Tax office IT projects to ease compliance

New portals facilitate online data interchange

In a rare showing of future developments, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has announced a roadmap for its public-facing applications - from new portals to digital certificates - aimed at helping businesses and individuals fulfil their payment and compliance obligations.

The ATO is working to deliver improved online services to make it easier to locate information on its Web site, and deliver more online tools and calculators.

It is also improving its phone services by having people's history available in one place, which has been made possible due the ongoing integration work as part of the $450 million change program.

For businesses a new business portal will be introduced in 2009, and the notoriously complex digital certificate process will be simplified.

The ATO admits getting more businesses to use the portal is a challenge and recognizes that one barrier has been "the complexity in obtaining and using the necessary digital certificate".

"We are working on changes to simplify this process while retaining a level of security that maintains confidence in the system," according to the ATO. "We'll also work with software providers to make it possible for businesses to access relevant tax office services directly from their accounting software. This will include lodgment of returns."

The ATO also expects the whole of government standard business reporting program to deliver significant efficiencies for business by 2010 by, for example, allowing businesses to use a single secure log-on to submit financial reports to government agencies from in-house accounting software.

Treasury will be working with other agencies and software providers to make it possible for businesses to use their accounting and record-keeping software to report financial information to a number of agencies, including the ATO, Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Boards and senior management of large enterprises will be assisted to ensure they have corporate governance arrangements to manage material tax risks.

The ATO already has forward compliance arrangements in place with ANZ bank and BP.

An alliance with the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and other agencies is working to ensure the Australian business number (ABN) is central to all business-to-government identity and dealings.

"This will give businesses clarity in their dealings with government and over time provide single ways of operating electronically for reporting and registration with the government," according to the ATO. "As the agency with the role of registrar, we will be driving the take-up and use of ABNs across government."

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