Vendors, ATO provide online resources for SMEs

Announcing an increase in customer support resources of ‘166 per cent', MYOB CEO Craig Winkler said today that "This demand has been felt across the board ­ Government, the Australian Taxation Office, and most of all small business". Meanwhile, other software vendors have published information pages to assist businesses with the implementation of the tax.

With the ‘New Tax System' in effect from July 1st, the Federal Government has been campaigning to alert small and medium businesses to acquire an Australian Business Number (ABN), with those not equipped with an ABN running the risk of significant tax and accounting problems after this date. The ATO has scheduled the period between June 28th and July 3rd to change computer systems over, with Tax Commissioner Michael Carmody saying that the Department will be unable to address all inquiries during this period.

In spite of launching a new electronic lodgement system last week, Mr Carmody admitted that the system changeover will cause some problems for users. "Tax agents using our electronic lodgement system may experience some disruption to the gateway prior to 28 June," said Mr Carmody, adding that the department will be ‘taking steps' to inform agents individually of the changes. The ATO is expecting to have to implement 4000 changes to its computing system during this period, which Carmody estimated is ‘eight times' the normal amount of system changes made from year to year.

The ATO's Tax Reform web site has information on aspects of the new system for individuals, businesses (including non-profit business) and for tax agents. The GST Start-Up page, operated by the GST Start-Up Assistance Office contains fact sheets about the GST, details about GST seminars, as well as access to the GST Start-Up's Adviser Education, Direct Assistance and Organisation delivered programs, as well as Business Skills Education material. The department of Workplace Relations and Small Business has published GST material on its Business Entry Point site, including access to the online version of the Australian Business Register as well as an online registration point for those without an ABN.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has published a special GST page, offering an online pricing kit for small businesses, as well as a search component for those wanting to know price variations for specific products.

Software vendors themselves are also publishing information online, with Quicken publishing a GST page that contains links to information and support pages for Quicken users. Sapphire users are being offered an additional support plan known as the Opal Support Plan.

MYOB's Craig Winkler has confirmed that undue confusion leading up to the implementation of the tax has contributed to "strong demand" for assistance during the period leading up to implementation. Winkler continued that "Confusion over external factors - such as the $200 GST Start Up Assistance voucher and recent PAYG changes has produced an unprecedented level of demand". Winkler says this demand has been felt across the board, with Government agencies, the ATO and small businesses shouldering the responsibility. MYOB has reported 100,000 calls for technical assistance in May alone.

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Miguel D'Souza

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