, to ensure they are prepared for the future.

        When navigating these changes, it is important registered tax practitioners understand and continue to meet their obligations with the Tax Practitioners Board, including:

        • confidentiality of client information
        • managing conflicts of interest
        • reasonable care.
        For further information visit tpb.gov.au/Code

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        Stay informed

        In 2016 it is vital tax professionals keep up to date with changes and follow any instructions from their software providers.

        Tax professionals can find out the latest developments by:

        • subscribing to the weekly Tax professionals newsletter at ato.gov.au/tpnews
        • reading, listening and watching information from professional associations
        • reading and following instructions from software developers.

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