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small business assistance program








Presented by:Gary Holland

Australian Taxation Office

  • In 2007 additional funds were allocated for the Tax Office to provide increased support for small business
  • Improving assistance to small business has been identified in the Compliance Program as a key priority for the Tax Office
  • The Tax Office is committed to consulting with the business community and key intermediaries to identify ways to improve the assistance available to small business
what is the small business assistance program
What is the Small Business Assistance Program

This program seeks to:

  • Provide practical, effective information and assistance to small business operators
  • Review current products and services – and co-design new products and services with small businesses
  • Make it easy for small business operators to comply with their tax obligations, whilst minimising the cost of compliance
  • Build a relationship with small businesses where they will feel more comfortable seeking help, either through the Tax Office or through intermediaries.
small business assistance program scenario
Small Business Assistance Program scenario

This scenario demonstrates, from the small business owner’s point of view, the way that the Small Business Assistance Program will provide:

  • practical assistance to those new to business
  • more proactive assistance to those having trouble complying with their tax obligations, and
  • assistance to those undertaking new stages within their business such as becoming an employer.

In practice a small business operator may choose to access only some of the assistance services offered

small business assistance program scenario5
Small Business Assistance Program scenario

The following services are available to small businesses through the Program:

  • Tax Office initiated assistance calls
  • Various types of business assistance visits
  • Tax Basics seminars
  • record keeping and Employer Essentials workshops

NB: All assistance visits are covered by the Commissioner’s Guarantee. This means they are educational and the information shared with field officers is confidential and will not be used for any other purpose.

Robert has an idea for a landscaping business.

Robert recognises that he needs help. He researches through:

  • Business Enterprise Centres
  • talking to friends and family, and
  • the internet - including

The information available on leads Robert to

Robert visits and gets the checklist for new businesses.

He reads about assistance visits and thinks this would be useful, but as he has been very busy setting up the business he doesn’t book one.

He also registers for an ABN and GST on


Expanded services:

    • Assistance visits offered to more businesses
    • Personalised Field Kit
  • New service:
    • Personalised Calendar (this tool is under development, to be released in the first half of 2008)

Because Robert registered for GST for the first time he receives a call from Sherri in the ME&I client contact centre.

Sherri provides advice regarding Robert’s tax obligations and talks to him about the assistance available to him - publications, seminars, online services, and assistance visits.

Robert tells Sherri that he would like an assistance visit. Sherri tells him he will be contacted by the ATO within three days to arrange a visit.

Two days later, Gavin, a GST field officer, calls Robert to discuss his business and the information he needs. Gavin makes a time and date for the assistance visit, which will be at Robert’s house.

At Robert’s house Gavin gives Robert the tailored field kit (which includes Gavin’s business card). They discuss GST, record keeping, Business Activity Statements, budgeting and where to get more tax help and assistance in the future.

Gavin helps Robert to install e-Record and shows Robert how to produce a BAS. Gavin also helps Robert to download the personalised calendar.


New services:

  • Employer obligations call pilot
  • Employer obligations visit

Six months later… Robert’s landscaping business booms and he now has to hire staff.

To find out what he needs to know he checks the field kit that Gavin gave him. He then calls the Tax Office helpline on 13 28 66.

Robert speaks to Brett from the ATO client contact centre.

Brett talks to Robert about how many employees he plans to take on, whether he will pay them weekly, fortnightly or monthly and whether he will be lodging electronically or by paper.

Brett tells Robert that he will mail him an employer obligations kit.

Brett also registers Robert for PAYG withholding.

Robert receives an employer obligations kit. It contains:

  • TFN declarations
  • payment summaries
  • Tax Instalment Deduction (TID) schedules.

Expanded services:

  • Increased number of Employer Essentials workshops
  • Contact centre can register client for a workshop

In the month following registering for PAYG withholding, Loretta from New to Business calls Robert to talk about his employer obligations. Loretta tells Robert that the Tax Office can provide him with further assistance through an employer obligations visit, a workshop, or assistance over the phone.

Loretta registers Robert for an Employer Essentials workshop while he is on the phone.

Three weeks later, Robert attends an Employer Essentials workshop. Robert understands he is now required to:

  • fill in the employer labels on his BAS
  • send appropriate payments with his BAS
  • provide payment summaries annually to staff*, and
  • pay superannuation guarantee for his employees and provide them a choice of super fund.

Robert’s next BAS arrives with additional labels.




  • Expanded service:
  • Call from ATO to new business when BAS is late
  • New services:
  • SMS lodgment reminder
  • Record Keeping workshops
  • Intensive Assistance Visit

Four months later… Robert is having a tough time due to the impact of the drought on his business.

Robert receives an SMS reminder 2 weeks before his BAS is due, but ignores it because he knows that he can’t afford to pay his tax this month.

Not only does Robert have cash flow problems, he has also fallen behind on his record keeping and has lost track of some of the business papers he needs to complete his BAS.

The due date for lodging his BAS comes and goes.

Robert receives a call from Rod in the New to Business team. Rod talks to Robert about why he has not lodged or paid.

Rod finds that Robert is willing to comply, but his records are not up to date and he is having money troubles.

Rod tells Robert about the general interest charge and possible penalties for failure to lodge. Rod advises Robert that in future if he is having difficulty paying his tax he should call the Debt Hotline on 131 142 to discuss how the ATO can assist.

Rod also tells Robert we can help him to reconstruct his records. He tells Robert about the record keeping workshops that will help him keep on track in the future.

Robert says he doesn’t have time to go to a workshop, but would be grateful if we could help him get his records sorted out. Rod says that someone will call him in a few days to set up an appointment.

Three days later Mick, a GST assistance officer, calls Robert to discuss his situation and makes an appointment to visit Robert.

During the visit, Mick and Robert discuss the reasons behind Robert’s failure to lodge and pay. Mick tells Robert how to re-create his business records from bank accounts, invoices etc.

Robert also explains that he is unable to pay the tax he owes, which was another reason he hadn’t lodged his BAS.


Expanded service:

  • Assistance Officers can negotiate a payment arrangement.

Mick explains that Robert should always lodge even if he can’t pay, as the Tax Office will take into account mitigating circumstances and can negotiate a payment arrangement.

He also explains the benefits of Robert initiating action (eg calling the ATO’s Debt Hotline) rather than waiting for late notices. Mick and Robert get the lodgment up to date, which establishes a new debt.

Mick works out a payment arrangement by looking at the business cash flow and talking to Robert about what would work best for him.

They decide on an upfront payment with the balance to be paid in instalments over the next six months.

Robert is now aware of his lodgment obligations and he follows the payment plan he has worked out with Mick.


Twelve months later… Robert’s business is going well and he upgrades his computer

Robert remembers reading something in his field kit about being able to lodge online. He finds the information sheet about the ATO’s online services.

Robert goes on the business homepage and registers for the Business Portal.

Within two weeks Robert receives a How to work online information kit in the post.

Robert also separately receives:

  • a digital certificate, and
  • a PIN to access the Business Portal.
Two weeks later Robert has not accessed the Business Portal.

Danielle, from GST Field, calls Robert to find out if she can assist him in using the Business Portal.

Robert tells Danielle he hasn’t used the Business Portal because he can’t seem to access it.

Danielle asks Robert if he would like her to visit him to help him set up the Business Portal and go through what services he can access through the Business Portal.

Danielle arranges to visit Robert at his premises next week.

When Danielle arrives she finds that Robert has firewall issues so she calls the technical help desk on 1300 139 051.

Danielle resolves the technical issues and takes Robert through the setup of the Business Portal.

Danielle then shows Robert what he can do in the Business Portal, including:

  • checking his running balance account
  • reviewing and changing his registration details, and
  • lodging his BAS

Robert uses the Business Portal to lodge his BAS, he finds it easier to lodge electronically and continues to interact with the ATO online.

input from this forum
Input from this forum
  • What are the best ways to provide information and promote available assistance to members of your industry?
  • Do you have any suggestions for how we can help members of your industry deal with their tax affairs?
  • How effective are our products and services in educating and assisting small business operators in the Tourism and Hospitality industries?
  • Are there any significant gaps in the products and services we provide?