'Show me what, how and why'

Based on targeted research and feedback, the ATO is engaging small businesses early so they understand their tax and superannuation obligations right from the start.

In doing this, we embed proven adult learning principles and practices ('show me what, how and why') into products. Our aim is to support small business at natural touch-points across every stage in the business life cycle so they are fully equipped to comply with their tax and superannuation obligations.

In supporting small businesses, the ATO works with community partners and other agencies across all levels of government. Such reach-out initiatives include:

  • the Small Business Newsroom email service, which had an average of 30,000 new subscribers per month (reaching over 1 million by the end of the year), with 19 editions delivering some 124 news items
  • an email and online learning service for new business operators, being piloted in partnership with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, which reached 125,000 new businesses to the end of June, with around 30,000 new Australian business number (ABN) registrants being added every month
  • interactive webinars and face-to-face education sessions, workshops and business events reaching over 12,000 small businesses.

Fix-it Squads remove irritants

The ATO's Small Business Fix-it Squads work with the community and other agencies (across all levels of government) to develop solutions to problems faced by small business.

The squads’ successes have been widely acknowledged and we are now seeing the methodology being applied to other taxpayer segments, and by other agencies.

Across the five squads that have been completed to date, we have consulted with 296 small business owners and 17 industry and adviser groups.

We have collaborated with 30 government agencies to deliver 28 squad recommendations that have saved small businesses a significant amount of time and money. The red tape savings for small business from the first three squads alone have been estimated at $29.5 million per year.

Products delivered by the squads include the Taking on an employee checklist on business.gov.au, the Pay and conditions tool on fairwork.gov.au, and the New to business essentials program pilot conducted in early 2016 (the complete program is now under development).

Helping business operators meet their tax and super obligations

The ATO convened a Mental Health Working Group with small business owners, the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA) and beyondblue. The aim was to find practical solutions to improve the experience of small business operators dealing with mental health issues who need assistance to meet their tax and super obligations.

Outcomes from the initiative include a new web page and YouTube video that provide small business owners with advice on how we can assist (including a call-back service and assistance visits from trained and empathetic staff), as well as a training module and small business mental health panels to provide insights to client-facing staff.

Practical compliance guidelines deliver savings to taxpayers

The ATO's practical compliance guidelines reduce red tape, making it simpler and cheaper for taxpayers to meet their obligations. Those published this year include:

  • three safe harbour initiatives to simplify the calculations and record keeping for fuel tax credit claims, with estimated compliance cost savings of $10 million per year for claimants – supported with a practical compliance guideline and a redesigned calculator and eligibility tool
  • three record-keeping simplification options, which will bring an estimated saving of $31 million per year for those complying with the transfer pricing rules
  • a safe harbour initiative for participants in collapsed managed investment schemes, with compliance cost savings of $15.5 million.