SBR: The new way to send data to the ATO

SBR is the new kid in town

Standard Business Reporting (SBR) is the new way of sending data to the Australian Taxation Office.

As a result of the federal government focus on improving digital delivery of services, in 2016 the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is moving from the current electronic lodgement service (ELS) of client tax returns and other tax forms to a new platform: standard business reporting (SBR).

What does this change mean for practitioners?

What is SBR?

Standard Business Reporting is a standardised approach to online record-keeping introduced by the federal government in 2010. It is currently being built into business/accounting software to allow easier transmission of information to government agencies.

SBR extracts information recorded in business/accounting software and prefills this into the relevant government report. The report can then be checked for accuracy and submitted directly and securely to government agencies using AUSkey, without the need to log into a separate portal.

Data privacy and security is protected through various means, which include:

  • The SBR channel only holding data for the life of the transaction (measured in seconds)
  • An AUSkey will only be supplied once customer identification and registration requirements have been satisfied
  • Electronic communications between the software and SBR channel, and the SBR channel and relevant government agencies, is through secure encrypted channels over the internet.
  • In short, SBR is just another, and hopefully more efficient, way of sending data to the ATO and other government agencies.

Why is the ATO moving to SBR?

SBR is intended to improve stability and reduce preparation time. It is also envisaged that this new platform will decrease the need for people and businesses to interact with multiple government agencies (federal and state) as those agencies will have access to data provided to the ATO. However, it will be some time before this data sharing occurs.

When is the move and what impact will practitioners see?

SBR is actually available now, but most practitioners will start using it from 2016 tax time. Practitioners should not experience any real impacts as their user experience should remain largely the same (with perhaps some cosmetic changes). The bulk of changes will occur in the back end.

What is the ATO’s Plan B?

The ATO has announced that it will maintain ELS as a secondary channel to lodging tax returns until March 2017 in case issues arise.

How will practitioners lodge via SBR?

Access for lodgement will still occur via your practice management software, but instead of the current ELS gateway you will use AUSkey. This will most likely require you to update permissions in Access Manager. Practitioners already lodging via SBR have found this to be a fairly simple, short process.

Will all major software developers have SBR-compliant software ready by 1 July?

According to the ATO and software developers, all major software will be SBR-compliant. One software product will not be compliant, but that provider has a minimal number of clients and the ATO is contacting affected practitioners directly.

Where can practitioners get help?

Practitioners’ first port of call should be their software provider, as with the annual tax time update. However, there will be some issues only direct contact with the ATO can fix. Assistance will be available from the ATO, fellow practitioners or from information published by software providers.

SBR tips for practitioners

  1. Remember that the move to SBR is just a new way of delivering data to the ATO, and hopefully other government agencies, and that the user experience should remain largely the same. It is important to be aware of the change, but not alarmed by it.
  2. Make sure your software is up to date and follow the instructions of your provider on how to enable SBR if necessary.
  3. Make sure you read the resources the ATO and your software provider make available.
  4. Network with other practitioners using the same software. They may be one of your best sources of assistance.

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