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ATO client-agent linking has further to go says ABN

Client-agent linking changes are like using a steamroller to kill a fly

In the latest February 2023 broadcast of the Australian Bookkeepers Network (ABN) Bookkeeper Radio, host and ABN Directors, Peter Thorp, confirmed his concern about the new approach to ATO client-agent linking.

The radio program topic was prompted with the new initiative’s recent roll out to small business which will see the once 15-second onboarding process BAS Agents go through handed over to the clients themselves. Mismatches with ABR records and client confusion will greatly hamper the process.

While Peter acknowledges the ATO’s motivation for the change to enhance cyber security is 100% worthwhile, the impost on the client could create unnecessary friction between the client and the bookkeeper and delays that could lose bookkeepers and their clients’ money. In its current form the process is a huge barrier to appointment of a BAS or tax agent.

“It’s one of those things I just don’t think they’ve got right,” said Peter.  “This is now not a 15 second job. It’s going to take a lot of time time for those that are successful in linking to an agent. The question is, ‘will small business clients be able to navigate that process?’”

“That’s where the stumbling block is in my mind. I have serious doubts.

“This is especially so as the client has to do this by themselves. It’s not there for the Agent to do it on their behalf as that defeats the purpose of a client appointment,” said Peter.

The ATO explains the process in six steps on the website, which has several sub-steps involved. For each ABN they hold, the client must have established a  MyGovID, link to their ABN via RAM, establish an OSB presence, establish employee access permissions, then follow the 8 step linking invitation process to appoint their agent. They must then contact the agent who needs to accept the invitation via their OSFA within 7 days.

“There are also tech barriers to it. The biggest barrier is around RAM. Understanding the concepts, and the principal authority,” continued Peter.

On a poll on the broadcast, more than 95% of listeners said this process was too complex for clients. Listeners also thought businesses not currently using the ATOs  online services would not be able to navigate the client linking process without someone’s help.

The ABN continues to engage with the ATO on the matter and Peter confirms updates and any changes will be offered to ABN members on future Bookkeepers Radio programs.

Find out more here on how to tune into Bookkeepers Radio.

10 Mar 2023
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