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Client Agent Linking – Useful Links, Videos & Phone Numbers

In a previous blog, I discussed the challenges agents and clients face because of Client Agent Linking (CAL). Many of the issues encountered are related to setting up various digital identity software and/or not understanding the CAL process. In this blog, I will share useful links, videos and phone numbers to help those stumbling through this difficult task! 

As mentioned, the CAL process is complicated. It involves setting up a myGovID, linking the ABN to the myGovID in Relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM), logging into Online Services for Business (OSB), nominating a new agent and finally advising the agent that the nomination has occurred. The links to assist with setting up myGovID, RAM and OSB are below, along with a step-by-step guide to CAL both in written and video format. Some phone numbers are listed for those who prefer to call a human being! I hope this helps those who are struggling with CAL.

  1. How to nominate an agent in online services for business (download)
  2. The agent nomination process explained
  3. Troubleshooting guide for agents
  4. How to set up myGovID
  5. Online services for businesses
  6. Relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM)
  7. Link your myGovID to your ABN
  8. For agents – think before you link!

CAL – Useful Phone Numbers

  1. ATO – help with nominating an agent or with online services for business – 132866
  2. ATO – help with late lodgements and payments due to not being able to link to an agent – 1300 660 048
  3. ATO – agent can’t link a new client in online services due to a system error – 137286 (only call if the client has completed the nomination process)
  4. RAM – 1300 287 539 (select option 3 for RAM enquiries)
  5. myGovID – 1300 287 539 (select option 2, then option 1 for myGovID enquiries).

CAL – Useful Videos

ATO Client-To-Agent Linking Steps: How to nominate an agent in Online Services for Business

Client / Agent Linking – An ATO How-To Tutorial

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Think you can get away with not paying your employees’ super? Think again!

Employers intentionally not paying their employees’ super has always been a bugbear of mine. If you follow my Twitter (X) account, you may have seen the hashtag I use: “#notyourmoney“. I use this hashtag because I believe that employee superannuation is not your money and never will be and I want to enforce this concept. These irresponsible employers anger me. It is completely wrong to hire people and then fail to fulfill the contract you agreed upon, which includes paying their super. In my opinion, not paying super is equivalent to stealing.

In the past, employers were able to get away with this unacceptable behavior because the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) only found out about it when employees reported them. At that point, the ATO would investigate, audit, and penalise these employers. This reactive approach has resulted in an estimated $2.5 billion shortfall in unpaid super. This is a truly disgraceful situation.

But things are about to change…

In the 2023-24 Federal Budget, it was announced that the ATO will receive $40.2 million for super compliance measures. This funding includes $27 million for data matching capabilities to identify and take action on cases of Superannuation Guarantee (SG) underpayment, as well as $13.2 million for consultation and co-design.

So what does this mean? Who/what will the ATO be data matching with?

Firstly, it is now widely known that the ATO receives payroll data from employers through Single Touch Payroll events (STP). This data includes the superannuation amounts owed to employees’ super funds. The ATO also receives information about employees’ super from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) through the Member Account Transaction Service (MATS). MATS is a reporting service used for more frequent and detailed reporting of member super contributions and transactions. The ATO utilises the information from both sources to identify potential non-compliant behaviour by employers.

With increased funding from the budget, the ATO will intensify data-matching activities between STP and MATS. This shift from a reactive to a proactive approach means that the ATO will be able to initiate audits themselves instead of relying on employees to report non-compliance after the fact.

It is important to note that this data-matching activity is not new. It has been ongoing since 2019, with the ATO reporting a 24% increase in investigations of super non-compliance. What is new is the improved data matching capabilities enabled by better technology and more comprehensive STP data.

The ATO is now more focused than ever on addressing super non-compliance. They have the necessary tools and resources to conduct investigations and audits on a large scale.

This makes me feel more positive about this problem. I sincerely hope the ATO succeeds in its efforts. I have a strong aversion to employers who think they can evade paying super. It is essentially stealing, a white-collar crime. Thanks to the ATO’s real-time monitoring, the likelihood of getting away with non-payment of super is rapidly decreasing. And that is a very good thing!

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Managing myGovID when devices are upgraded or added

myGovID is an app that allows you to securely access ATO online services. It proves to the ATO that the person attempting to access a service/info is who they say they are – super important in this day and age of constant cyber attacks etc.

Setting up the app for the first time requires quite a few steps and can be slightly complicated. Sadly, if you buy a new mobile or tablet, or wish to use your myGovID on multiple devices, you will need to set up your myGovID again and re-verify your identity. You cannot just install the app on your new device and expect it to work. Below are the steps you need to follow to solve this issue.

How to set up myGovID on a new device

Firstly, you need to select “reset the app” within your myGovID app’s settings.
Then, select “I am an existing user”.
Then, follow the prompts to:

  • enter your latest myGovID email address – this is linked to the identity documents you previously verified. Setting up with a different email address will lock your myGovID on all devices and you’ll be unable to use it.
  • re-verify your identity – ATO recommends using the identity documents you previously used.

For security purposes, you’ll receive an email letting you know your myGovID is active on another device. You can view your myGovID setup history in your app.

Each time you set up your myGovID, its identity strength is unique to that device. This means if you set up your myGovID on multiple devices, the identity strength will only reflect what identity documents you’ve verified on that device. For example, you could have one device with a Strong identity strength and another device with a Standard identity strength. To access a service with your myGovID, that device needs to meet the minimum identity strength required of that service. Where you’re setting up on a new device, you need to take additional steps if you transferred your app.

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ATO STP Filing Error Codes – what do they mean and how do you fix them?

At the time of writing this blog, most employers are actively submitting payroll events via Single Touch Payroll (STP). STP has been around since July 2018 and has now evolved into STP Phase 2. Most software companies used by small businesses to file STP reports, are now STP 2-enabled, so many employers will be reporting payroll via this mode.

While the process of filing or reporting payroll via STP is fairly straightforward, there can be occasions where things may go wrong. This is particularly true now, given the setup for STP Phase 2 is quite involved and onerous. Should the setup for STP 2 not be done correctly, this will most certainly lead to filing errors.

If a pay event is returned after filing it, the ATO will provide an error code that describes the issue. While these codes are useful in terms of helping the lodger understand what is wrong, they do not assist in providing details about how to fix the error within the software you may be using.  Luckily, there is help available from each of the main software providers. 

Here is a list of the software providers and the links to their help pages, should your filing return an ATO error code:

MYOB

QBO

Xero

Also, from Reckon, here is a list of the most common submission errors via the ATO. Each error code is explained and a reason behind the error is given. This can be a helpful starting point when trying to rectify any STP errors.

I hope this blog has been helpful to you if you are an employer or bookkeeper. It would be a good idea to add the link for your chosen software to your favourites list for future access, should you encounter an STP filing error.

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A Better Employee Onboarding Experience is coming…

The way new employees are onboarded is changing. Currently, employers ask new employees to provide a Tax File Number Declaration form, a Super Choice form, and also other personal information required in order to set them up in their payroll systems.

While this process is fairly straightforward, often employers find themselves chasing new employees for the data and at times, needing to confirm details that may or may not be correct (usually not correct in my experience!). This process can therefore be very time-consuming and tedious for employers, not to mention that the room for error is very high. It is also not a great deal of fun for new employees either!

Enter the “New Employment Form”.

This is an all-in-one onboarding form that new employees access from their myGov accounts. The form will provide both the ATO and the employer with all of the information required to set up new employees in one easy action.

Importantly, this form will replace several forms. These include the Tax File Number Declaration, the Super Choice form, the Variation to Tax Withholding Declaration, the Variation to Medicare Levy Declaration, etc. Employees can also use it to update their tax circumstances, for example, if:

  • their residency status has changed
  • they no longer have a government study and training loan
  • they are claiming the tax-free threshold from a different employer.

This change to employee onboarding will reduce the administrative burden for employers and increase process efficiencies. It will also reduce data recording errors which are very common when obtaining personal details from new staff members.

How the new onboarding process works

Firstly, the employer needs to provide his/her ABN to the new employees.

To access the new form, employees will require a myGov account linked to the ATO. Once signed in they will:

  • access ATO online services
  • go to the ‘Employment’ menu
  • select ‘New employment’ and
  • complete the form then
  • submit the form

After submitting the form, the details will be sent straight to the ATO removing the requirement for employers to send completed TFN Declarations separately. It’s important to note that the changes to Single Touch Payroll Phase 2 have also made this possible i.e. every time a pay run is reported via STP 2, employees’ tax information is sent to the ATO. Although this step can now be removed from the onboarding process, employers must continue to receive completed TFN Declarations from new employees and retain them as part of the employees’ records.

Once the form is submitted, the employee will print the form and give it to the employer who will use the information to set up the employee in the payroll system.

It’s important to note that the downloadable version of the TFN declaration form will be removed by the end of 2022.

 The ATO is therefore requiring new employees to be onboarded using the new above process going forward. This is a new process that both employers and employees need to understand and adopt. It has benefits in terms of efficiency and data security and in my opinion, is the way forward.

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ATO has recommenced tax & super debt Collection Activities…

What you can do to help yourself and/or your business

During the past 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ATO deliberately halted tax and super debt collection in order to assist businesses and taxpayers affected by the pandemic’s consequences.

But now they are back on the bandwagon. Debt collection has recommenced!

The ATO is clear that if you engage with them as soon as possible, they will try to work with you to help you manage your debts. However, and I quote:

Where taxpayers don’t engage, the ATO is taking firmer actions. These include garnishees, recovery of director penalties, disclosure of business tax debts, and legal actions including summons, creditors petition, wind-up, and insolvency action.”

So the message is don’t hide under a rock. The debt won’t disappear and the ATO will chase you to recover it. Instead, contact the ATO immediately and work with them to resolve the issues. They can’t help you if you don’t communicate with them. Your tax or BAS agent can do this on your behalf if you would prefer not to call the ATO yourself.

It is important to note that from July 2022, any tax refunds or credits will be automatically applied to any tax/super debt you may have, meaning that you may not receive any refund or a smaller refund than expected.

The ATO has various avenues of help for businesses or taxpayers experiencing tax/super debt stress. Some of these are listed below:

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How to apply for a Director ID without a myGovID account

Applications for a Director ID will close on 30th November 2022. Have you got yours yet? If not, why not? Is it because you lack the confidence to use a computer or smartphone or the technology required? Have you been told that you need to have a myGovID to apply for a Director ID and don’t know how to get one or even what it is? Never fear, there are other ways to apply for a Director ID and these are explained below.

What is a Director ID?
Just quickly, before we go on, for those not in the know, a Director ID is a unique number identifier that identifies you as being a company director to government authorities, shareholders, employees, consumers, creditors, external administrators, and regulators. The reason behind obtaining a Director ID is to prevent the use of false or fraudulent director identities i.e. director identity fraud. Read more information about the Director ID here.

So, when you visit the Director ID information page via the Australian Business Registry Services (ABRS) to learn about how to apply for the ID number, it will immediately begin by explaining that you need to have a myGovID account. A myGovID account is a digital identity that helps you prove who you are online by participating government online services. This is a good thing to have but if you aren’t ready to go down that road or can’t for some reason, you can actually apply for a Director ID by phone or by sending in a paper application – yep, that’s right, you can do it old school style! Read on to find out how!

Apply by Phone

To apply by phone, have the below data at hand, then call 13 62 50. Wait for the automated system to ask you to make a selection from the following and select option 1. Tell the operator that you wish to apply for a Director ID number. Supply the operator with the below data and when he gives you the ID number, record it. A copy will also be sent to you by mail or email – your choice. 

Documents Required:

  • your tax file number (TFN)
  • your full name
  • your date of birth
  • your residential address as held by the ATO
  • two Australian identity documents – one primary and one secondary

Primary documents

  • Australian full birth certificate
  • Australian passport
  • Australian citizenship certificate or extract from a Register of Citizenship by Descent
  • ImmiCard
  • Visa (if you are using a foreign passport but are still in Australia)

Secondary documents

  • Medicare card
  • Australian driver’s licence or learner’s permit

Apply by Paper

To make an application via a paper form, you will need to call the ABRS on the same phone number as above i.e. 13 62 50, and ask for the form to be mailed to you. In addition to completing the form, you will also need to send certified copies of:

  • one primary and 2 secondary identity documents, or
  • 2 primary and one secondary identity document.

Primary documents

  • Australian full birth certificate (extracts and commemorative certificates are not acceptable)
  • Australian passport (including passports that have expired in the past 3 years)
  • Australian citizenship certificate or extract from a Register of Citizenship by Descent
  • Foreign passport

Secondary documents

  • Medicare card
  • Australian driver’s licence or Australian learner’s permit. This must show your photo, licence card number and signature, and the address on the card must match the details on your application.

If you have changed your name, you must provide another document showing the change, such as a

  • marriage certificate
  • deed poll
  • change of name certificate.

Certifying your Documents

Copies of documents you provide to support your application must be certified as true and correct copies of the original document by an authorised certifier. To certify your documents:

  • photocopy them
  • ensure the copy and any photograph is clear and identifiable
  • take the copies and originals to an authorised certifier.

Authorised certifiers

The following people can certify copies of your original identity documents as true and correct:

  • Barrister
  • Solicitor
  • Medical practitioner
  • Judge
  • Justice of the Peace (JP)
  • Minister of religion (who is authorised to celebrate marriage)
  • Police officer
  • Bank, building society or credit union officer with at least 5 years of service
  • Sheriff’s officer
  • Commissioner of Declarations (in Queensland only).

A certifier should never witness documents:

  • for their family, business, clients, employer or any other person where it could create a real or perceived conflict of interest
  • connected with matters in which they have an actual or perceived personal or financial interest.

So there you have it – you can apply for a Director ID without having to set up a myGovID account.  Of the two old-school methods above, I think phoning is the easier option as long as you have all of the documents and information in front of you before you call.

PS – I’m not against getting a myGovID account and in fact, I do advise that you try to get one eventually. However, I do recognise that not everyone is tech-savvy or has a smartphone, or if they do, may not be sure how to navigate it – it is certainly a learning curve and not that easy for some. Luckily, the government understands this too and is providing alternative options to those who may require more time to transition to the digital world.

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Complete a TFN Declaration via your myGov account

Have you taken on new employees? Did you know they can complete a TFN declaration through ATO online services?

This is an easy way for them to provide both you and us with the information we need. If your new employee has a myGov account linked to the ATO, they can:

  • access ATO online services
  • go to the ‘Employment’ menu
  • select ‘New employment’ and complete the form.

This sends the TFN declaration details straight to us so you don’t have to. Your employee will need your ABN to complete the form. Once they’ve submitted the form, they need to print it and give you the summary of their tax details so you can input the data into your system.

You may be able to link your payroll software to the online commencement forms. But check first with your software provider if they offer this service.

You can also use the New employment form to collect a range of information. Despite its name, you can also use this form instead of the:

  • Withholding declaration form
  • Medicare levy variation declaration form
  • Superannuation standard choice form.

Your employees can use the New employment form to update their tax circumstances with you, for example, if:

  • their residency status has changed
  • they no longer have a government study and training loan
  • they are claiming the tax-free threshold from a different employer.

You can continue to use your current processes, including providing a paper TFN declaration where employees can’t create a myGov account or don’t have access to the internet.

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Common STP Phase 2 Mistakes

STP Phase 2 is in full swing. It began on 1st January 2022 but various accounting software have not been ready until recently. This means many employers are only just now learning about, and setting up their payroll systems, to comply with STP 2 requirements.

Unfortunately, as it is still relatively new, some employers are making errors when reporting via STP Phase 2. Recently, the ATO published a list of those mistakes it is seeing. I am highlighting them here so you can be sure to avoid them when you start to report via STP Phase 2.

Common STP Phase 2 Mistakes List

  • Breaking the continuity of year-to-date amounts from STP 1 reporting. Unless you are using the replacing IDs method for transitioning to STP 2, you need to ensure that you maintain the STP 1 data that you have already reported. Your accounting solution will help you manage this and you should contact your provider if you require assistance with this issue.
  • Selecting “not reportable to the ATO” when setting up pay codes/categories. Most payments to employees need to be reported except for:

1. Travel allowance below the ATO’s reasonable amounts

2. Overtime meal allowance below the ATO’s reasonable amount

3. Reimbursements

4. Post-tax deductions except for those you need to separately identify.

  • Omitting a cessation date and reason. When an employee leaves your business, you need to report the date he finished and the reason why he left. Your accounting solution will include these fields to complete upon termination. The ATO will share this information with Services Australia which means you will no longer need to complete a separation certificate for that employee.
  • Some income types you report for employees will also include a special country code. If you are required to report a country code, you must report the code relevant to that employee. Some employers are incorrectly reporting a “NA” country code, thinking that it means “not applicable”. It actually means “Namibia”. So if you use NA in your reporting, you are telling the ATO that your employee is either working: 

1. Overseas in Namibia or,

2. Is in Australia and they are from Namibia.                                     

  • Allowances. All allowances must be reported separately using one of 8 specific allowance categories. You must not simply report an allowance to the “Other Allowance” category (allowance type OD). You must report allowances using their appropriate category because each category is treated differently for tax, super and social security purposes. Only report an amount as Allowance type OD if it’s an allowance that does not belong in one of the 8 specific allowance categories. 
  • Treating reportable super contributions (RESC) and salary sacrifice as the same thing. These are 2 different things and need to be reported correctly. Check out this ATO video which explains how to report these payments via STP 2.

Here is the link to the ATO webpage which provides more in-depth information about the STP 2 reporting mistakes listed above, including several helpful videos.

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The bookkeeping behind the Taxable Payments Annual Report

There is a lot of information available to you if you just want to understand what a Taxable Payments Annual Report (TPAR) is and why you may need to lodge one. In short, if your business is primarily in one of the below industries and has made payments to contractors in the previous financial year, then a TPAR will need to be prepared and lodged.

  • Building and construction services
  • Cleaning services
  • Road freight and courier services
  • Information technology services
  • Security, investigation or surveillance services

If you are new to the TPAR, then I suggest you go to this ATO webpage and have a read!

So, as I said, there is a lot of information you can Google about TPAR in general, but not a whole lot about how to prepare the report from a bookkeeping point of view. Some software will have you believe that you just select a few boxes here and there and then submit the report to the ATO. Voila! Done. Easy. Well, it is easy if you didn’t actually pay contractors in a given year, but if you did, there are a few steps you need to take to ensure your report is true and correct. In this blog, I will share my process for preparing the TPAR for my clients. I hope this helps you if you are feeling a bit lost as to the “how” behind the “what”!

How to prepare your TPAR in 6 easy steps

1. Make a list of contractors

Before you can prepare the TPAR, especially if this is the first time you have done this, you should make a list of all of the contractors you have paid during the financial year. Now move on to step 2.

2. Check contractor Details

The TPAR requires that you report various personal details about your contractors including the full name of the contact person, business name, business address, email address, phone number and the ABN. Before you begin preparing the TPAR, go through your contractor list and make sure these details have been added to their contact cards.

3. Ensure contractors are selected to be part of the TPAR

In your software, each contact card will have a checkbox to select if the contractor needs to be reported on the TPAR. Go through each contractor’s contact card and ensure this is selected if required.

4. Print out the TPAR and check the details

Find the TPAR in your software. At this point, it is only a draft report. Print it out and review each transaction – check that all transactions should be included. Remember, only invoices for labour and materials or just labour, need to be included. Invoices for materials-only do not need to be included. Materials-only invoices will need to be manually removed but clicking into the transaction and deselecting the checkbox for TPAR. If you have made any changes to the draft TPAR, then print out the updated version and move on to step 4!

5. Ensure the TPAR agrees with your profit and loss data

This is where some bookkeeping comes in! Not everyone knows that you need to make sure the total amount quoted in the TPAR agrees with the data reported on your profit and loss. This is called reconciliation. If you don’t do this step, your TPAR may be incorrect, so it’s pretty important! The TPAR only includes payments you made to contractors within a financial year – unpaid invoices are not included. Therefore, in order to perform this reconciliation, you need to print out the profit and loss in cash mode. Now, depending on how many transactions there are, you can either compare the two reports by eye or if you need to, you can export the profit and loss data to a spreadsheet to help you compare the calculations. Note, that the profit and loss data required will be where you recorded your contractor payments. This may be an expense account or a cost of sales account, depending on how your chart of accounts is set up.

Now, you need to ensure that the total amount showing in your TPAR, less the GST, agrees with the profit and loss data. If your initial setup was correct, these two reports should agree. If they don’t, there may be a couple of reasons why. Here are some things to check:

1) Make sure that all contractor transactions in the TPAR also appear in the P&L and vice versa. This may involve checking that those particular transactions have the TPAR checkbox selected or that you have a contractor’s contact card selected for TPAR. 2) If you have included some materials-only transactions in either the P&L data or TPAR, you must remove them. 3) You may also find that some transactions have been coded to other expense accounts and are therefore not included in the P&L data you initially exported or printed. Find those transactions and add them to your exported data.

When you are satisfied that the two reports agree, then print out a final TPAR and save it as a PDF for your records.

6. Lodge the TPAR

Depending on the software you are using, you may be able to lodge the TPAR within the software itself. If not, you will have to download a TPAR file and lodge it with the ATO using Online Services and/or your myGov account. Find more details here about how to lodge via ATO Online Services. Keep a record of the lodgement receipt you will receive from the ATO with your TPAR from your software.

Remember, if you do not have any contractor payments to report, you need to report a Non Lodgement Advice form. See my blog here for more information.

So that’s all there is to it, but as you can see, lodging the TPAR does require some background work. You can’t just click a button and lodge it because you need to ensure the figures and the data are correct. I hope this blog has helped you in the run-up to the TPAR lodgement due date which is August 28th each year. If you need help preparing your TPAR, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and I’ll see if I can assist you.

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