Tax Office readies online access for business

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is closer to its goal of letting business submit tax returns online. One online application is in pilot, and testing on another complete.

The first online business tax application to be rolled out will allow superannuation funds to submit superannuation surcharge data electronically.

That application is now in production "in a controlled manner", being piloted by two super funds administrators, according to an ATO officialWider rollout of the Java-based superannuation application is scheduled for later in the year.

It runs on the ATO's new electronic commerce interface (ECI), which has been developed by Aspect Computing, with encryption and public key infrastructure technology supplied by Baltimore.

Meanwhile, end-user acceptance testing of the ATO's business activity statement (BAS) which will provide streamlined business tax reporting via the ECI was completed last week, according to Mark Bond, project manager, Tax reform, electronic service delivery project, ATO.

End users within the Tax office have reacted positively to the BAS with only one "high priority" problem with the system reported which has now been corrected, Bond said. The BAS, also Java-based, will enable businesses to complete all business tax returns, including GST, on one statement and align due dates for payment of business-related taxes to the 21st day of the month.

Bond hopes to have the BAS in operation "in practice mode" from January 2000.

This will let businesses become familiar with this new channel of communication with the ATO, and simulate submitting tax returns electronically, before they can do so for real, from July 1 2000, Bond said.

The ATO is likely to distribute necessary BAS client software on CDs, rather than have businesses download it from the ATO's Web site, Bond said. This is because the file size is large and would be a lengthy download, he said. CDs also offer a user-friendly means of distributing upgrades for users' systems, which may be needed for the ATO software to work.

"It is imperative the users' first experiences be positive, particularly as most will be [interacting with the ATO online] at their own discretion," Bond said.

The ATO is liaising with accounting software providers who plan to build interfaces between their own packages and the BAS, Bond said. Specifications are due to be mailed to software providers who have expressed an interest in interfacing with BAS, in September 1999.

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