Need to defer a client’s lodgment? There’s a proper process for that

The ATO accepts that exceptional or unforeseen circumstances may affect your ability to lodge by a due date on behalf of your clients — and no-one could argue that the COVID-19 era is not both exceptional and unforeseen. And it is under these conditions that a lodgment deferral could provide some much-needed breathing space.

Lodgment deferrals extend the due date for lodgment of a document, and provide additional time to lodge without incurring a failure to lodge on time (FTL) penalty. You can submit a deferral request by completing the current online application and lodging it through Online services for agents.

While it may take more time to process your requests at peak times, the ATO says it generally approves deferral requests, unless special circumstances apply.

There are three types of lodgment deferrals:

  • agent assessed deferrals
  • ATO assessed deferrals – requests that do not meet the criteria for agent assessed deferrals
  • new or re-engaged clients with overdue returns.

For agent assessed deferrals, the circumstances for your deferral request must meet the requirements of PS LA 2011/15 Lodgment obligations, due dates and deferrals. The ATO points out that your request should also be consistent with PS LA 2011/14 General debt collection powers and principles.

Approved agent assessed deferral requests do not apply to FBT returns where the payment due date remains as 28 May for returns lodged online, or 21 May if returns are lodged by paper, or if the lodgment is for individual tax returns or trust returns as these have a payment due date 21 days after the issue of the notice of assessment.

Individual, trust and partnership substituted accounting period (SAP) clients are eligible for agent assessed deferrals. Company and super fund SAP clients will need to request an ATO assessed deferral.

Lodgment deferrals available for agents

Lodgment obligation Tax agents BAS agents
Tax (IT) returns – except large and medium entities due on 15 January Yes No
Tax (IT) returns – substituted accounting period (SAP) clients – except companies and super funds Yes No
FBT returns Yes No
Monthly and quarterly activity statements – except quarterly PAYG and GST instalment notices form R, S and T or annual PAYG instalment notice form N Yes Yes
Annual GST return Yes Yes
PAYG payment summary annual report Yes Yes

Submitting your request for an agent assessed deferral
To apply for an agent assessed deferral, submit your application through Online services for agents:

  • complete and save the Agent assessed deferral application in Excel format and attach it to the appropriate mail message
  • select the appropriate topic based on the obligation included in the request
  • select the subject “Agent assessed deferral”.

If you are submitting a second lodgment deferral request for the same obligation, you should use the ATO assessed deferral request form (accessible on the same link above).

When submitting a request for deferral:

  • save a copy of the form in Excel format and attach it to the appropriate secure mail message
  • list multiple clients on a single form, however you must lodge separate deferral request forms for each lodgment obligation type listed.

As mentioned, the ATO says that most requests for deferral will be approved and processed. You will receive notification in Online services for agents, and the deferred due dates will show in:

  • Online services for agents
  • practitioner lodgment service (PLS) client report.

If you have existing clients or engage new clients (including previous clients) with one or more years of overdue tax returns to lodge, remember that only the current year tax return is included in the lodgment program on-time performance measurement. Your on-time lodgment performance will only be affected if you lodge the current year return after the due date or deferred due date.

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