ATO Commits to Better NFP Engagement and Communication
Tuesday, 13th September 2016 at 10:55 am
Opinion: The Australian Tax Office is on a mission to better understand some of the unique challenges facing the Not for Profit workforce, including volunteers, and the issues around meeting tax obligations and accessing tax concessions, writes Rod Walker, senior director of the NFP Hub at the ATO.
The ATO has set out on a path of reinvention. This journey over the next few years focuses on changing how it operates to better meet the needs and expectations of the community.
Underpinning this is a commitment from the ATO to better engage with the community and a key plank in this strategy is the establishment of a number of business focused stewardship groups, including for the Not for Profit sector.
In July 2016 the ATO refreshed the membership of the Not for Profit Stewardship Group and appointed its inaugural NFP community co-chair, Joe Zabar, the director of economic policy for Catholic Social Services Australia.
The NFP Stewardship Group is the ATO’s key consultative body for NFP tax-related matters. It comprises several key NFP representatives and senior staff from the ATO, Australian Treasury and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
According to Zabar, from a NFP sector perspective, there is certainly a sense that the culture within the ATO has changed for the better over the last few years.
“We feel that the ATO is genuinely listening to our concerns and acting on them,” Zabar said.
“The NFP Stewardship Group enables some of the sector’s best minds in NFP tax law and administration to work directly with high level staff in the ATO. And we are genuinely collaborating. The ATO don’t just come and tell the sector what they are doing; the ATO want us to help improve their services for NFP organisations, as well as to address important law and policy issues.”
ATO deputy commissioner Tim Dyce plays a key role in ensuring the ATO continually improves how it supports the NFP sector.
“While the ATO has long recognised the importance of the NFP sector, we need to better understand some of the unique challenges facing its workforce, including volunteers, who will often be the ones engaging with us to meet their tax obligations and access various tax concessions. The NFP Stewardship Group is an ideal forum to hear about these challenges and to work together to improve the status quo,” Dyce said.
This collaborative approach forms part of the ATO’s commitment to engage with the sector.
The ATO has recently updated its Every Year Counts for Not for Profit Organisations page, outlining how the ATO is reinventing to improve the sector’s experience with them.
The key priorities for the NFP Stewardship Group members are:
- to work with the ATO to help develop new content for the ATO website (www.ato.gov.au) that will help NFPs
- help promote ATO NFP services and products via the members’ own channels and networks. This includes, for example, the dedicated ATO phone service for NFP organisations 1300 130 248, the NFP news service and Not for Profit web pages
- identify more ways that NFPs can access information, including webinars, educational videos and delivering presentations at various events
- assist in designing support for the NFP community to transition to an increasingly digital working environment.
While the ATO has a clear priority around enhancing communication and engagement with the NFP sector, the NFP Stewardship Group is also focused on a number of technical and procedural issues that are of material interest to many NFPs, including:
- implications of the special conditions in Division 50-50 of the ITAA 1997
- the “in Australia” draft ruling.
The ATO has a clear priority around enhancing communication and engagement with the sector, so an additional benefit of the NFP Stewardship Group is that organisations will be able to liaise with the group directly to raise issues, concerns or feedback.
You can do this by emailing NFPStewardshipGroup@ato.gov.au.
The next meeting of the NFP Stewardship Group is scheduled for November 2016.
About the Author: Rod Walker is a senior director of the ATO NFP Hub and co-chair of the Not for Profit Stewardship Group.