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The familiar pre-fill capability in wage-earner tax returns will soon become a feature for subcontractors as ATO sets sights on recouping billions in unpaid tax.
ATO Assistant Commissioner for the Shadow Economy, Peter Holt, says that data from the Taxable Payments Annual Reports (TPAR) submitted by payers is cross-checked with the tax returns of suppliers to ensure all income is declared. By doing so the ATO dramatically increases visibility of payments made through business supply chains.
“If you’re a subcontractor, then the ATO has data on payments made to you throughout the year,” said Peter. “The ATO now makes this data available to subcontractors and their tax agent or bookkeeper through our Online Services.
“This information is also available as informational prefill in My Tax for individuals and sole traders and the pre-fill of contractor payments for all entities will be available in the future,” says Peter.
As chief in charge of fighting against the ‘shadow economy’, a term the ATO uses to describe the dishonest and criminal activities that take place outside the tax and regulatory systems, Peter Holt recognises that data matching using TPAR data helps to plug systemic holes caused by deliberate tax evasion.
The new reported transactions service means that small business subcontractors and their agents can see what information the ATO holds about them before they lodge their tax return.
“The benefits work both ways, where now the ATO and the subcontractors are able to clearly see earnings and articulate the right tax payable to ensure everyone pays their fair share,” said Peter.
“This information can also assist with record keeping, including helping to reconstruct lost or damaged records due to natural disasters.”
The matching of payments made to subcontractors to their income tax returns helps the ATO work towards reducing the massive $11 billion estimated shortfall in taxes by Australian businesses operating in the shadow economy.
Peter says that of this $11 billion, greater than $6 billion is due to unreported business activity, which is income not declared in tax returns.
“Identifying those that do the wrong thing and taking action to address this behaviour helps to keep the playing field level for the majority of subcontractors that do the right thing,” Peter continued.
“We’ve found that poor record keeping is a common issue,” continued Peter. “Either people make mistakes because they’re confused about little things like separating their personal and work bank accounts, or they have bad or no record-keeping habits, or they don’t understand the difference between business structures.”
Peter says that bookkeepers have an important opportunity to use technology to carve out a more sustainable path for their clients.
“Bookkeepers should be encouraging their clients to use ATO Online services and also get appropriate digital software to make record-keeping easier and more accurate,” continued Peter.
“There are a couple of ’red flags’ that bookkeepers need to look out for.”
BREAKOUT BOX: Peter’s Top Tips for bookkeepers
There are a range of things bookkeepers can be on the lookout for to help their clients.
“Any good bookkeeper knows that good record-keeping is not just about tax – it’s about good business. Going through a period like COVID is a great example where cashflow is affected and businesses that don’t keep good records don’t know if they can pay their bills on time,” said Peter.
“Business owners need to know if their business is or isn’t viable. Checking these problem areas is crucial. If you want to borrow money from a bank, then you need to have very good record keeping.”
The information available in prefill or shown in reported transactions in Online services should be cross checked against business records to ensure it is complete and correct. If you or your client need to dispute the data, you can send the ATO a message with the details from Online services.
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