4th February, 2018

Get your practice prepared for Single Touch Payroll

Single Touch Payroll (STP) will not be SuperStream 2.0 – so it’s important to get prepared now.

A lot of accountants I’ve spoken to over the last couple of months have observed that they’re not really doing much around STP because they fear the start date will just end up being pushed out – like it was for SuperStream.

But the ATO would have learned a lot from the delayed launch of SuperStream, so betting on STP being delayed is something of a fool’s game.

Want to avoid having you and your clients behind the eight ball?

Here’s how to get your firm’s plan started.

Start familiarising yourself with Single Touch Payroll key dates

The ATO sent information out to tax agents late last year, and it has very comprehensive information on its website. It’s the perfect starting point.

The key dates are:

1 April 2018

• All clients will need to do a headcount to determine their start date

1 July 2018

• Start date for employers with 20 or more employees as at 1 April 2018

1 July 2019

• Start date for employers with 19 or less employees as at 1 April 2018

Start talking to your clients

This doesn’t need to be too comprehensive; just be aware that they’re going to hear more from you regarding STP between now and 1 July.

You can talk about how the ATO is committed to encouraging a level playing field for all businesses.

Also explain how the ATO is committed to interacting with businesses in a more digital way, which is exactly the point of STP.

Let them know as more information is released that you will continue to keep them updated to make sure their transition is successful.

READ: Your practice and STP

Start talking to your team

Members of your team are likely going to be on the other end of the phone when a panicked client calls up asking about the looming STP deadline – so be prepared.

Make sure they’re well versed in both the mechanics of the STP and the benefits of STP, and they’ll be confident to deal with inquiries and concerns that might arise.

There are a few ways to keep your team updated. I would suggest a combination of getting them to subscribe to ATO emails, asking them to jump onto the ATO website to read the STP articles, and then conducting regular lunch-and-learn sessions.

You could also appoint someone in your firm as the “STP Champion”. I did this in my practice for Superstream, Cloud Accounting and FBT and it worked a treat!

Start talking to your accounting software partner managers

Accounting software providers have been heavily involved with all of the ATO’s STP working groups, and they to want to make sure the transition for your clients and theirs is as seamless and as cost effective as possible.

As software becomes STP compliant, there’ll be a lot more communication from them – but just stay in touch with your partner managers so you can relay that information to clients in a timely fashion.

Your software provider may also have some checklists that you can provide to your clients.

Devise your firm’s Single Touch Payroll plan

Depending on how savvy your clients are, there may be a lot of work involved in coming up with a plan – or very little.

If clients aren’t using accounting software at all, now’s the time to have that conversation with them.

A gentle nudge might be all that’s needed to plant the seed for those clients who have 19 employees or fewer, but the ones with 20 or more that are still using a wages book will need more prodding.

The next thing is to look at the accuracy of the data for clients that are currently using software.

Remember that once in the STP system, your clients’ payroll information will be transmitted “as is” to the ATO.

Of course, this can be corrected, but wouldn’t it make more sense to help your clients to get things right from the start?

Teach them how to check the accuracy of their data after each pay run, or offer them an additional checking service in the lead up to 1 July.

Devise a communication plan, complete with content to be covered and dates to be delivered to your clients. I hope my recommendations are helpful in mapping things out.

The success of STP will rest heavily on education, something the ATO is passionate about and something you can assist with too.

If your clients start hearing about STP in the media, from the ATO and from the mate down the pub that has been speaking to their accountant, you may never get the opportunity to speak with them.

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