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On Friday 16 May 2014, Tax Counsel Thilini Wickramasuriya ATI attended a meeting of the ATO Tax Practitioner Advisory Group (ATPAG). Issues discussed included key changes for Tax Time this year:

1. Taxpayers with tax payable over $100 to receive a tax receipt showing how the government is spending their tax dollars. 

2. MyTax streamlined income tax return to be available online for taxpayers with simple tax affairs.

3. Access to ATO online services through MyGov.

4. Individuals will be able to use voice biometric identification for inbound and outbound calls with ATO about their affairs. 

5. Paper activity statements to cease for electronic lodgers. 

The ATO also noted that the 2014 income tax return form will be available later than the 2013 income tax return form was available last year due to an issue detected by the ATO during research into the possibility of streamlining paper income tax returns. 

Following the meeting, the ATO issued these key messages:

1. Debt 

The ATO is currently consulting on a number of Debt related issues and these items were discussed more broadly at the recent ATPAG: 

The ATO is developing strategies to reduce tax debt and defaulted payment arrangements. 

Research has commenced to understand the drivers behind accumulation of small business tax debt which is more than two years old (aged debt), and assess the effectiveness of sanctions on the prevention, management and reduction of small business tax debt. At the end of the 2013 financial year small business aged debt totalled over $3 billion of collectable debt. The research will be used in the design of future strategies aimed at reducing and preventing debt. 

The ATO is developing a pilot to inform taxpayers of the collection actions which may be taken to recover their tax debt as well as the sequence and timeframes of those actions. The ATO aims to highlight to taxpayers the consequence of not dealing with their tax debts in both the early stages and after significant effort from the ATO to collect the debt or enter into payment arrangements. The pilot results will be compared to current strategies to evaluate their effectiveness. 

A number of registered tax practitioners have been found to have personal tax debt. Due to their standing in the community and the influence they have over the affairs of their clients, the ATO expects high standards of compliance with personal tax debt from registered tax practitioners. The ATO has identified those with personal tax debt and intends to contact practitioners to discuss payment options. Unsuccessful negotiations may lead the ATO to consider contact with the Tax Practitioner’s Board in relation to these matters. Registered tax practitioners with personal tax debts are encouraged to pay the debt or contact the ATO to make arrangements to pay.

The ATO has commenced a pilot to send emails to individuals, businesses, registered practitioners and third party representatives when addressing tax debt. The email confirms the payment plan instalment amount and due date. The email will be offered as an opt-in service when a payment plan is agreed, and it will be forwarded on the same day. The pilot results will be compared to current strategies to evaluate the effectiveness on reducing defaulted arrangements. 

For more information, visit:  

Receiving your payment instalment by email - Australian Taxation Office    

2. Standard Business Reporting

Standard business reporting (SBR) enabled software allows tax practitioners to access more services through one software package and provides a streamlined process to prepare and lodge reports to Government, including the ATO, directly from the practice software.

Initially the ATO aims to provide the services and forms available in ELS to software developers to incorporate into SBR software. 

By the end of June 2014, the ATO will deliver the remaining non individual forms and schedules to ELS and identify the core ELS capabilities which should transfer to SBR to ensure a consistent user experience. From July 2014, the ATO will work with software developers to progressively build the services into their software packages. The ATO expect that towards the end of this year these services, and the benefits of standard business reporting enabled software, will start to become available. By the end of June 2015, the ATO expects SBR to become the standard platform for tax transactions, for tax practitioners and their clients. 

The ATO will support and share information with tax practitioners to assist them to prepare for the changes. 

Tax practitioners are strongly encouraged to consider the implications of these changes on their practices and take into account when investing in new software or upgrades to software packages. 

The ATO is presenting a conference on 17-18 June 2014 which will explore these technological changes along with other drivers in the tax administration system which will present opportunities and challenges on the tax profession in the future. We encourage tax professionals to attend. 

For more information, visit:

Back to business bulletin - Quarter 3 2012-13 | Australian Taxation Office

3. Tips and links 

Online security 

To check the legitimacy of SMS and email contact from the ATO, please check the ATO website. 

Click ‘Current ATO SMS and email activities’ link on left hand menu and scroll through the list of SMS and emails being sent to clients. 

Online security | Australian Taxation Office

System maintenance in June 2014 

System maintenance and issues | Australian Taxation Office

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