Phase 2 coming soon

The ATO is expanding the information that businesses send through Single Touch Payroll (STP). From 1 January 2022, most employers will be required to send additional information such as the commencement date of employment and cessation date of employment for employees, their reasons for leaving employment and work type (eg full-time, part-time). The basic information about salary and wages and super liability information in Phase 1 of the STP rollout will also be further drilled down in Phase 2, moving away from just reporting the gross amounts.

STP was originally introduced in 2016 as a way for employers to report their employees’ tax and super information to the ATO in real time. Most employers, regardless of the number of their employees, were required to start reporting from 1 July 2021 – this included small employers with closely held/related payees. However, employers with a withholding payer number (WPN) have until 1 July 2022 to start reporting payments through STP.

In Phase 1, the information sent to the ATO through STP included basic salaries and wages, PAYG withholding and super liability information. The amount of information sent to the ATO is being expanded in Phase 2, which has a mandatory starting date of 1 January 2022. From that date, each employee included in the STP report will need to have either a TFN or an ABN attached, as well as an employment commencement date.

Additional information will also need to be provided on the employment basis of employees according to their work type. Types include, for example, full-time, part-time, casual, labour hire, voluntary agreement (ie a contractor to bring work payments into the PAYG withholding system), death beneficiary or non-employee (ie a contractor who is included for voluntary reporting of super liabilities only).

According to the ATO, the Phase 2 report will also include a six-character tax treatment code for each employee. The code will be automatically generated by the STP software and is an abbreviated way of outlining the factors that can influence amounts withheld from payments. For example, it’ll let the ATO know whether they are regular employees that have the tax-free threshold applied or not. It will also let the ATO know if they are in special categories of employee, such as actors, horticulturists/shearers, working holiday makers, seasonal workers, foreign residents or seniors.

The basic information about salary and wages and super liability information will also be further drilled down. Instead of reporting the gross amount, employers will need to report the following separately:

• Gross salary and wages;

• Paid leave – including annual, long service, personal/carer, rostered days off (RDOs), study leave, compassionate leave, family and domestic leave, paid parental leave, workers’ compensation, ancillary and defence leave, and cash-out of leave in service;

• Allowances – including cents-per-kilometre, award transport payments, laundry, overtime meal allowance, domestic or overseas travel, tool allowances, qualification and certification allowances, task allowances and other allowances;

• Overtime – including on-call, stand-by or availability allowances, call-back payments, excess travel etc;

• Bonuses and commissions;

• Directors’ fees – including remuneration paid to both working and non-working directors;

• Lump sum W – return to work payment; and

• Salary sacrifice – including reporting pre-sacrifice amounts as well as separate reporting of salary sacrifice.

While most of this increase in information will be automatically taken care of in most employers’ software solutions, the increased stratification of reporting requires more attention to be paid to payroll to ensure all the information entered into the system is correct.


Closely held employees reporting exemption through STP

The ATO registered legislative instrument Taxation Administration – Single Touch Payroll – 2019-20 and 2020-21 Income Years Closely Held Payees Exemption 2021 on 28 July 2021. This instrument exempts certain entities from the requirement to report through STP on payments made to closely held payees. The exemption applies in the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 income years, and the instrument is taken to have commenced on 1 July 2019. It had earlier been issued in draft form.

Small employers with closely held payees have already been exempt from reporting these payees through STP for the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 financial years via ATO administration, and this is what the instrument now formally implements.

For these purposes, small employers are those with 19 or fewer employees. A closely held payee is an individual who is directly related to the entity from which they receive a payment. For example:

• Family members of a family business;

• Directors or shareholders of a company; and

• Beneficiaries of a trust.

The ATO offers the following three options for reporting payments made to closely held payees from 1 July 2021.

Option 1: report actual payments for each pay event

Small employers can report actual payments to closely held payees through STP on or before the date of payment. In other words, whenever the small employer makes a payment to a closely held payee, they report the information on or before each pay event.

Option 2: report actual payments quarterly

Small employers can choose to report any closely held payees on a quarterly basis. However, such employers must continue to report information about all of their other employees via STP on or before payday.

This quarterly option does not change the due date for:

• Notifying and paying PAYG withholding on activity statements;

• Making super guarantee contributions for any closely held payees.

Option 3: report a reasonable estimate quarterly

This reporting option allows small employers to report reasonable year-to-date amounts for their closely held payees quarterly. Not unexpectedly, there is more detail surrounding this option.

The ATO will remit any failure to withhold penalty a small employer may incur if it:

• Reports year-to-date withholding amounts and tax withheld for a closely held payee that is equal to or greater than 25% of the payee’s total gross payments and tax withheld from the previous finalised payment summary annual report (PSAR) across each quarter of the current financial year in its quarterly STP reports;

• Report and pay the tax withheld on time.

It is important that small employers do not underestimate amounts reported for their closely held payees. If an ATO review identifies that a small employer made payments to closely held payees equalling more that 25% of their total gross payments for the last financial year and did not report this through STP, the entity may:

• Be liable for super guarantee charge (SGC) and have to lodge SGC statements (if it did not make sufficient contributions during a quarter);

• Not be able to deduct the payment for income tax; and

• Be liable for penalties and interest.

Correcting information

Quarterly reporters have until the due date of their next quarterly STP report to correct a closely held payee’s year-to-date information.

If a closely held payee will not be included in a following quarterly STP report, the small employer must either:

• Include them in its current quarterly STP report with corrected year to date amounts; or

• Lodge an update event by the relevant due date for quarterly activity statement with the corrected year to date amount for the payee.

Finalisation declarations

Small employers with only closely held payees have up until the due date of the closely held payee’s individual income tax return to make a finalisation declaration for a closely held payee.

Small employers can make a finalisation declaration for a closely held payee at any time during the financial year (eg for closely held payees who have ceased employment). They must make a finalisation declaration for arm’s length employees by 14 July.