The Australian Taxation Office has had a long and sometimes well-deserved reputation for being poor at information sharing. Happily, after extensive consultations with the community the ATO has launched some new and varied ways to learn about taxation and interact with their support services.
As a starting point, the Business Page of the ATO website is here: https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/. And to get the full rundown on what’s available visit: https://www.ato.gov.au/business/starting-your-own-business/supporting-your-small-business/
Visiting the Small Business Newsroom is another good early step to take. This weekly newsletter is distributed every Sunday, and briefly runs through any changes or issues that are important to business owners. Being prepared for the future is a sensible way to run a business, and tax planning should be part of that preparation. It can be found at: https://www.ato.gov.au/newsroom/smallbusiness/
The ATO have also created an app for smart phones and tablets, which has a range of features including:
- A way to record and manage travel and other work-related expenses using the myDeductions tool
- A calculator to help work out the amount of tax to withhold from salary and wage payments
- A link to ABN Lookup so you can easily check on an ABN, including your own
- A Business performance check tool, where you can compare your business with similar businesses in your industry using the latest small business benchmarks
- A way to work out key dates and, depending on your device, set important reminders and alerts for tax and super obligations
- Login access to ATO online services, including myTax, to lodge your income tax return and track the progress of your return
- Access to a number of other useful tools and calculators
Use your Apple (iOS 7 and later), Android (OS 4.1 and later) or Windows (version 8 and later) phone to download the App.
You can also search for your super, watch videos, and more at: https://www.ato.gov.au/app
Small Business Assist is a simple search tool that allows people to easily find answers in the ATO database using plain language. Find your answers at: http://www.sba.ato.gov.au/
The ATO have also introduced Alex, a new web-based virtual assistant. Alex responds to questions about tax, typed in conversational language, and she can access the information you need. Currently, in the beta version, Alex can only help with very general questions about personal tax, but the ATO hopes she’ll be capable of much more soon. 'Talk' to Alex at: https://beta.ato.gov.au/Tests/Introducing-Alex--our-new-web-assistant
The days of waiting on the phone for a response are over; the ATO now has Web Chat, which is available for small businesses in the afternoons and evenings Monday to Friday and all day Saturday. Start chatting at: http://www.sba.ato.gov.au/Content/After-hours-web-chat---small-business-support/
Users can also book an after hours call back for small business support, and the ATO prides itself on calling everyone back in the exact time frame requested. Get a prompt call back at: http://www.sba.ato.gov.au/Forms/Book-an-after-hours-call-back---small-business-support/
The ATO has also launched an improved series of tax videos.The Tax Basics for Small Business video series provides start-up tips for new business by following three small businesses - a sole trader, a partnership and a company. The videos help the audience to understand some basic tax and superannuation obligations. Start watching at:
The Small Business Tips videos then cover more complicated matters, like the differences between being an employee or contractor, and working from home. See
For more in-depth and interactive help, attend one of the ATO's Small Business Webinars. There are 11 webinars in total; the sessions run for approximately 45 minutes, and topics include deductions, home based business, motor vehicle deductions, GST, record keeping and super obligations. Participants can attend the webinars live and interact with the presenter, or listen to previously recorded sessions. Select a webinar at: https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/Starting-your-own-business/In-detail/Videos-and-webinars/Small-business-webinars/
Finally, the ATO’s Small Business Consultation Panel is a curated list of small business operators who help them deliver improved services for small business by providing practical business and industry expertise. They’re currently looking for new members at: https://www.ato.gov.au/general/consultation/getting-involved-in-consultation/small-business-consultation-panel/. Attendance at the panels is paid and you’ll have a chance to have your opinion heard and encourage even more people-friendly changes at the ATO.
Digital Ready thanks Monica Davidson from Creative Plus Business (https://www.creativeplusbusiness.com) for this very helpful blog. Monica is a business adviser and trainer specialising in creative business and arts entrepreneurship.