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Upcoming Audit Focus Areas for the ATO

When it comes to industries or areas of particular interest, The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is relatively transparent about changes or increases in audit activity. Similarly, the media tends to have its finger on the button to report any news of this sort to the public. There are a few key areas which can expect to experience increased audit activity in the not-too-distant future.


The very nature of SuperStream allows the ATO to access real-time data regarding employers’ super guarantee contributions, and therefore have better data to discover those who have not been paying them appropriately. Because of this, employers who have not been doing the right thing in this aspect can expect audit notices before too long.


With the recent introduction of a $1.6 million transfer balance cap on Self-Managed Super Funds, it is no secret that there are substantial changes in the SMSF space. The significance of this cap is that it affects both current retirees and those yet to retire, and we are already seeing many experts in the SMSF area saying the ATO will be monitoring compliance with these new measures very closely. Additionally, there have been arrangements made in the past with some SMSFs that involve the diversion of personal services income to a Self-Managed Super Fund in order to avoid (or at least minimise) tax obligations. The ATO have stated that they will be scrutinising such arrangements very closely from now on.

Single Touch Payroll

As of 1st July 2018, it will become mandatory for all businesses with more than 20 employees to report through the Single Touch Payroll system. Employers will be required to report Super Guarantee payments concurrently to paying their employees, whilst Super Funds will also be required to report contributions. The reason for these introductions is to allow the ATO to collect new information and perform more accurate compliance cross-checking, which is likely to increase audit activity.

Data matching and information sharing.

‘Data matching’ is a current buzz word in the taxation world, and it is no surprise that the ATO, State Revenue Offices, WorkCover authorities and vehicle registration departments are all sharing data such as reported wages, contractor payments and motor vehicle registration details (FBT). Much like the other measures being introduced, it has been done in order to gather more detailed data for cross-checking purposes.

Audit activity in Australia is still as prevalent as ever. A prime example of just how prevalent is the establishment of a black economy-focused task force by the Australian Government, late in 2016. While their primary objective is to educate, the side effect inevitably comes in the form of increased audit activity. This is in addition to an increase in time and costs for accountants, even in the event that all the paperwork is in order. One thing is certain: superannuation is on the top of the list for the ATO, and looks like being so for the foreseeable future.

Adapted from Accountancy Insurance’s article “The ATO’s Supercharge on Superannuation”

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