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Is there a sleeping STP 2 problem in this country that no-one seems to want to talk about? A long implementation runway as well as promises of extensions and faith in software companies to deliver a 'plug and play' system that will make it all so eas
Is small business ready for STP2? To date government’s engagement of Small Business about the inner workings of STP 2 has been scant. The additional data to be “disaggregated” is significant; a multitude of labels, sub-codes and decisions to be made by payroll operatives have to be navigated in order to successfully move into STP 2.
What are the consequences of getting STP 2 wrong? A key feature of STP 2 is that there is a swag of government agencies that will be relying on STP 2 data to properly administer their functions. This is a great initiative in principle, which facilitates a more prudential administration of the public purse. The underlying assumption though, is that payroll operatives will correctly transmit the data that each of the government agencies need. Get it wrong and an employee’s income tax, Super Guarantee, social security, CSA outcomes could be incorrectly shaped. Other government agencies are also eyeing STP 2 data. Fair Work Australia have an interest as do the state payroll agencies as flagged in the recent Federal Budget. It is clear therefore, that there will be consequences with government in getting STP 2 wrong. Does this have a chance to adversely impact the employee/employer relationship? Potentially: yes.
Will employers get it wrong? It depends on the payroll operative’s ability to breech the knowledge gap to make the right choices when processing payroll under STP 2. We have absolute faith in the software companies to meet the ATO’s data set requirements and provide a system capable of delivering an accurate payroll transmission. We believe the issue is not at a software level but further up the line with payroll operatives. Will they have increased their knowledge about STP 2 data requirements in order to make the right allocations in payroll software?
Where are the complexities that could trip people up? There are many areas that could drive errors. The obvious ones include ETPs and terminations, payments to principals, salary sacrifice (the basis of reporting has inverted) and allowances. Allowances have embedded complexities that will challenge most payroll operatives. An indication of the complexity of allowances under STP 2 can be found in an ATO decision tree designed to simplify the treatment of allowances – Allowance Decision Tree.
Where does all this leave bookkeepers? For a start the bookkeeper needs to be a BAS Agent to play in the payroll space PAYGW and Super Guarantee are “BAS Services” under the TASA. A look into the crystal ball indicates that STP 2 will challenge many small businesses currently doing their own payroll work. Many will be looking for an outsource solution like that provided by their bookkeeper. Why is that not happening now given STP 2 has been law for nearly 4 months? Because small business is largely unaware of the impact of STP 2 and in fact many have not even heard of it. Therefore, it makes sense for pro-active bookkeepers to start by raising client awareness of the inner workings of STP 2. Client awareness will drive their decision-making process and their approach to STP 2 and as a result their need for payroll services going forward. BAS Agents have about 8 months to be ready to meet their client’s STP 2 needs both during its implementation and into the future. 8 months seems like a reasonable timeframe but deduct 3 BAS reporting periods, an EOFY and a TPAR reporting season and it does not leave a lot of time. So, it is time to plan your client STP 2 implementations as well defining ongoing client payroll engagements.
There is a lot of work BAS Agents need to be considering in the lead up to STP 2 but it is premised on the fact that they have a good working knowledge of STP 2. BAS Agents must get their heads in the STP 2 game by lifting their technical knowledge now; there is no need to wait for software company extensions to run out. ABN recently launched its STP 2 Intensive Workshop designed to help BAS Agents fast track their STP 2 learning and to provide valuable support resources. Access to the Intensive Workshop is available until 31 December 2022