A rise in “please explain” letters from the ATO, in the wake of the new Single Touch Payroll regime, has been reported by one accounting network, with businesses urged to come good on their super obligations.
Carbon Group partner Michelle Maynard (pictured) told My Business sister publication Accountants Daily that the firm has seen a rise in clients receiving letters from the ATO asking if they have met all their superannuation guarantee (SG) obligations.
“I’ve had three or four letters in the past two weeks saying, ‘We don’t think you’ve met your super obligations for a certain period. Either show us that you have or lodge your super guarantee statement or we are going to audit you’,” Ms Maynard said.
“Single Touch Payroll is bringing the focus on employers doing the right, and the ATO is getting a lot more proactive in sending these ‘please explain’ letters, mainly focusing on unpaid super.”
The uptick in ATO activity coincides with the failure of the proposed SG amnesty to be reintroduced into Parliament.
CPA Australia head of policy Paul Drum had earlier warned that the amnesty was the “calm before the storm”, where businesses could expect tougher ATO action on SG non-compliance with the help of real-time data from STP.
Likewise, Ms Maynard believes employers can expect to receive more letters from the Tax Office in the coming days.
“The SG amnesty was meant to give everyone a free pass to get their super obligations up to date, but our read of the situation is that the ATO wanted everyone to declare their cards, because now that STP is in, it is going to be a real focus for them and they are going to come down hard,” she said.
Ms Maynard believes advisers should now push their clients to come forward with their outstanding super guarantee obligations before the ATO comes knocking.
“Accountants and bookkeepers have covered their own risk by mentioning it to clients, but we need to be more proactive,” Ms Maynard said.
“If an employer client has an outstanding balance, we need to start talking to them on how to fix it by lodging an SG statement and making some payments if they can and getting on the front foot.
“It is not good enough to wait for the ATO to come knocking, and it will also hold them in good stead when the ATO do eventually find out, which they will through the STP regime, to say, ‘We have been trying to do it, we may have been behind, but these are the steps that we’ve done to make sure it won’t happen again’, which will hopefully help with fines and penalties.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.