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On Friday 3 August 2012, Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes ATI attended a meeting of the Electronic Advisory Working Group (EAWG).  This is a newly formed forum through which issues involving electronic interactions with the ATO can be discussed. Following the meeting, the ATO has issued the following key messages:

  • Key Theme - By working with the Electronic Advisory Working Group, the ATO recognises the central role tax practitioners have in the design of programs and systems and the ATO acknowledges this by undertaking extra consultations with tax practitioners to develop a user centred system.
  • Reducing paper activity statements for electronic lodgers - As part of the ATO Service Improvement program of work, several projects have been developed to increase electronic interactions between the ATO and our clients. The following areas of focus have been established:
      • reducing tax practitioner reliance on cheques for refunds and payments; and
      • reducing the volume of paper activity statements generated, initially for those clients that already lodge electronically.

These areas of focus align with the global trend of moving towards electronic business transactions and interactions.

Working in partnership with tax practitioners will allow us to progress the following opportunities: 

      • development of promotional information showing the benefits of tax practitioner business practices based on fully electronic transactions and interactions. This will assist those that are reluctant to move away from paper based business practices;
      • exploring how the Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) reconciliation report can be enhanced to assist with managing electronic transfers into trust accounts;
      • determining if there are any other types of reports or enhancements that would assist tax practitioners to transition to electronic refunds and payments;
      • helping tax practitioners to encourage their clients, especially in the micro and small business segments, to move away from cheque payments to the ATO’s preferred payment methods of BPAY and/or credit card;
      • assessing the impact of not sending paper activity statements to agent portal and Electronic Lodgment Service (ELS) users, and feed this intelligence into the end solution and communication campaign;
      • understanding business practices that support receipt and lodgment of electronic activity statements and use this to develop a best practice model.
  • Electronic Lodgment Service (ELS) to Standard Business Reporting (SBR) - The ATO would like to utilise the expertise and influence of Electronic Advisory Working Group members during the consultation phase and solution design in order to:
      • seek advice on any potential issues in regards to the intended change;
      • gain an understanding of what the ATO needs to do to support tax professionals through the change;
      • ensure adequate lead times to allow agents to adapt to the change.

The ATO encourages Electronic Advisory Working Group members to participate in co-design activities and welcomes feedback via the PALU mailbox. In addition, the project will continue to provide regular updates at future Electronic Advisory Working Group meetings.

  • Lodgment Program for electronic interactions - From 1 July 2013, practitioners will need to:
      • be registered with the Tax Practitioner Board (TPB); 
      • submit electronic lodgments;
      • achieve an on time lodgment performance equal to or above 85% of client base;
      • newly registered agents will submit electronic lodgments effective 1 July 2012.

The 2012-13 transitional year will provide an opportunity to: 

  • work with registered agents and assist a smooth transition to the new lodgment framework on 1 July 2013;
  • discuss the drivers for late lodgement of clients’ returns with practitioners; and
  • use learning’s to inform the development of tools and services which support willing participation and the achievement of the lodgment program requirements.

Members who seek further information in relation to any of the above or have any contributions they would like to make to this forum, please email us at Tax Policy.