The ABR constitutes Program 1.3 of the Treasury Portfolio Budget Statement for the ATO.
The statement identifies an objective and set of deliverables, as well as a set of key performance indicators (KPIs), against which we report on performance.
The ABR provides an authoritative and trusted source of business identity information and issues the ABN to uniquely identify businesses and streamline government and business interaction.
The objective of the program is to progress the ABR as a whole-of-government resource for streamlining business and government interactions. The ABN acts as the unique identifier enabling these interactions.
Our performance in maintaining, enhancing and promoting use of the ABR and AUSkey and working with Treasury and other agencies to implement SBR is reported in this part of the report against the following key performance indicators:
The ABR is a comprehensive database of identity information provided by businesses and other organisations, including government bodies and non-profit organisations, when they register for an ABN.
As a unique trusted identifier, the ABN not only accurately identifies businesses in their dealings with government, but it also enables other businesses and consumers to verify the identity of the entities they are dealing with. The publicly available data, searchable using the online ABN Lookup facility, includes entity name, ABN, GST status, and, in the case of charities and non-profits, their government-endorsed status. Business names are being added progressively.
Government agencies (Australian, state, territory and local) can access more detailed non-publicly available information on the register to support their programs.
The total number of entities with an active ABN grew by 5.0% to 7,352,523 over the year, compared with an increase of 6.2% in the previous year. The rate of growth in active ABNs fell for individuals, trusts and partnerships, but rose for companies and superannuation funds.
Significant increases were recorded in all major industry sectors, with the notable exception of construction, where the number of ABNs increased by less than 1% following an increase of 5.8% in 2010–11 (see appendix 4).
The slowing growth in active ABNs reflects in part a large increase in the number of Registrar-initiated cancellations, mainly of individuals who were found to be not operating an enterprise, as part of a stepped-up integrity and enforcement program (see ' integrity of ABR data’). The construction sector accounted for 40.3% of all Registrar-initiated cancellations in 2011–12.
Blank – No main industry code
Accommodation and food services
Arts and recreation services
Administrative and support services
Education and training
Electricity, gas, water and waste
Financial and insurance services
Health care and social assistance
Information media and telecommunications
Public administration and safety
Professional, scientific and technical services
Rental, hiring and real estate services
Transport, postal and warehousing
We received 712,191 applications for registration, a 1.9% increase over the previous year. The number of new registrations and reissued ABNs (total registrations) fell by 2.4%. Of the 712,191 applications 587,333 successfully registered for an ABN. The unsuccessful applications are due to a number of factors including the applicant not being eligible for an ABN and the same applicant submitting more than one application.
In relation to new registrations and reissued ABNs (total registrations), there was very strong growth for super funds, and significant growth for companies, but continuing declines for individuals, partnerships and trusts.
A total of 3,652,360 updates were made to the ABR in 2011–12, a decline of 8.4% over the previous year. The decline reflected a spike in updates experienced in 2010–11 due to the introduction of AUSkey. In addition to the updates initiated by the client directly to the Registrar, some updates are also taken from ATO systems and from information supplied by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
ABN registration applications can be made online at the website or on a paper form. In 2011–12, 99.1% of applications were made via the website compared with 96.2% in the previous year.
Registration processing was adversely impacted by the introduction of the new ABR information technology system platform (see below), with 88.9% of registrations being processed within 28 days (against a service standard of 93%) and 93.7% within 42 days (against a service standard of 99%).
The ABR’s information technology system was upgraded during the year, reducing the risk of unplanned outages and enabling business name registrations to be completed using a link from the ABR website to the ASIC website from 28 May 2012. This is the first step in a two-phase project, with the second phase to deliver a combined ABN/business name online application – two of the most common registrations for new businesses.
Publicly available information now includes registered business names.
Anyone can use the online ABN Lookup facility (www.abr.business.gov.auExternal Link). This facility is hosted by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education and allows access to ABR public data including basic details such as entity name, ABN and GST status.
The number of searches in 2011–12 increased by 64% over the previous year. Searches via the website (essentially manual searches) accounted for 32% of searches, with the remainder via web services functionality. This facility allows registered users to integrate ABN Lookup with their own software applications. For example, a software application that uses the ABN as a business identifier can interact with ABN Lookup to automatically validate details or populate a database with public information on the ABR.
As the single ‘source of truth’ for whole-of-government business registrations, the ABR’s integrity is vital not just for the national tax system but for state taxation, superannuation, business confidence and the wellbeing of workers.
Integrity depends on:
The substantial increase in resources allocated to compliance activities this year has allowed higher scrutiny of registrations and continuing registration (resulting in more than double the number of Registrar-initiated cancellations).
Our integrity and enforcement strategy is risk-driven. We use risk profiling to identify patterns that indicate a higher-than-average risk of ineligible entities being registered. These higher-risk groups are subject to greater scrutiny in registration processing and in verification of continuing registration.
During the year we focused on strengthening the ABR risk management framework and having it more strongly supported by an intelligence capability. Improvements include the development of a risk-profiling tool, which will provide greater rigour in the identification of ABN holders that need to be checked for eligibility.
Our efforts to raise awareness in the community around the rules for registration and issuing of ABNs and to counter misunderstandings will be backed up by a stronger focus on enforcement in the coming year and beyond. During 2010–11 we developed a set of messages to support the new penalty regime, which provides for a penalty to be imposed on someone who makes a false statement in relation to applying for an ABN.
False or misleading statements could result in a penalty of up to $6,600 (refer to PS LA 2012/4 Administration of penalties for making false or misleading statements that do not result in shortfall amounts). The penalty applies to statements made on or after 4 June 2010 but may be remitted or reduced if the person makes a voluntary disclosure about the statement before we contact them.
To support the application of the new penalty arrangements, we are developing a range of compliance products and processes. These are being trialled with a view to applying them to larger scale review work.
Entities such as companies, super funds and government entities are entitled to an ABN.
As individuals are only entitled to an ABN where they are carrying on an enterprise as a sole trader, the online registration process takes the applicant through a series of questions to establish their bona fides before their application is processed.
Before starting the application process, individuals can also check their entitlement to an ABN by using an online tool, which takes them through a detailed set of questions to help them determine their eligibility.
In 2011–12, we refused 45,835 applications for an ABN from individuals compared with 36,721 in the previous year, an increase of 25%.
Accommodation and food services
To maintain the integrity of the ABR, we operate a continuing program to verify eligibility and remove ineligible entities where there are indicators that an entity is not entitled to an ABN. These include where the registrant has not made a lodgment with the ATO for several consecutive years (indicated by factors such as not reporting business income or not lodging activity statements).
A more systematic focus for the program in 2011–12 resulted in 99,463 ABN registrations being cancelled by the Registrar, almost double the number in the previous year. Sole traders accounted for 98% of Registrar-initiated cancellations, almost all on the grounds that the individual was not in fact carrying on an enterprise.
Change in structure (letter2)
Client deceased (letter)
Not operating an enterprise (letter)
Company deregistered (letter)
Change in structure (no letter3)
Client deceased (no letter)
Not operating an enterprise (no letter)
Fraud (no letter)
Company deregistered (no letter)
About a quarter of all cancellations in 2011–12 were in the construction sector, reflecting our increased compliance focus on this sector.
In addition to cancellations by the Registrar, ABN holders themselves voluntarily initiate cancellation of their registration. This sometimes follows our contact with them to discuss their eligibility. There were 137,289 client-initiated cancellations in 2011–12.
Change in structure
Not operating in Australia
Other reason provided
Temporary suspension of business
To assess industry-based approaches to improving compliance, we conducted a risk assessment pilot focusing on three industries – taxi, telemarketing and cleaning – identified as high-risk for compliance with the ABN eligibility rules. The review of about 300 ABN holders in each of these sectors found that a significant percentage of those reviewed were not in business, and their registrations were cancelled.
In the taxi industry there is a compliance risk associated with a streamlined registration process that recognises the requirement for taxi drivers to register for GST (for which an ABN is a prerequisite). In the case of the cleaning and telemarketing industries, the pilot revealed a level of sham contracting practices.
Some figures may vary to those elsewhere in this report due to a system change in May 2012 which changed the way information was recorded.
These and other compliance risks will be addressed through an expanded integrity and enforcement program under the Towards a better business future (TBBF) program (see 'Challenges and where we are heading').
A program to cancel the ABNs of deregistered companies was put on hold in 2011–12 while we resolved issues related to the way in which we exchange data with the ASIC (and in the meantime focused on individual ABN holders). With these issues now largely resolved, we will resume the systematic cancellation of deregistered companies’ ABNs.
To avoid unnecessary cancellations where a company has been deregistered for administrative reasons (such as failure to pay fees) and subsequently reregistered, we will allow a period of ‘grace’, generally 12 months before cancelling the ABN of a deregistered company.
Some figures may vary to those elsewhere in this report due to a system change in May 2012 which changed the way information was recorded.
Registrants are required to update their ABR details within 28 days of any changes occurring, although this is not widely known (see 'ABR survey)
AUSkey holders (see 'AUSkey') can electronically update their ABR records.
The TBBF program (see 'Challenges and where we are heading') includes initiatives to prompt ABN holders to update their details.
We measure the accuracy of registration processing, which is undertaken by our service providers in the ATO, according to an acceptable quality level (AQL) approach. Against a target of 95%, the AQL for processing of new registrations and updates in 2011–12 was 93.9% compared with 86.7% for the previous year.
To improve the quality of processing, we have continued to work with the ATO to ensure the products and processes they use are up to date, practical and comply with the law.
We have developed contact products (scripts for phone contact and proforma letters) and processes for use when reviewing the entitlement of ABN holders in identified high-risk groups. These products are designed to support both small-scale, targeted campaigns, as well as for use in a high-volume work environment. Additional products have also been developed to support the implementation of the new penalty regime.
When applying for an ABN or maintaining registration details in the ABR it is important that the information applicants or registrants provide is true and correct. Making a false or misleading statement to the Registrar could result in a penalty.
A particular focus this year has been to assist processing staff to better understand entitlement decisions relating to a request for an ABN and potential refusal of the application.
A full suite of training products is available for use by ATO staff. Regular meetings also occur to discuss and review options for improvements for both enabling products and resolution of exceptions or improvements to the operating system.
Other programs to improve the accuracy and currency of data include:
To be entitled to an ABN, an entity must be a:
If the entity is not one of these types of entity (for example, it is an individual or partnership), it is entitled to an ABN if all of the following statements apply:
For partnerships where all or most of the partners are individuals, a reasonable expectation of profit must apply.
The results of our 2011 ABR survey strongly reinforce the need for increased integrity and enforcement efforts, including a stronger focus on community education, to reduce the number of ineligible entities, particularly individuals, holding ABNs, and encourage ABN holders to keep their details up to date.
In trend terms, the latest findings broadly align with the findings of previous surveys.
Of the ABN holders surveyed, 25% volunteered that their ABN was no longer required. Extrapolated to the entire population, this suggests that approximately 1.8 million of the 7.1 million active ABNs (at the time of the survey) are no longer in use or not required. Of these about 1.3 million would be individuals.
On the basis of entity types, the percentages who indicated that they still required their ABN were:
Of the ABR data fields:
Individuals who volunteered that they no longer required an ABN were more likely to have incorrect address details on the ABR. This suggests that cancelling ABNs no longer required significantly improves the accuracy of address records.
Only 51% of ABN holders were aware of the requirement to update ABR details within 28 days of any changes.
The survey was conducted over the phone (for the second year) based on a sample of 1,650 ABN holders, of whom contact could be made with 51%. Other evidence, such as voice messages, suggested that the phone contact numbers were correct for 62% of the sample. Only 34% of ABR entries had a usable email address.
Analysis of the results suggests that the accuracy of an ABN record diminishes over time.
Shortcomings in the accuracy of the ABR have implications for agencies that use ABR data. Relying on inaccurate records affects the quality of research and analysis activities and the targeting of government programs, and results in unnecessary administrative costs.
Inaccurate address data, in particular, has implications for agencies that are using such information in regulating business activities and in planning disaster recovery and economic modelling.
Improving the integrity of the ABR has both an external and internal focus. On the one hand, we need to improve community awareness of and compliance with the eligibility criteria and the requirement for ABN holders to update their details, such as address and contact information, when they change. Internally, we need to improve the quality of processing and maintenance of data.
It’s not enough for eligibility criteria to be satisfied when entities first register for an ABN. If their circumstances change and they are no longer eligible they are required to cancel their ABN. The survey revealed that some ABN holders believe, incorrectly, that their ABNs would be automatically cancelled if not used.
Many ABN holders, and their agents and advisers, are unaware of the requirement to update their ABR records within 28 days of any changes. Some believe, incorrectly, that updating such details on income tax returns, for example, will not only update their tax records, but also their ABR record. This is not necessarily the case as only some updates are passed from ATO systems to the ABR. In any event, the lodgment of such information with the ATO may not satisfy the requirement to update ABR records within 28 days.
Where they have an AUSkey, ABN holders and their agents can update their details online, but awareness of this is not widely known even among agents.
Third parties have a big influence on compliance with the requirements of the ABR.
There is anecdotal evidence, supported by the ABR Survey results, that people may be prompted to apply for an ABN by third parties – such as employers/clients, retailers and educational institutions – even where they are not eligible.
Agents and advisers are also a key leverage point for the integrity of the ABR, as for many ABN holders their agent manages their ABN registration.
The ABR is a comprehensive database of identity information provided by businesses when they register for their ABN.
While anyone can use the ABN Lookup facility http://www.abr.business.gov.au/External Link) to access ABR public data (basic details such as entity name, ABN and GST status), non-public data (including details of the entity’s business activities and associates) is only available to Australian, state, territory and local government agencies under conditions set by the ABN Act.
Agencies use non-public data in a wide range of ways, including in service delivery, licensing, education on regulatory requirements, compliance activities, and pre-filling and validation of data in forms lodged by businesses online. Many councils also use ABR data to monitor local business activity and trends for planning and economic development purposes.
With another 128 partner agencies engaged during 2011–12, taking the total to 387, we now have a critical mass of customers whose use of ABR is becoming embedded in their business models. Of the 387 partner agencies we have 333 using non-public data (a full list of our partner agencies is included as appendix 1).
The number of agency partners, particularly local councils, is increasing as they become aware of how existing users are benefiting from the use of ABR data.
Following a presentation by the Registrar at a national conference of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) in Canberra in June 2012, in which he outlined the many different ways in which councils are using the ABR data, ten local government agencies signed agreements to become ABR partners. Of the ten new partner agencies, seven were directly attributed to the attendance of an agency delegate at the ALGA conference.
Partner agency satisfaction is measured each year through a service review survey. In 2011–12, satisfaction levels were comparable with the previous year, except for data quality. Satisfaction with data quality declined from 95.3% to 91.5%.
To simplify and streamline the partnering process, we introduced a standard terms and conditions agreement for ABR partnerships during the year to replace MOUs (memorandum of understanding). The standard agreement provides a speedier, less resource-intensive and more flexible way of providing agencies with access to data while ensuring that legal requirements for access are met.
Previously, agencies wanting access to ABR non-public data were required to sign a tailored MOU, which would need to be amended whenever the agency wanted to change their use of the data in any significant way.
Now agencies wanting access to ABR non-public data complete a Terms and Conditions for access to ABR information. This designates an officer of the partner agency as an ‘entrusted person’ (under the ABN Act), who is empowered to make an assessment against the Act on the agency’s use of the data without further reference to the Registrar.
We annually renew a sample of agencies to ensure they are using the data correctly.
Agency partners are generally being transitioned to the standard terms and conditions as the MOUs come up for annual re-accreditation. Under the new arrangements, there will no longer be a requirement for annual re-accreditation. Our partnership managers will maintain regular contact with their clients to help them maximise the value they receive from ABR data and realise its full potential.
Agencies can access ABR data via the secure Bulk Data Exchange (BDE) electronic portal, on disk, or via Fed Link (Australian Government agencies only). Most agencies are now starting to use BDE, as it is fast and efficient.
To analyse the data, many agencies use our ABR Query software application, which allows users to sort and filter ABR data. Following feedback from agency partners, the tool was enhanced during the year with additional indicator fields for easier filtering of entity types and ABNs of interest.
Currently, ABR Query is used by more than 100 agencies, mainly local councils and others that use small data sets. Developing an analysis tool for all agencies to improve ease of use of ABR data is part of a proposed body of work for 2012–13.
This year we also started using an online web-based system, Webbex, to provide training in the use of ABR Query and to demonstrate use of ABR data generally. We also use Webbex as an online conference facility to demonstrate the potential of ABR data.
Bulk data extracts (data disc)
Bulk data extracts (bulk data exchange)
Online subscription to an ABN (Agency services)
ABN Lookup (public data)
Victorian local councils drew on non-public ABR data to help local communities recover from Victoria’s devastating Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.
For example, Nillumbik Shire Council used ABR data to identify home-based businesses and primary producers impacted by the fires. They were able to provide them with information on the various government assistance programs available to help them rebuild, including emergency grants, low-interest loan schemes, and free business advice and counselling services.
One city council uses ABR data to check an entity’s details and confirm address information for sending compliance notices, ensuring they are sent to the correct legal entity.
The ABR data also provides details about an entity’s directors and associates, and this is used to locate them for recovery of unpaid rates.
This council also uses the ABR data to validate tender submissions, verifying the ABN details of an entity and ensuring the details provided are valid and correct. It is a mandatory for the supplier to provide a valid ABN before the tender submission is considered.
Significant efficiencies have been gained by using the ABR data to check entity information before contracts are awarded. Previously all checks were made through commercial information brokers.
Another council in western Sydney has recently begun using ABR data to identify and verify entity details to ensure rates rebates and exemptions, such as those available to agricultural enterprises and charities, are applied fairly.
We have upgraded the ABR’s information technology system, enabling business name registrations to be completed using a link from the ABR website to the ASIC new business name registration service. This service replaced state and territory trading name registration systems on 28 May 2012.
Work is progressing for the next system changes due in late November 2012. These will deliver a combined ABN/business name online application – two of the most common registrations for new businesses. Users will only need to enter their details once to apply for an ABN and register a business name.
Business names registered with ASIC from 28 May 2012 will be included on the entity’s ABR record and be shown on ABN Lookup. While business names registered before 28 May 2012 on a state or territory register have been automatically transferred to the ASIC business names register, they will only be included on the entity’s ABR record and shown on ABN Lookup where the entity provides their ABN to ASIC.
Work is underway to support other current government initiatives that will rely or impact on ABR, including:
Under the TBBF program, the Government provided $68.5 million over four years from 2012–13 to improve the operation of the ABR through four key projects:
The integrity and enforcement initiatives were estimated in the Budget to increase tax revenue by an estimated $97.7 million over the period by refusing or cancelling the registration of people who are more correctly identified as employees. This will require them to be engaged under the pay as you go regime.
These initiatives will include:
In addition, there will be reviews of 200,000 ABR records under an ongoing program that involves cancelling ABNs and advising the entity where there is evidence that they are no longer eligible.
In the future, when a late night shift worker rides the bus in the City of Auburn in Sydney western suburbs they could have the ABR to thank.
The council is using ABR data to scope and target services in an innovative new project to provide community support to transport disadvantaged workers in the region.
Using industry codes and address details, the council is approaching large employers operating multiple work shifts in the most disadvantaged areas to gauge the possible need for transport assistance among their employees.
At the same time, the council is using the data to identify potential project partners – both within the transport industry and from licensed clubs or sports and physical recreation clubs where privately-owned minibuses may be available during club downtimes.
In addition to the local transport project, the council relies on ABR data to:
The data is used to support the council’s community strategic plan, corporate planning process, economic development strategy and digital economy strategies
Jenny Coppock, the manager of Economic Development for Auburn City Council, said that ABR data is critical to economic development in the region.
‘ABR data underpins our economic development initiatives – helping us to assist local business managers to manage, strengthen and grow their businesses, create jobs, attract investment and enhance the sustainability of the local and wider economy.’
‘The ABR data has also been invaluable in supporting the NBN rollout across our region,’ she said. ‘It is the constant critical component in any of our projects.’
As one of the largest local councils in Australia, Brisbane City Council is positioning itself as a global hub for the resource and service industry.
Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said Brisbane was at the hub of a global resources boom, which currently contributes $25 billion each year to the city’s economy.
‘In addition to this figure, a further $165 billion worth of new resource projects are expected to be rolled out in Queensland over the next 10 years,’ Mr Quirk said.
‘The challenge for Council is to maximise the economic return from the global resources boom in our city to all sectors over the long term.
‘One of my top priorities this term will be to promote the economic development of our city, and to achieve this I have allocated more than $15 million in this year’s budget towards economic development.’
The mining industry is a key contributor to Brisbane’s economy with every mining job created generating up to 15 jobs in industries that support mining. The city is also the location of headquarters for some of the world’s leading mining and energy companies.
Brisbane City Council has an Economic Development Plan that ensures the city will continue to attract companies and gain a competitive advantage by providing a well connected business environment for resource industry technologies and services.
In developing its Economic Development Plan 2012–2013, Brisbane City Council used ABR data to profile the mining sector. Before this analysis, Council was aware there were a large number of mining companies in Brisbane, but was pleasantly surprised by the results.
The analysis identified over 170 mining companies registered in the local government area, as well as a large number of companies providing goods, services and technologies to this sector. They also discovered that a world class mining equipment manufacturer was based in Brisbane.
Using the ABR Query tool, the council identified entities using the ANZSIC code, entity type and GST status, and used address commonalities to find sizable companies.
Going forward, the ABR data will allow the council to track the growth of mining and associated industries.
Using the ABR data to profile the mining industry has highlighted to Brisbane City Council the potential for analysis of other industries that are important to the city’s economy.
AUSkey is a whole-of-government authentication solution that provides ABN holders with a cost effective, secure and easy-to-use way of digitally verifying their identity for online transactions with government agencies.
AUSkey is a single digital key to access government online services. Its growing acceptance as the preferred national authentication solution is reducing the need for businesses and other organisations to maintain multiple identifiers and passwords to interact with government online.
Following the strong initial take-up in 2010–11 (AUSkey was introduced in May 2010), the past year saw further growth. There were 751,452 active AUSkeys at 30 June 2012 (representing 375,254 entities), an increase of 63% and 43% respectively over the year.
5 to 9
10 to 19
20 to 29
50 to 99
100 or more
Most of the increase was accounted for by entities registering for their first AUSkey, but the number of entities with multiple AUSkeys also grew significantly. Some 61% of entities for which an AUSkey has been issued have a single AUSkey, 21.9% of entities have two AUSkeys and 17.1% three or more AUSkeys – see table 2.22. While an AUSkey can only be used for transactions by the entity to which it is registered, the digital keys are issued to individuals associated with that entity. Therefore, an entity can have more than one AUSkey.
The number of online service authentications over the year primarily reflects ATO lodgement cycles. AUSkey became the sole online authentication solution for transactions with the ATO following the expiry of all remaining ATO public key infrastructure (PKI) digital certificates in May 2012.
There was steady growth, albeit from a low base, in the number of authentications for other government agency services, which target specific client groups or in some cases involve pilot services. We expect to see the use of AUSkey continue to increase, as more agencies adopt it for their online services, and community awareness grows.
We work with government agencies that are seeking authentication solutions for new and existing online services.
New AUSkey adopters during the year include the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and the Victorian State Revenue Office.
Agencies are adopting AUSkey for a range of reporting requirements including SBR-enabled lodgements (see appendix2).
Currently, 17 agencies are working to implement AUSkey as an authentication solution for their business online services. These services, scheduled for release over the next two years, will see the use of AUSkey continue to expand beyond its initial focus on tax and financial reporting (including via the SBR channel) to encompass support for a broad range of government services including industry, community services and environment and natural resources programs.
As well as business-to-government reporting, the new services include government-to-government interactions.
We support agencies implementing online services to make informed decisions about authentication. When they have decided to implement AUSkey, we work with them to communicate with stakeholders and clients about how to access and use AUSkey and to address technical challenges that arise during implementation. We also provide ongoing support after the services go live.
We are working with the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) with the aim of having AUSkey accredited under the Gatekeeper Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) Framework. The accreditation process is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.
Gatekeeper accreditation will increase the level of confidence in AUSkey by agencies that are considering its use as an authentication solution for new and existing online services. The accreditation also gives assurance that the AUSkey system and AUSkey holder information is well managed, with adequate safeguards in place.
The online registration process for AUSkey allows ABN holders to register, download and install their AUSkey, and then use it almost immediately. Where online verification of a user’s identity is not possible, their application can usually be processed offline within 48 hours.
The AUSkey registration process has been enhanced to provide improved instruction, descriptors and support to new users through online help backed up by phone support where necessary.
Feedback from across the spectrum of AUSkey users, from large complex organisations to small businesses and tax professionals, has been very positive in relation to how easy AUSkey is to install and use. Demand from users for technical support continues to fall as they become more familiar with the software and as the user and system issues experienced during implementation have been resolved.
However, feedback from users also indicates that further improvements are needed to the online credential manager and the AUSkey credential renewal process, and also to processes when the AUSkey solution is rolled out for a specific online service. Enhancements are being developed to address these issues.
AUSkeys are designed to automatically renew at the end of a two-year period. As the first AUSkeys issued approached their initial expiry date, a system issue was identified that was preventing auto-renewals. The system was updated to correct the problem and the issue was addressed in the interim through client advice and the promotion of the existing AUSkey functionality that enables AUSkey holders to obtain an additional AUSkey.
Many large businesses across Australia see having efficient, timely and intuitive electronic interactions as fundamental to their continued commercial success. This includes fast and easy access to the ABR and the ATO. AUSkey provides these organisations with the necessary security and flexibility to access the electronic gateway needed to fulfil their lodgement and reporting obligations with both the ATO and ABR.
The ongoing commitment to continuously improve electronic solutions for large business is supported by a collaborative approach when developing systems and processes that evolve with the needs of business. Recent examples for large business include enhanced processes that streamlined the migration of large numbers of digital certificates to AUSkeys and the creation of cross-entity authorisations that give large business with many associated entities a simpler and quicker way of accessing the ATO Portal.
As the Group Tax Manager in one of Australia’s financial services organisations said, ‘Together, we continue to improve the processes that help us manage our AUSkeys and access to the Business Portal. We look forward to us all working together in developing processes that enable us to engage with the ATO and ABR when and where we need.’
In September 2011, the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) implemented a new online service, the Aged Care Benchmarking System.
This service enables representatives of aged care providers to access the Aged Care Benchmarking portal using their AUSkey and submit information about performance against a number of criteria. Reports can then be generated providing comparisons against the industry and similar services. These comparative reports enable aged care providers to identify opportunities to improve operations and financial performance.
The AUSkey solution provides both the department and its clients, the aged care providers, with assurance that individuals accessing the online service have been verified via established authentication processes.
Business-to-government reporting can be unnecessarily complex due to the lack of standard definitions across the large number of government forms. Businesses may have to interpret terms for one agency that have a different meaning for another, or use a variety of terms for different agencies that actually mean the same thing.
Standard Business Reporting (SBR) is a whole-of-government initiative to reduce the burden on business of government reporting requirements.
SBR streamlines reporting across government forms and agencies, through:
Even where users continue to lodge paper forms, the SBR program will help reduce the cost of business-to-government reporting by rationalising the range of data items that software developers need to support.
SBR has been co-designed by the Australian, state and territory governments in partnership with the business community, particularly the accounting profession and business software suppliers.
Our role in SBR is to develop and host the infrastructure for SBR in collaboration with the Treasury. Our scope of work includes developing standard taxonomies in conjunction with other participating agencies and the software industry. We also host the system platform (the core system) that interfaces between the users’ systems (running SBR-enabled software) and those of the agencies receiving the reports (participating agencies).
A key part of the work involved in enhancing SBR is developing the taxonomies that define the data items (the Definitional Taxonomy) and the reporting structures (the Reporting Taxonomy).
SBR provides standard data definitions, so that business and accounting concepts such as ‘asset’, ‘income’ and ‘employee’ have the same meaning when being used by the reporting business’s systems and those of the government agencies to which it is sending the reports.
The data elements are defined once and reused across multiple forms and multiple agencies. By reusing common data elements, businesses only need to understand and report to government on these data elements, which minimises the reporting burden. The Definitional Taxonomy also reduces the need for software developers to interpret government legislation in developing software.
During the year we progressed and released changes to the Definitional and Reporting taxonomies as approved by the whole-of-government Taxonomy Approval Committee. These changes provide for:
The SBR Definitional Taxonomy, which applies the International Financial Reporting Standard, was endorsed during the year as a standard for cross-agency interaction under the National Standards Framework for Government, managed by the Department of Finance and Deregulation. This is expected to encourage more widespread use of the taxonomy beyond those agencies that currently participate in the SBR program.
Figure 2.1 Progress in rationalising the number of data items since the SBR program began
SBR provides a set of shared capabilities that is used by agencies to deliver services to business. These capabilities were stable with the lodgment channel available 100% of the time except for scheduled outages.
During the year, 3,555 business entities lodged a total of 22,493 returns and other reports via the SBR channel. Very strong growth in the last quarter and at the beginning of 2012–13 suggests that this trend will continue.
Figure 2.2 SBR monthly usage 2010-12
At 30 June 2012, 12 participating agencies had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to participate in SBR, and about 400 reporting obligations could be met through SBR.
Software vendors now offer SBR-enabled accounting and payroll software products that support a wide range of reporting obligations to the ATO. There are also a limited number of SBR-enabled software products that support financial reporting to ASIC and payroll tax reporting to state and territory revenue offices.
The SBR channel not only eliminates the need to lodge paper forms, but is also a more streamlined channel than web-based electronic lodgment that requires the user to log on to an agency’s website, authenticate their identity and re-enter data. The SBR channel relies on AUSkey to authenticate the user’s identity.
Even where businesses choose to continue lodging paper forms, the SBR channel has the potential to streamline reporting by enabling the business system to download information from the agency’s system – for example, to pre-fill forms.
The year saw growth in both the number of software developers actively engaging with SBR and the products they support. At 30 June 2012:
We are developing new self-help tools, the Taxonomy Information Management System (TIMS) and the Automated Taxonomy Testing Environment (ATTE), to enable software developers and agencies to maintain their own taxonomy content.
The ATO has decided to transfer lodgement services currently provided by the Electronic Lodgment Service (ELS), which is used by most tax agents to lodge tax returns, to SBR by 1 July 2015. Decommissioning of the ELS will commence a year later.
A substantial body of work will be necessary to support this transition.
Another major project, SuperStream, will see use of the SBR Definitional Taxonomy extended to business-to-business (B2B) transactions for the first time. SuperStream supports the Government’s Stronger Super reforms in response to the Cooper Review of the superannuation system, which advocated use of SBR-compatible data standards.
Due to take effect on 1 July 2013, the reforms introduce new requirements for business in relation to employer contributions and transfers between super funds. While processing of these B2B transactions is outside the scope of SBR, use of e-commerce based on the SBR Definitional Taxonomy will be progressively mandatory from July 2013.
We have been working closely with industry to finalise the SuperStream data standards during the year.
We have also been working with Treasury and the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia (ITSA), which is responsible for the administration and regulation of the personal insolvency system in Australia, to help ITSA understand SBR’s potential to streamline reporting. ITSA’s participation will depend on funding.
In working with agencies, we encourage them to think in terms of reporting of data rather than lodging electronic versions of existing paper forms. To get the full benefits of SBR, agencies need to design for electronic reporting rather than making existing paper-based concepts fit the electronic channel.
The SBR Program has two formal governance bodies:
More information on the SBR program is available at www.sbr.gov.auExternal Link
If an applicant for an ABN or an ABN holder disagrees with certain decisions made by the Registrar of the Australian Business Register (ABR), they may lodge an objection under Part IVC of the Taxation Administration Act 1953.
Objections can be lodged against the following decisions:
Objections must be lodged within 60 days of the date the decision was made.
Outstanding objection at 30 June 2011
No further action
Outstanding objections at 30 June 2012
Anyone dissatisfied with an objection decision, may:
An application fee is normally payable.
The tribunal can confirm, vary or set aside the decision.