The Australian Taxation Office has switched on its new online services platform for SMEs and will soon retire the business portal it is replacing.
The changeover means SMEs need to start getting familiar with the new ‘online services for business’ platform before the business portal is retired at the end of July.
Work has been underway for some time to improve the how small businesses interact with the ATO online, and the new online services platform went live at the start of April.
So how does it work and what do SMEs need to know?
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What is the ATO’s new online services for business?
The ATO’s online services for business platform is now the default way for SMEs to interact directly with the ATO online. It replaces the business portal, which had served this role for the past 17 years.
Business operators can use the platform to manage their tax and super obligations, view and print tax returns and income tax histories, and create payment plans with the ATO.
The platform can also be used to view Single Touch Payroll reports, register for GST and Pay-As-You-Go withholding, and access the small business superannuation clearing house.
The new platform is an updated and more contemporary version of the business portal, and business owners can access it across multiple devices, switching between their different businesses as needed without having to log in multiple times.
The platform also replaces the previous electronic superannuation audit tool, or eSAT.
Who is it for?
The new platform is for any business operators who previously used the business portal to interact with the ATO. There is a separate platform for individuals and sole traders.
The online services for business platform does not replace the tax agent services platform.
How does it work?
To begin using the online services platform, business owners can log in using the same myGovID they used for the business portal.
If you haven’t interacted with the ATO online before, you will need to first set up a myGovID and then link it to your business through the ATO’s Relationship Authorisation Manager.
Why did the ATO need to replace the previous business portal?
In April, ATO deputy commissioner Deborah Jenkins said while the business portal had “served us well” over almost two decades, it needed modernising and additional features for business owners.
The ATO said the new platform has been designed to make it easier for business owners to meet their tax and business obligations, and crucially, save time by completing more tasks online rather than over the phone. This includes being able to organise a payment plan online, which Jenkins says can save business owners “precious time”.
While the new platform is a direct replacement for the business portal, Jenkins said the ATO will operate both during a transition period to help business owners adjust during what has been, and continues to be, a “challenging” year.
Were small businesses involved in this process?
Writing on LinkedIn this week, ATO assistant commissioner Andrew Watson said small businesses were involved in testing the platform during its beta phase, which took place towards the end of 2020.
A spokesperson for the ATO told SmartCompany 126 clients took part in private beta testing between October and December 2020, and 25 of those clients represented 14 small businesses.
The ATO also consulted with 93 clients during the design stage for the new platform, with 42 of those representing small businesses, and spoke regularly to the ATO’s Small Business Stewardship Group, which includes industry representatives.
The engagement and feedback from small businesses was “highly valuable” in designing and improving the platform, said the spokesperson.
During the public beta stage, between January and April, small businesses accounted for 49,295 of 79,709 mapped transactions on the platform. Since the platform launched on April 9, small businesses have accounted for 443,847 of 910,044 mapped transactions.
What has been the response so far?
In April, the ATO said it saw immediate take up among businesses in the professional, scientific and technical sector and the construction industry. However, at the time, it was hoping to see more businesses in manufacturing, retail, health care and social assistance move to the new platform.
Since the start of the public beta phase on January 20, around 416,000 unique users have accessed the new online services for business platform, representing around 395,000 businesses.
The ATO says the number of businesses accessing the platform continues to increase, with recent reports indicating 66% of ATO clients have now moved to the new platform.
Where can I access the ATO’s online services?
Business operators can visit the ATO website here to log in to either online services, or the business portal.