ATO and Tax Practitioners combat cybercrime


THE Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) have developed new guidelines on client identity verification. These guidelines will also help improve security to stop criminals from committing tax fraud by stealing taxpayer identities, according to the ATO.

“We are increasingly concerned that criminals are committing tax refund fraud by stealing data and impersonating taxpayers,” ATO Deputy Commissioner, William Day said.

“Protection of privacy and information is important for all Australians. Tax Practitioners have a trusted role and these new guidelines will further help them to meet their obligations to secure the personal and financial details of their clients.”

The TPB and ATO have consulted extensively with industry and tax practitioners in the development of these guidelines. A cyber security incident can have serious financial consequences for its victims, whether they are an individual, small business or large company.  

The TPB has released proof of identity (POI) guidance to help tax practitioners verify their clients’ identities and reduce the risk of identity theft and tax fraud. The ATO has also released the 'Strengthening client verification guidelines' which complements the TPB’s guidance and is intended for registered tax practitioners using online services for agents or practitioner lodgment service software.

The TPB will soon be running a free webinar with the ATO, to explain the POI requirements to tax practitioners. Details of the webinar will soon be published on the TPB website.

The new guidance has been developed with the ATO and TPB to support tax practitioners in adopting a practical and robust proof of identity process.

“In a period where cybercrime is becoming increasingly prevalent, maintaining best practices for client verification is vital," TPB chair Ian Klug said.

He said the TPB guidelines outline appropriate requirements for verification-- "this includes defining the documents to be sighted, maintaining records and recommendations about achieving remote verification of clients”.

The ATO and TPB will conduct additional consultation to support tax practitioners with transitioning to the new guidelines, which are intended to become minimum standards in due course.

Mr Klug said many tax practices had already implemented robust proof of identity systems as part of their risk management and governance processes.

“I encourage other tax advisers to review and update their systems as soon as possible," he said. "After an appropriate time for education, consultation, and transition, we will formalise these guidelines and their date of effect.



To survive the Great Resignation, business leaders must innovate now

MELBOURNE lawyer Rob Jackson is warning of the high risk to businesses intellectual property (IP) should workers change jobs in large numbers post-COVID – a phenomenon that US and Europe is already calling the Great Resignation.

Rigby Cooke Lawyers’ workplace relations partner Rob Jackson said experts advice was the full impact of the Great Resignation would not be felt in Australia until March 2022, with almost 40 percent of Australian workers predicted to change jobs in the next 12 months.

Mr Jackson said the increased turnover of employees would put Australian businesses at risk of compromising their IP, so he urged companies to take the necessary steps now to protect their creation and innovation, before the predicted wave of resignations hits.  

“It takes years to turn innovation into commercialisation, and yet, you can lose your IP in minutes,” Mr Jackson said.

“Businesses, large and small, are vulnerable to the real risk of somebody leaving and taking not only that great idea with them, but the whole system of suppliers, investors and customer data.”


In times of change or uncertainty, identifying and protecting business IP was more important than ever, Mr Jackson said.

Mr Jackson said businesses should consider what makes them unique and whether that formula or process is protected by means of confidential information, copyright, trade mark or patent. 

It’s also important to determine who the key workers and customers are and what impact their departure would have on the business. 

“A small organisation may have no safeguards in place,” he said. “Whereas a large business might become lost in a myriad of policies, and repeatedly amended contracts, where key protections are now poorly expressed.”

Mr Jackson said there were things businesses could and should be doing now to protect themselves, among them:

  1. 1. An IP audit to identify what assets can be protected by copyright, patents and other means of IP protection, and identify which workers have created those rights.
  2. 2. Keep employment contracts up to date and review them regularly, clearly outlining ownership of IP rights.
  3. 3. Clearly define what constitutes confidential information and only disclose information to necessary employees. Before disclosing any details, obtain a signed acknowledgement to ensure the person will protect its integrity.
  4. 4. Ensure contractors have a written agreement which gives the organisation ownership of all IP rights on anything they create during their engagement with the business.
  5. 5. Conduct an IT audit to ensure the integrity of all online systems, ensuring unauthorised use is either prevented or at least detected as soon as possible. This will also assist in managing a business’ privacy law obligations.
  6. 6. Conduct a HR audit. He advised a reality check of how strong your workplace culture was. For example, are there issues that may prompt employees to resign, such as lack of career progression or bullying?


While protecting the business was important, retaining valuable employees would be equally critical over the next 12 months, Mr Jackson said. 

Mr Jackson said businesses that cultivate a culture of genuine trust and respect would be more likely to retain employees who feel they are valued – as well as attract new talent. 

“A positive, respectful and inclusive workplace with clear and fair leadership is just as essential as protecting your IP,” Mr Jackson said.

“Great employees who are unhappy with the workplace culture will be more difficult to retain, providing competitors – new or existing – with the perfect opportunity to hire your staff and leverage their knowledge and experience of your business and industry. 

“An employer who provides a positive and supportive workplace culture will have greater success in creating teams who enjoy coming to work and are not tempted to leave.” 

Rob Jackson is a partner in Rigby Cooke Lawyers workplace relations team – a commercial law firm providing specialist legal advice, backed up by in-depth industry knowledge to public and private sector clients across Australia – and he has more than 25 years legal experience.  He is the author of Post Employment Restraint of Trade, published by Federation Press.


Ombudsman tackles crisis facing amusement, leisure and recreation businesses

THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Bruce Billson, has released an interim report into the insurance crisis facing Australia’s amusement, leisure, and recreation sector. 

“There is a clear and present danger facing the amusement and recreation sector because an inability for these businesses to get insurance cover means that many of the attractions people know and love won’t be able to operate,” Mr Billson  said. 

“The lack of insurance coverage could lead to the closure of businesses in the amusement and leisure sector, significant job losses, particularly in regional areas, stranded assets and loss of economic activity generated by metro and regional shows and amusement parks.” 

The report, The Show Must Go On, explores whether a Discretionary Mutual Fund (DMF) can be a durable solution and discusses required legislative reform by states and territories to ensure it is ‘fit for purpose’.  Mr Bilson said it also highlights the need for DMFs to be recognised and accepted as a suitable solution by councils and showground managers. 

Mr Billson said the interim report seeks urgent feedback from all stakeholders by November 3 to the ideas and questions raised in the report.

“We are calling for submissions from those in the industry so we can further understand any issues before we release a final report to government,” Mr Billson said.

“As businesses look to re-open after lockdowns, this issue is a shattering blow for those small and family businesses in the amusement, leisure and recreation sector which will be forced to stay shut because they can’t get insurance.  There is a very real possibility shows won’t go on – something has to be done for the show to go on. A DMF may represent the only workable solution.” 

The ASBFEO has been reviewing a proposal by the Australian Amusement, Leisure and Recreation Association (AALRA) to establish a DMF as a solution to the critical and immediate need for insurance in the sector. 

The interim report found the lack of affordable insurance was not the fault of the amusement industry but due to a 'hardening' in the global insurance market. Very few insurers are willing to insure the industry, and premiums – when available – had risen by as much as 200 percent. 

“In many instances the policy is priced such that it may as well not exist because small operators have no capacity to pay for the cover they need to continue operating,” the report said. 

“In the case of the amusement, leisure and recreation sector, there isn’t an offering that provides full coverage.”

Public liability insurance coverage is a legal requirement for the operation of rides at showgrounds and fixed installations, both through contractual obligations and obligations imposed on councils and other landowners by state and territory governments. 

DMFs operate to provide cover on a discretionary basis to a group of individuals or organisations that have a similar risk profile.  Under a DMF, members who meet requirements would have access to a certificate of protection, enabling them to operate these amusement rides. 

The Show Must Go On interim report and overview can be found at

Submissions should be sent to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by COB, November 3, 2021.


Report Overview

The Show Must Go On: Is a discretionary mutual fund the solution to the insurance crisis facing Australia’s amusement, leisure, and recreation sector?


  • The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) conducted a self-generated inquiry in 2020 into the insurance market for small business, finding significant dysfunction for several sectors.
  • The Amusement, Leisure, and Recreation Association (AALARA) submitted to that review noting that many members were facing closure and/or stranded assets due to the unavailability of insurance.
  • AALARA then approached the Federal Government to seek support to establish a discretionary mutual fund (DMF).

Preliminary findings

  • A DMF suits the industry represented by AALARA.
  • A DMF may be a suitable way to address the current insurance crisis facing the industry.
  • The suitability and durability of a DMF solution for the sector will depend heavily on:

o   support for legislative reform from states and territories, and willingness to accept the solution by councils and land/showground managers.

o   the final makeup of the membership.

o   the cost of premiums and reinsurance, the management of the DMF and any management costs, and the size of any claims in the first years of operation.

About Discretionary Mutual Funds (DMFs)

  • DMFs operate to provide risk cover on a discretionary basis to a group of individuals or organisations, through a ‘Certificate of Protection’.
  • DMFs do not offer an insurance product: o Under traditional insurance coverage, a policy holder has a contractual right to have their claim paid upon meeting the policy’s terms and conditions.

o   Under DMF coverage, the DMF’s members are entitled to submit a claim for indemnity to the DMF’s board, which may or may not approve the claim, at its discretion.

Benefits of a DMF

  • DMFs are often created to address market failure or significant dysfunction.
  • DMF members are accepted or rejected by the directors, who have significant industry knowledge, allowing them to more closely monitor risk profiles of those covered.
  • DMF membership can also be predicated on compliance with a range of risk management and training protocols to lessen the risk profile across the membership.
  • Because DMFs do not have shareholders to make returns to, they are able to operate on slim margins, potentially reducing costs to members.
  • DMFs can offer additional services to their members, adding value over the protection offered.


  • The DMF should be fully funded for the first year, requiring a reasonable amount of start-up capital.
  • Many pieces of state, territory, and local government legislation and regulation require businesses operating on their land to hold insurance, which a DMF cannot offer.

o   To address this, these pieces of legislation and regulation could be amended to allow membership of a DMF in lieu of insurance where insurance is not available, or the market is significantly dysfunctional.

  • A DMF should be established in such a way to ensure its ongoing durability.
  • Consumers may have concerns about the discretionary nature of coverage.


  • A range of alternative options have been considered to address this issue, including a captive, self-insurance, group insurance schemes, a reinsurance pool, tort reform to address risks (‘the New Zealand solution’), implementation of a National Injury Insurance Scheme, and hybrid models.
  • A recent entrant to the market has been Coversure, a respected UK-based insurer:

o   Only provides $10 million coverage (half of the $20 million required by most legislation/regulation).

o   Industry is reporting premiums of at least double that they were previously paying.

o   Will not cover the whole market.



Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman backs tax report to help business owners

THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, has strongly backed a call from the Inspector-General of Taxation for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to more consistently and transparently inform taxpayers of their right to review, complain and appeal decisions.

“This is a significant investigation and report by the Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman, Ms Karen Payne, and the findings and recommendations are really important for delivering a better and fairer tax system,” Mr Billson said. 

 “Tax issues are among the top concerns for small businesses, and it is critical for the Tax Office to step up as a modern revenue agency to help people as part of their charter.” 

Ms Payne’s report called for the ATO to update the Taxpayers’ Charter to include an express right to be informed of rights to review, complain and appeal decisions and to be told about all relevant channels to do so.  

The report found over the past three years fewer than 1 percent of ATO staff had attended a training course to teach them how to tell taxpayers about their rights to complain, review or appeal a decision and a survey found 60 percent of taxpayers were unaware of or had not used the ATO’s complaints function. 

“I am pleased the Tax Office has embraced this report from the Inspector-General and has committed to working through these important recommendations,” Mr Billson said. 

“I look forward to seeing the Tax Office implement these changes to improve the way it deals with taxpayers.” 

The ASBFEO has released several reports outlining measures to improve the tax system for small business, especially around the vital need to tell taxpayers about their opportunities to complain about or have a decision reviewed. 

Since March 2019, more than 650 small businesses have sought the help of the ASBFEO’s Small Business Tax Concierge Service -- a team of specialists and case managers who respond to requests for assistance from small business who receive a negative decision from the ATO.  

For further information about the Concierge Service call 1300 650 460 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Attorney-General Cash's class action laws are designed to help big business, not everyday Australians

NEW LAWS proposed last week by Federal Attorney-General Michaelia Cash would, according to some senior legal sources "cripple the capacity of everyday Australians to take legal action against corporations and governments, which – according to the peak body for class action law firms – is precisely their intent".

Senator Cash last week released an exposure draft bill that would severely limit the ability to get worthwhile class actions off the ground, by applying a cap on class action funders and banning common fund orders (CFOs), they claimed 

Class Actions Australia spokesperson and Maurice Blackburn's National Head of Class Actions, Andrew Watson, said it was preposterous for the government to claim the laws were being introduced to help everyday Australians participating in class actions.

"This isn't reform, it's sabotage," Mr Watson said.

“The Morrison Government wants class actions de-clawed and de-fanged so corporations can use their power and size to get away with hurting people.

"Class actions are hugely expensive, because you are invariably taking on a giant with deep pockets and a lot to lose. They need funding options to survive. The government and the big business lobby knows if they take away the viability of those funding options they take away most class actions. That's the point of these proposed changes."

Mr Watson said the way to drive down costs for class members was to adopt market-based solutions which promote competition – contingency fees and common fund orders as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission.

"The idea that these laws are designed to help class action members is laughable," Mr Watson said.

"How many meetings have Frydenberg and Cash taken with class action members? And how many have they taken with big business lobbyists? The answer will tell you all you need to know about the government's motivations,” Mr Watson said.

“Surely if you're introducing a measure to benefit class action members you would have talked to them first? Michaelia Cash hasn't met with people ripped off by insurance companies selling worthless products to the vulnerable. Or the women hurt by big pharma due to faulty pelvic mesh implants. Because she's not looking after victims, she's siding with wrongdoers.

"The point of these law changes isn't to make class actions better, it's to throw so much sand in their gears they don't get off the ground.”



Some employers try to mandate vaccines in the workplace ... but a law doesn’t exist

AS THE COVID-19 vaccination continues its rollout across Australia, there is increased talk on whether or not it should be made compulsory in the workplace.

Last week SPC became the first Australian company to require all onsite staff and visitors be vaccinated by November, a move unions have described as ‘unrealistic’. Other companies are expected to follow suit.

According to SME workplace advisory firm Employsure, SPC aside, all vaccine mandates for workers such as those in the aged care and health care sectors have previously only been made by governments under public health orders. So while employers like SPC may seek to mandate vaccinations for the health of their staff, there is currently no law that will specifically allow them to enforce it.  

“Employers who want their staff vaccinated may see themselves hit with a Fair Work claim if that employee is sacked as a result of refusing the jab,” Employsure health and safety manager,  Larry Drewsen said.

“As it stands, employers cannot force an employee to get the jab. While we may see circumstances change as vaccination rates continue to climb, employers should tread with caution and maintain open communication with their employees over their workplace vaccination rights, responsibilities and options.

“While employers cannot force an employee to get the jab, they must however, continue to do everything reasonably practicable to reduce the risk to health and safety in the workplace.”

Mr Drewsen said while employers are unable to mandate it, they can ask the question to their employees on whether or not they want the jab. Employers can suggest staff get the vaccine, provide them with relevant government health advice, and allow them to take time off during the workday if only weekday appointments are available.

Workers do not however, have to tell their employer if they have been vaccinated, or even give a reason behind it," Mr Drewsen said. "To keep on the safe side, employers should assume a worker is unvaccinated if they withhold this information, and inform that worker of their assumption."

"While some worksites may be at higher risk than others, it shouldn’t stop employers in lower risk settings from keeping track of which employees have been vaccinated. Employee management software like BrightHR’s Vacctrak feature allows employers to monitor who is fully, partially, or not vaccinated against COVID-19 in the workplace.

“Employers have an obligation to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure a safe workplace, and health advice indicates vaccinations are a critical component if we are to successfully come out of this pandemic. As they cannot legally enforce it, employers should consult with employees who are unable, or don’t want the COVID-19 vaccination, and discuss alternative measures that can help them do their job safely,” Mr Drewsen said.

“The Federal Government has stated mandatory vaccinations will not happen in Australia. While vaccinations form part of a business’s methods of controlling the risk of infection, employers must therefore have other plans in place if workers refuse.

“For employers who follow SPC’s lead and make vaccines mandatory to continue on-site work, by doing so it could lead to legal challenges in the future. Employers must be prepared for that and weigh up alternatives to mandatory vaccinations if it comes to it.”




AFCA receives 70,000 financial complaints in 2020-21

AUSTRALIANS in dispute with banks, insurers, superannuation funds, investment firms and financial advisers lodged more than 70,000 complaints with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) in the past 12 months.

They secured more than $240 million in compensation and refunds after seeking AFCA’s help, as well as outcomes such as fee waivers, debt forgiveness and apologies. 

In addition, AFCA’s investigations into a range of systemic issues resulted in remediation payments to consumers totalling nearly $32 million in the past financial year.

AFCA has now helped to secure more than $610 million in compensation and refunds, and over $220 million in remediation payments, since starting operation on November 1, 2018.

In 2020-21, individual consumers and small businesses – who can also access the free ombudsman service – made 70,510 complaints to AFCA.

A preliminary data 'snapshot' as of June 30 also shows that nearly 70 percent of cases were resolved by agreement after AFCA brought the parties together, and that nearly 60 percent of cases were resolved within 60 days.

The most complained about product in 2020-21 was credit cards, accounting for 14 percent of all complaints, followed by home loans (9 percent) and personal transaction accounts (8 percent). With credit cards, the most common issues were default listings and unauthorised transactions – the latter accounting for 11 percent of card complaints.

Government support, business relief measures and a steadying economy had a positive effect on complaint levels in 2020-21, including complaints involving financial difficulty, AFCA’s chief ombudsman, David Locke said. 

“Significantly, complaints involving financial difficulty were down nearly 40 percent from the numbers we saw the previous year,” Mr Locke said. “That’s a great outcome and reflects the positive response from government and industry to the impact of COVID. 

“However, it’s too early to say we’re out of the woods yet. It may be some months before we know the full impact of the end of government emergency support and assistance from financial firms such as deferred loan repayments. And, of course, we are still living with COVID-19.

“It’s important that consumers and financial service providers continue to work together to resolve issues quickly as they emerge,” Mr Locke said. “The past 12 months show what’s possible when that happens.” 

Overall, complaints were down 12 percent on 2019-20, a year that included the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic and a spike in complaints in areas such as travel insurance.

In 2020-21, there were 8,303 COVID-related complaints, up from 5,013 in just four months at the end of 2019-20 after the pandemic was officially declared. That translates to an average of 692 a month in 2020-21, down sharply from an average of 1,253 a month from March through June 2020.

The past 12 months included 165 complaints related to insurance cover for business interruption associated with COVID-19. More complaints are expected in the coming year, once the second of two test cases brought by the insurance industry is resolved.

The AFCA data for 2020-21 also shows travel insurance complaints down 22 percent, as Australians stayed at home, and superannuation complaints down 31 percent, after a jump the prior year when the government allowed the early release of super at the start of COVID. 

On the other hand, complaints related to personal transaction accounts rose 48 percent, with unauthorised transactions accounting for 29 percent of those complaints. Also, complaints about electronic banking increased 76 percent, with unauthorised transactions accounting for 28 percent of those complaints and mistaken internet payments accounting for a further 19 percent.

“There’s no single reason for these increases but people transacting online more during COVID will have contributed,” Mr Locke said. “Scams, which have accelerated during the pandemic, are also leading to growing complaints about transactions.”

Complaints about sales of funeral insurance in Indigenous communities continued to be troubling in 2020-21, Mr Locke said. “There’s a pattern of poor conduct in regional and remote communities that’s concerning.”

One provider accounted for 98 percent of funeral insurance-related complaints and was the subject of multiple determinations in favour of complainants.

About AFCA

  • The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is a non-government ombudsman service providing free, fair and independent help with financial disputes.
  • It is a one-stop-shop for consumers and small businesses who have a dispute with their financial firm, in areas such as banking, credit, insurance, advice, investments and super.
  • Where an agreement cannot be reached between parties, AFCA can issue decisions that are binding on financial firms.
  • AFCA has searchable public data on financial complaints available at


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