ATO ready for Single Touch Payroll delivery in July after 'extensive' consultation

The first phase of the Singe Touch Payroll system is slated to begin rolling out in July this year, after the taxation office conducted 'extensive' consultation to ensure it is prepared.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The first phase of the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) Singe Touch Payroll (STP) system is slated for go live at the start of the 2019 financial year, with businesses boasting 20 or more employees the first to use the system.

The STP is a new way for employers to report employees' payroll information to the ATO. Payments such as salaries and wages, pay-as-you-go (PAYG) withholding, and super information will be delivered to the ATO via the STP system when businesses pay employees.

In December 2015, the government announced that the introduction of STP would also include streamlined processes for individuals commencing employment. Individuals would have the option of completing their Tax File Number (TFN) declaration and Superannuation Standard Choice forms using myGov or through their employer's business management software.

In getting ready for STP, the ATO recommends businesses reach out to their software providers to ask them when and how their product will be updated to offer STP reporting.

Some software providers have been granted extensions past the July 1 commencement date.

In response to Questions on Notice asked by Senator Chris Ketter on behalf of the Economics Committee earlier this year, the ATO provided an update this week on the STP's online choice form.

Specifically, the ATO was asked whether it had undertaken any consumer testing of specific designs, and whether the testing had resulted in "good decision making" ahead of its go-live date.

"As part of designing these new services, the ATO has conducted a number of rounds of user-based testing of the proposed new online choice form," the ATO wrote.

"Representatives from the payroll and superannuation sectors were part of this consultative process."

The ATO said that after "extensive" consultation, it has finalised a plan to deliver the new online services in three phases, starting July 2018 through March 2019.

"The first phase enables an employer's software to link to ATO Online, where the employee is able to authenticate and complete the forms which are prefilled with data supplied by the employer and the ATO," the taxation office continued.

The ATO said it will then monitor the use of the service, and consult with stakeholders as it "continues to design and implement subsequent phases" through to March 2019.

The ATO in May said the rollout of STP over the coming years will allow for better data matching with Centrelink by providing data every payday, rather than at the end of the year.

"As I understand it, sometimes people that get benefits, [when they] get a job, keep getting the benefits," Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan said at the time. "They assume the information is already being exchanged by the tax office and Centrelink because someone has taken tax out of their pay, they don't know it's at the end of the year Centrelink do the check and say: 'You owe us $5,000'

"Single Touch Payroll will enable us and Centrelink to exchange information fortnightly."

The embattled automated debt recovery system used by Centrelink is based on a 27-year-old process, which contained an error that was incorrectly calculating a recipient's income, basing a recipient's fortnightly pay on their annual salary rather than taking a cumulative 26-week snapshot of what an individual was paid.

Must read: The Australian government and the loose definition of IT projects 'working well'

The ATO has not been without its own IT-related troubles; the first in a long string of outages dates back to December 2016 when the government entity suffered "one-of-a-kind" SAN outages.

Although the ATO said issues were rectified, further service disruptions ensued.

The government department had to turn its mainframe off and switch it back on again last July, when a disruption occurred five days into the new financial year.

The department responded with promises of "smooth operating" IT, as well as the assurance of a more "connected and bulletproof" system than ever before.

Addressing the Finance and Public Administration References Committee in March, the ATO's CIO Ramez Katf discussed the outages, revealing that his office is still unsure whether the cables identified as a main element causing the initial SAN outage were defective or incorrectly installed, with a final report from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise -- now DXC Technology -- yet to be published.

A few days later, the taxation office took its website offline following a Twitter post notifying users that scheduled maintenance had been postponed.

It expects the STP to run smoothly.


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