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The ATO’s Shift to Electronic Correspondence – What You Need to Know

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is working to move the majority of their communications with business owners from paper-based and traditional mail to electronic correspondence. While the changes are welcome from an environmental and efficiency point of view, it does require some preparation and an increased level of attention on things such as MyGov and the ATO’s Online Services. Some of you have already made the switch and embraced the changes which is excellent. For those who are yet to make the change, we recommend exploring what options suit you best. It is also important to understand that given the importance of the compliance work we carry out for clients, the changeover to electronic correspondence needs to be embraced by all parties. Particularly where the ATO is concerned, roll-outs of such large scale technological changes are rarely without their glitches and inconsistencies, so in this article we’ll be advising clients about some of the changes that are coming, what the changes will mean going forward, and some preparation items.

Business Portal Phase-Out

As 2021 progresses, we move further into the phasing out of the ATO’s Business Portal. While there is no firm date set for it to be fully decommissioned, Online Services for Business will take its place, with a view to better integrating with the ATO’s existing online services, bringing over the functions of the Business Portal and adding some improvements and extra features. As Tax Agents, we’ve had the benefit of having access to the revamped Online Services for Agents for over a year now and it’s been a major step in the right direction – we’re sure you will find the same with the Online Services for Business.

The Online Services for Business is already up and running in a public beta-testing capacity, so you can go ahead and log in with your MyGovID if you haven’t already. Like many things in business, preparation is key, so don’t delay until the Business Portal is ready to be switched off before you make the transition over to Online Services for Business.

Electronic Correspondence – What Businesses Need to be Aware Of

A function of this shift from the ATO is that once you receive IAS/BAS communication and/or your personal quarterly PAYG instalments from them electronically for the first time, generally you will continue to receive it via that method (i.e. it won’t revert back to paper). Note that we have seen some inconsistencies with this so until the bugs are ironed out don’t assume that it will be the same. Once you trigger the electronic correspondence, you’ll need to keep an eye on email or SMS notifications regarding new messages in your MyGov account. Further to this, if you were receiving paper-based communication from the ATO and it was being sent to McKinley Plowman as your registered tax agent, this will generally automatically cease if you lodge a BAS or IAS electronically.

We would encourage that you check your MyGov inbox at least every quarter, but preferably more often so you don’t miss important information and updates – perhaps set a reminder in your calendar to give you the prompt to check. While we still have access to this information via our Online Services for Agents and we will do our best to communicate your obligations when they fall due, we recommend that you take some ownership to ensure that this information isn’t missed and all your tax obligations are met on time.

Electronic Correspondence – The Bottom Line & Next Steps

Big picture, we don’t expect that compliance and year-end tax work will be adversely affected by these changes, however that is predicated on everyone knowing what they need to check on now and again. For clients, it’s important to take the steps you are able to now with getting onto the Online Services for Business and linking MyGovID and Relationship Access Manager to make that happen. Again, as yet there is no firm date pencilled in for the decommissioning of the Business Portal in its current form, it is imperative not to wait until the last minute to move over to the new service.

Despite everyone’s best intentions, the ATO’s track record for seamless technology rollouts is far from spotless, both from the perspective of clients, and from ours as an accounting team. As such, please be patient as we all get used to this new system. The Online Services for Business is currently in public beta-testing, so this is a great opportunity to help yourself and other business owners flatten out some of the likely bugs in the system before the Business Portal is switched off later in 2021.

If you have any concerns or questions about the transition to electronic correspondence, or want to find out more about what McKinley Plowman do for clients in order to ensure open lines of communication and great service, get in touch with us today via our website, or call us on 08 9301 2200 (Joondalup) or 08 9361 3300 (Victoria Park).

written by:

Ben’s career began in April 2008 specialising in taxation and business advisory by managing a small portfolio at a young age. He joined McKinley Plowman in 2014 as a Senior Accountant and with his passion for business and assisting clients in achieving their objectives he has progressed to a Business Services Manager, and more recently being appointed as an Associate Director.

As a qualified Certified Practising Accountant, his areas of expertise include but are not limited to, assisting clients with new business start-ups, advising on business structures, tax planning, business valuations and management reporting across many industries.

Ben prides himself on being part of his client’s business journey in taking them from where they are now and working towards where they want to be.

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