Is the ATO Getting into the Cloud Accounting Game?

The ATO is helping you keep track of deductions and expenses

ATO expense app learn xero online training course
The ATO’s recently launched app isn’t helping you invoice just yet, but it is good for keeping track of your business deductions.

ALL BUSINESSES CAN TAP into useful cash flow forecasting apps, whether they use Xero, Quickbooks or MYOB. There are also a host of basic expense and budgeting apps that sole traders and contractors can use for similar purposes.

The difference between the two boils down to price and functions: The more functions you need, the higher the price tag. Businesses that require high-level reporting and forecasting tools, such as a “scenarios” function that lets you determine the impact different business decisions would have on your cash flow, before you actually make them, would need to stump up, at a minimum, between $50 and $80 a month for this functionality.  

Free expense and budgeting apps would suit most contractors and sole traders who don’t require complex forecasting and reporting tools, but who do need to see when money is coming in and when it’s going out, and whether there are deficiencies.

The ATO’s tax and superannuation app

ato app my deductions learn xero online training course
Image: Courtesy of ATO website

Looking into the best expense and budgeting apps for small business, we came across the Australian Tax Office’s app, simply called ATO. It works on Windows phones, as well as iOs and Android devices, and it’s updated regularly by the ATO, so you know this isn’t just a passing fling.

Our post on cash flow reporting and forecasting for contractors and sole traders went through the app’s functions, including what we thought were some standout features:

  • Recording expenses and deductions
  • Tracking mileage
  • Inputting income
  • Tax calculators
  • Business performance calculator
  • Lodging income tax returns.

If these features sound familiar, that’s because they’re all the features you’ll find in a basic cloud accounting program, with the notable exception of invoicing. Electronic invoicing is not something the ATO is particularly concerned with because it’s not a requirement. Invoicing, of course, is a requirement, but how you do it — in person, by snail mail, email, etc — isn’t.

Cloud accounting still best and easiest

If the ATO app introduced a simple way to invoice customers, we’d say it was definitely muscling in on QuickBooks and Xero’s territory, since both programs appeal to the small business owner, QuickBooks in particular.

In absence of that, the ATO app is a great tool for contractors and small business owners to use to keep track of their expenses and deductions, and especially to calculate their tax rates (so as to properly keep money aside for tax, rather than being hit with a tax bill you have to pay off). For contractors with a very simply business model, it’s even useful for lodging your tax return.

But otherwise, cloud accounting applications are still the best and easiest way for businesses to run an efficient, compliant business. At the end of the day, for many small business owners, they’re not drawn to Xero or QuickBooks because they want to stay compliant, it’s because they want to be able to easily invoice customers and track their income — compliance is just an added bonus.

Our online Xero training courses meet all skills levels for ONE LOW COST. We will show you how to record deductions, invoice customers, run financial reports, and lodge activity statements and tax returns. Visit our website for more information about our range of online accounting, media and general business courses.


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Don’t be afraid, connect with the ATO via Business Portal

ATO Business Portal to lodge your BAS online using MYOBAre you still receiving your Business Activity Statements via mail? We receive our notification that the BAS is ready at the ATO’s Business Portal but the Business Portal is much more useful than just a way to deliver your BAS.

There are some great features of online tax lodgement:

  1. You can lodge your BAS immediately online
  2. You can see historical lodgements
  3. You can change your contact details

The most complicated part of dealing direct with the ATO is the setting up of a digital certificate, but once that is sorted out you have all the convenience that you have come to expect from your internet banking and any other online service. All the information is there, you don’t have to rely on the mail to send or receive your BAS and you know exactly where you stand. If you have missed a lodgement you’ll also find that information at the portal.

The website address for the portal is https://bp.ato.gov.au/ so check it out and get through your compliance issues faster.

MYOB GST, reporting and BAS training coursesOur MYOB Reporting, GST and BAS course (which includes bank reconciliation) shows you how to get to the BASlink to produce a BAS using the data that you have already entered into MYOB. If you have entered everything correctly you will just need to complete your contact name and number and how long it took to complete. Then you can print that form out and keep it in your records. The information you see in the totals can then simply be entered in the Business Portal and submitted to lodge your BAS and get your compliance tasks out of the way so you can focus on running your business.

What is a PAYG tax table and how does it work?

ATO 2013 tax tables for online MYOB payroll training courseWe recently announced our updated MYOB Payroll Course videos and training workbook and were asked to explain PAYG tax tables in a bit more detail. We’ll explain tax tables using the data from the ATO website relating to tax tables for the 2013 financial year.

We recently witness a federal budget and there are usually some changes in each budget that relate to tax tables or tax thresholds. These tax tables simply define how much tax you pay for each threshold and the simplest way to describe it is to define the first category. This category is called the tax-free threshold and it is the level at which you don’t pay any tax. The annual pay for this level will be $18,200 from 1st July 2012 (the beginning of the next financial year). Any money you earn up to this level you don’t pay any income tax on.

Any money you earn over this tax-free threshold amount but less than $37,000 will be taxed at 19c per dollar.

The most important thing to note is that just because you earn $50,000 doesn’t mean you will be taxed at 32.5c in every dollar you earn. You’ll be charged

  1. zero for the first $18,200, 
  2. 19% from $18,200 to $37,000 and then 
  3. 32.50% for each dollar over $37,000.
Stay tuned for more bite size chunks of knowledge in the coming weeks as we evolve our MYOB Payroll training course. Make sure you subscribe to receive these posts via email.