Earlier this month, the ATO confirmed that all BAS agents would have received an email inviting them to join the public beta rollout of the new online services for agents, with the focus now on tax agents over the next six weeks.
With about 40 per cent of the population now having a taste of the new system, ATO deputy commissioner Andrew Watson says the Tax Office is committed to moving into a paperless environment.
“Some of the things you will start to see between now and tax time is you will see more superannuation information, more of the MAAS and MATS reports,” said Mr Watson on the ATO webcast.
“That will become available in online services along with single touch payroll.
“More and more, you will be able to see for your individual clients in quite close to real time, where they are at that point.”
According to Mr Watson, the ATO is also conducting private beta testing around digital communication that will see the agency dispense with paper options.
“I look at it as two themes. Lots of the things we have in our environment now almost save people having to make phone calls. Our next phase is looking more generally at how we can save paper, how can we get away from a paper-based environment and move properly digitally. But to do that, we similarly need to do it right,” said Mr Watson.
“We are working through that with a small number of agents at the moment. Similar to what we have done so far with online services for agents, we will continue to get the feedback and get it right before we expand it out to a lot more people.”
A revamped online solution for taxable payments annual report (TPAR) will also soon be available for tax agents.
The current process requires agents to complete a form whic is then attached and uploaded to the portal; the ATO is looking to provide a more streamlined process, including visibility over what has been lodged for clients.
Feedback from agents who have access to the new online services have been largely positive so far, particularly around increased visibility and access to more accounts such as visibility of superannuation account balances; a better view of clients’ obligations and tax history, including debt and payment plan information for the last 10 years; and an overview screen that lets you quickly see what lodgment and payment obligations need action for your clients.
But while feedback has been good, the ATO has assured agents it will not be turning off the current portals this tax time until the agency is fully confident that all the “rough edges” of the new system has been worked through.
“Personally, I call it Nirvana. It has been something that goes back a lot of years for me and many of the agents will know how passionate I have been about trying to move us to a world where the pain and suffering of the old portals – let me put it that way – disappeared, and the phone calls late at night and things of that nature stopped happening,” said ATO assistant commissioner Colin Walker.
“It is an opportunity, a fantastic opportunity. And six weeks from now everybody will have that opportunity.”
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Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.