AGRICULTURAL employers have been granted new options by the Australian Taxation Office to move toward a single touch payroll system.
Although the 30 September deadline for small employers (19 or fewer employees) to move to single touch payroll (STP) has passed, the ATO wants to remind farmers – and all employers in the agriculture, fishing and forestry industry – that they have options.
STP is a new way of reporting tax and super information to the ATO, with employers sending their employees’ salaries and wages, pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and super information electronically each time they pay their employees.
To support their transition to STP, the ATO has released concessions for employers in the agriculture, fishing and forestry industries – outlined in an information guide.
The ATO recognises that employers in this industry have unique challenges, different ways of working and managing payroll, particularly if they operate a small farm with 1-4 employees or have a fluctuating seasonal workforce.
ATO assistant commissioner, Jason Lucchese, said the ATO wanted to support employers to ensure they know what their next step is to get ready for STP.
“The agriculture sector is unique when it comes to payroll process and we want to ensure they are properly supported through the transition to STP, whether that’s with information to help them understand what their options are or providing concessions to give them more time to get ready,” Mr Lucchese said.
“We know there are several challenges for farmers and agriculture employers such as fluctuating employee numbers due to seasonal work, as it is with shearers or fruit growers, or no access to a reliable internet connection which is the case for many farmers.
“We also recognise that a lot of Australian farms are also family run and currently have processes in place if they employ family members that might be complicated by STP,” he said.
“Fortunately, it’s actually pretty easy to get started and we have a range of resources on the ATO website to show you what options are available, and we’re taking a very soft touch approach for the first year with no penalties for missed or late reports.”
Queensland accountant Oliver Holcombe at BMO Accounting in Dalby said that after overcoming some initial challenges with STP, many of their regional clients have found the transition to STP to be straightforward.
“With support from the payroll software providers, we have been able to promote STP and help our clients overcome any challenges they have had.
“After the initial set up, entering information each pay event is quick and easy, and we like knowing the information our clients submit to the ATO is timely and correct,” he said.
“The important thing is that we don’t try and push our clients into a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s about helping people select the online software that will work best for them depending on the size of their business, how tech-savvy they are, and what other systems they are using.”
To help small employers in the agriculture, fishing and forestry industry understand their options, including whether they are eligible for concessions, the ATO has developed an information guide.
This guide is aimed at helping farmers and agricultural business employers understand what STP reporting is, what they need to do to get ready for STP and what their options are, and how to manage seasonal workers and family employees (closely-held payees).
The guide details three pathways to start STP reporting. These include starting reporting now, considering if a concessional reporting option is the right option and applying for more time if needed.