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ATO writes to 140,000 employers about STP compliance deadline

17 October 2017 | Accountants & Advisors, Payroll, Payroll Efficiency, Single Touch Payroll

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has launched its Single Touch Payroll awareness campaign in the form of letters to employers with 15 or more staff. The letters will be sent over a two week period commencing 17 October. For most businesses this is likely to be the first time they have heard anything about the biggest change to payroll reporting in Australia’s history.

The ATO is informing employers with 20 or more employees about Single Touch Payroll and their reporting obligations so they can start preparing for the change, which becomes law on 1 July 2018. They are including employers with 15 to 19 employees in case their employee numbers increase to 20 or more by 1 April 2018.

Learnings from the UK

Australian business would do well to take note of the UK experience where Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) struggled to publicise a similar scheme called Real Time Information (RTI). They wrote twice to employers – at six months prior to introduction and again two months prior. At the time of the first letter only 16% of businesses were fully aware of RTI1 and just two weeks before becoming law only 14% considered the switchover to be going “smoothly”2. In the final month before RTI became mandatory, HMRC launched a last-minute advertising campaign across radio, national newspapers and online to bolster awareness.

Mike Rich, co-founder of Attaché Software, said:

“Single Touch Payroll is a ticking time bomb with which medium and large employers now have less than nine months to comply. We should learn from the UK experience and avoid a last-minute panic. Businesses should be reviewing their payroll software now and taking the opportunity to simultaneously look at whether they have outgrown their broader business software.”

1. The Federation of Small Businesses Survey, 16-23 October 2012

2. Accountancy Age Poll, 25 March 2013

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