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16 Apr 14 ATO Tax Practitioner Advisory Group

ATO Tax Practitioner Advisory Group

On Friday 4 April 2014, Tax Counsel Thilini Wickramasuriya ATI attended a meeting of the ATO Tax Practitioner Advisory Group (ATPAG). Issues discussed included the following:

  • The ATO is considering whether popular functions currently provided through the Tax and BAS Agent Portal should be provided through another platform. Practitioners and professionals associations supported updating the Portal but noted that it is a fundamental tool of trade and its functions should not be reduced. Further, professional bodies asked to be consulted throughout the process. 
  • Practitioners raised concerns about the ATO’s proposed procedure in switching from paper activity statements. In particular, practitioners were concerned that amending a paper activity statement through the Portal would result in a permanent switch to electronic activity statements going forward.  Following the meeting, the ATO issued these key messages:

1. Online Safety and SecurityThe Australian Government's Stay Smart Online Program offers simple messages and resources for individuals and small businesses to protect themselves, their families and their clients online. 

The Stay Smart Online website ( provides a central source of plain language information on online safety and security, including resources specifically designed for small business. 

The free Stay Smart Online Alert Service provides information on the latest threats and scams that are circulating and how to identify and avoid the risk. Subscribe to the Alert Service at 

The Stay Smart Online Facebook page (!/staysmartonline) also provides regular information and news about online safety and security issues, as well as other interesting content that individuals and organisations can share with their own followers and audiences. 

Stay Smart Online Week, to be held from 2 to 6 June 2014, provides an opportunity to make an intensive effort to reach as much of the Australian community as possible. There are currently close to 1600 organisations partnering with the program. More information about becoming a partner is available in the Partner Information Pack (PDF, 2.7 MB).

2. Electronic Service DeliveryMembers discussed the future of electronic service delivery. The ATO acknowledged the Tax and BAS Agent Portal infrastructure is ageing technology and that the ATO needs to look at more contemporary service based solutions and how these services are offered to the community. As much as possible the ATO would like to link with natural systems such as software and Standard Business Reporting. 

The ATO’s proposed next steps: 

  • Collate and analyse the current functions provided in the portals and the volumes of use
  • Compare and map these functions with what will be provided in the Standard Business Reporting framework 
  • Prioritise key functions and then identify a service package. 

The ATO is committed to genuine consultation with practitioners and other intermediary stakeholders in the design and delivery of future services. 

3. Tax Time 2014

The ATO provided an overview of the communication approach for Tax Time 2014: 

Pre-Tax Time (April to 30 June) 

  • This phase focuses on the lead up and readiness for Tax Time and will include messages that will alert agents to the availability of information, products and services to new measures, to changes to legislation and publications and provide reminders, warnings, tips and advice of service standards. 

Tax Time (1 July to 31 October) 

  • This phase focuses on the official launch of Tax Time and keeps agents informed. The ATO will hold weekly meetings with ATPAG members to proactively identify and address emerging issues that arise during Tax Time. 

Post Tax Time (November onwards) 

  • This phase focuses on the wrap-up and evaluation of Tax Time. 

All phases will promote online options for lodging, accessing client information and interacting with us. They will also assist registered tax agents to lodge correctly and inform them of help and assistance options.

4. myGov authentication and registration is a fast simple way to use government services online. One secure myGov account gives individuals access to a range of Australian Government services including Medicare, Child Support and Centrelink. The ATO will join the service in May 2014. Other Government agencies will progressively provide services. 

The authentication and identification functions in myGov will allow individuals to notify a change of name or date of birth to one agency and have all agency records updated. 

Tax practitioners should ensure that the ‘name’ in the IT return being lodged with the ATO is consistent with the client ‘name’ in the client list. If clients have changed their name they need to contact the ATO to update their records. 

Any significant mismatches in the client name held by the ATO and in the ITR may result in a delayed return whilst the ATO validates the correct name (the ATO is projecting small volumes for this scenario). 

Any ITR with insignificant mismatches (eg. spaces, hyphens, etc) will continue to be processed automatically as per current processes.

5. Tips and links

Maintain security in your practice 

The ATO has seen an increase in people using tax practitioners to lodge fraudulent documents to increase the perceived legitimacy of refund claims. The following links to information on the ATO website will help you to recognise these situations. 

In addition physical and cyber break-ins to tax practices have been known to occur.  The following links to the ATO website will help you protect information about your practice and your client's personal information. 

The ATO provides regular reminders and updates on our mutual responsibilities with online security in News and updates for tax professionals and has recently produced an article and video containing tips and advice. 

System maintenance and issues 

Planned outages and known system issues are reported on 

System maintenance and issues | Australian Taxation Office

Tax practitioners can subscribe to receive daily alerts on page updates including updates to this system maintenance and issues page. 

Subscriptions | Australian Taxation Office

Tax practitioners who have a valid mobile number registered with us will receive SMS alerts when the portals are expected to be unavailable for an hour or more.

Members who seek further information in relation to the above should contact us at Tax Policy