The ATO says it understands that many tax practitioners have been significantly affected by COVID-19 and other events, and may be struggling to keep on top of clients’ lodgment obligations. It says that if you need help at this time, it encourages you to reach out sooner rather than later, as it has services available that can help you and your clients get back on track.
Supporting your practice
If your whole practice has been affected by issues such as ill-health, the loss of a key staff member, COVID-19, or you are generally overwhelmed, the ATO says it can work with you on a supported lodgment program.
This program is designed to help agents and practices of all sizes when you need additional time to lodge a large proportion of clients’ obligations, and are unable to lodge a normal deferral request. The ATO will co-design a lodgment plan that helps get your lodgment program back on track.
You can request a supported lodgment program through Online services for agents via Practice mail. Use the “Debt and Lodgment” topic and “Supported lodgment program” subject.
Alternatively, call the ATO before 5 June on 13 72 86, and use Fast Key Code 1 3 2 if you need help to manage your lodgment program.
Supporting your clients
Exceptional or unforeseen circumstances, may affect your ability to lodge by a due date on behalf of your clients and a lodgment deferral may help. Lodgment deferrals extend the due date for lodgment of a document. They provide additional time to lodge without incurring a failure to lodge on time (FTL) penalty. Contact the ATO to discuss support if a lodgment is late without a deferral.
Tax returns due 15 May already have a concessional lodgment and payment date of 5 June. You can lodge these returns up until 5 June provided your clients pay any liability by this date. You cannot request a deferral for the 5 June concessional lodgment date as it is not a due date under the lodgment program.
Agent assessed deferrals (see below) must be lodged no later than three business days after the lodgment due date. The ATO says it will continue to accept agent requests for agent assessed deferrals for 2020 income tax returns until 20 May 2021.
The ATO generally automatically approves agent assessed deferral requests that meet the criteria, but says it might take up to 28 days at peak times for the updated due dates to show in its systems.
You do not need to wait for confirmation that your application is approved. Reasons for a deferral include serious illness of the practitioner, impeded access to records or the impact of natural or other disasters – see PS LA 2011/15 Lodgment obligations, due dates and deferrals for further details.
You can submit a deferral request by completing the current online application and lodging it through Online services for agents via Practice mail. Use the “Debt and Lodgment” topic and “Agent assessed deferral” subject.
If your request does not meet the criteria for an agent assessed deferral, you can apply for an ATO assessed deferral or deferral for new or re-engaged client with overdue returns.
Lodgment deferral requests for significant global entities or large business, including excise taxpayers, will be considered by the ATO’s large business specialists. For more information about support for these clients please refer to its website.
Agent assessed deferrals
These can provide you with an additional:
- four weeks to lodge annual obligations
- three weeks to lodge quarterly obligations
- two weeks to lodge monthly obligations.
Agent assessed deferrals are available for:
- Tax (IT) returns – except large and medium entities due on 15 January
- Tax (IT) returns for substituted accounting period (SAP) clients – except companies and super funds
- Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) returns
- Monthly and quarterly activity statements – except quarterly PAYG and GST instalment notices form R, S and T or annual PAYG instalment notice form N
- Annual GST returns
- PAYG payment summary annual reports.