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Small businesses warned to start Single Touch Payroll setup next month, ahead of July introduction

The Australian Taxation Office has warned small businesses they must do a headcount of staff on April 1 to determine whether their business will have to use Single Touch Payroll systems from July.

The government outlined in its Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) in December that Single Touch Payroll would be compulsory for all businesses with 20 or more employees from July 1, 2018, and compulsory for all businesses regardless of how many staff they have from July 1, 2019.

ATO assistant commissioner John Shepherd warned businesses this week that if they have 20 or more staff, they must be ready to lodge employee’s pay and superannuation information through the new payroll systems from July 1 — no excuses.

Companies must do a headcount of employees on April 1, and if they have more than 20, they then must ensure they have an accounting product that links up with Single Touch Payroll systems ready to go.

However, Shepherd says some providers of payroll software have asked the ATO to give them more time to get their systems ready beyond the July 1 introduction date, so businesses should check if their software provider has been in contact with the tax office.

“Some payroll software providers have asked us for more time to get ready — employers should ask if their provider has been given a deferral which will cover them, and also check when their product will be updated to offer Single Touch Payroll reporting,” he said in a statement this week.

While businesses with 19 or fewer employees have another year to prepare their systems, the ATO says smaller operators may voluntarily start to use Single Touch Payroll systems ahead of time.

The tax office and federal government have championed the new system as a way to better track how employers are paying staff entitlements in real time, but experts have previously told SmartCompany they believe some companies will be dragged “kicking and screaming” onto to the new system.

The ATO says it has created a range of resources for businesses explaining the most straightforward way to transition to Single Touch systems.

However, the government axed the $100 tax offset small businesses could previously receive when they updated their systems, with its MYEFO statement highlighting that “education” of business owners would be more effective for compliance than financial assistance.

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