Skip to content

What is Single Touch Payroll and Why Is It Important for Aussie Business Owners?

  • Bookkeeping News
  • General Information
  • Tax News

Payroll management has undergone a pivotal transformation, largely driven by the adoption of digital technology. Central to this change is the implementation of Single Touch Payroll (STP), an initiative by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) that has reshaped how businesses approach payroll tasks. STP’s mandate for digital data submission has been a game-changer, offering businesses the speed and flexibility required in the modern business climate.

The value of STP extends well beyond mere compliance. It’s about refining payroll processes – making them more efficient, reducing errors, and providing clearer insights into payroll activities. However, to reap these benefits, it’s essential for businesses to grasp the fundamentals of STP, its operational mechanisms, and the keys to successful implementation.

Key Takeaways

  • Single Touch Payroll (STP) revolutionises how Australian businesses report payroll data. By submitting payroll details digitally after each pay cycle, it provides real-time, accurate information on salaries, superannuation, and taxes for businesses, employees, and the ATO, replacing the annual payments summary system.
  • STP is introduced to promote tax compliance and fair business practices. It prevents underreporting and non-compliance.
  • Since July 2019, STP requirements apply to all Australian businesses, regardless of size. This shift demands businesses to employ STP-enabled software.
  • STP offers numerous benefits, like streamlined reporting processes, reduced manual errors, and increased transparency. Employees now gain direct access to their payroll data through myGov.

Understanding Single Touch Payroll (STP)

So, what is Single Touch Payroll? Oftentimes shortened to STP; this new Australian Government initiative fundamentally changes how businesses report their payroll data. Instead of annual reports, STP requires businesses to digitally submit payroll data to the ATO after each pay cycle. This ensures that employee salary, superannuation, and tax information are reported in real-time, providing a more accurate and timely view of payroll data for businesses, employees, and the ATO.

Why was Single Touch Payroll Introduced?

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) introducing Single Touch Payroll (STP) isn’t just about changing how businesses do paperwork. It’s really about making sure everyone plays by the rules when it comes to taxes.

STP is a significant step to fixing problems like businesses not reporting all their income or paying workers in cash to avoid paying superannuation and taxes.

Before STP, businesses and employees that did everything right, were often undercut and competing on an uneven playing field.

With STP, businesses now report what they pay their workers each time they pay them. This helps prevent businesses and employees from submitting non-compliant reports or failing to report at all. It’s not just about streamlining the process or forcing everyone to use a specific software; it’s about making sure every business and employee is treated fairly and equally Australia-wide.

STP Reporting Requirements

With the implementation of STP, the reporting requirements for employers have evolved. Employers are now required to report wages, super contributions, and PAYG withholding for each employee directly to the ATO, each pay cycle. This information is submitted digitally using STP-enabled payroll software, ensuring accuracy and timeliness of data.

Adopting STP entails:

  • The replacement of traditional payment summary annual reports with digital ones after each payday
  • This approach enhances the precision and promptness of payroll information
  • Assuring the ATO has immediate access to the most recent data

At the end of the financial year, businesses must finalise their STP data by making a declaration that all reporting for the year is complete. This process includes:

  • Making a declaration that all reporting is complete
  • Marking the income statements in the ATO’s online services as ‘tax ready’
  • Signifying that the data is comprehensive and accurate
  • Allowing employees or their registered agents to lodge tax returns using the data.

This transition to digital, instant reporting is a significant departure from conventional payroll reporting procedures. While it necessitates businesses to modify their payroll processes and adopt digital technologies, these changes can lead to more efficient reporting, increased accuracy, and greater insight into payroll data.

Key Dates for STP Implementation

Single Touch Payroll (STP) has been a significant change in payroll reporting for Australian businesses. Here’s where we stand now:

  • Since 1 July 2018, businesses with 20 or more employees have been required to comply with STP.
  • From 1 July 2019, this requirement extended to all businesses, regardless of size. This expansion meant that even smaller businesses had to align with STP regulations.
  • The commencement of STP Phase 2 on 1 January 2022 marked a further evolution. This phase introduced additional reporting requirements, enhancing the detail and accuracy of payroll data submitted to the ATO.

How do Single Touch Payroll phase 1 and 2 differ?

In Single Touch Payroll (STP) Phase 1, you reported a single gross amount made up of different payment types. In Phase 2, these payment types and components need to be reported separately to accurately reflect the unique social security requirements of employees.

The implementation of STP has been crucial in modernising payroll reporting across Australia. With STP now firmly in place, it’s essential for businesses to stay updated and ensure their payroll systems meet these ongoing requirements.

If you’re new to online payroll software, starting a new business or returning to business management and payroll after a well deserved break, it’s important to keep in mind that all businesses, even newly established ones, must be set up with a STP-enabled payroll software that is capable of Phase 2 compliant reports.

Single Touch Payroll Compliance for Employers

Source: Xero Single Touch Payroll Programme

In the world of payroll management, Single Touch Payroll (STP) has become a crucial element. For businesses, this means actively ensuring compliance by using STP-compatible payroll software and submitting STP reports each pay cycle, along with maintaining accurate payroll and employee data.

The shift to STP means employers no longer need to issue annual payment summaries to employees. Instead, payroll information is sent directly to the ATO after each payday, simplifying reporting and cutting down on admin tasks. 

However, adapting to this new system requires updating payroll software to meet STP standards and modifying payroll procedures, as non-compliance could result in penalties.

Choosing the Right Payroll Software

Choosing the right payroll software is crucial for staying on top of Single Touch Payroll (STP) compliance. With STP requiring digital submission of payroll data, it’s vital to ensure your software is not just STP-compatible but also capable of sending accurate and timely reports to the ATO.

At Shoebox Books & Tax, we’re not just about offering expert advice; we also provide hands-on training in top-notch payroll software options like MYOB, Xero, and Quickbooks (powered by Employment Hero). These STP-ready tools are designed to streamline your payroll process, ensuring you meet all STP guidelines with ease and efficiency.

What sets these software options apart is their ability to handle more than just STP requirements. They offer a range of features, from managing timesheets to keeping your accounting records in check.

These tools automate key payroll tasks, provide up-to-the-minute data, and deliver comprehensive reporting. They’re the perfect choice for any business aiming to enhance their payroll management and nail STP compliance every time.

Transitioning to STP Reporting

Adapting to Single Touch Payroll (STP) reporting is more than just a routine update – it’s a crucial shift that encompasses upgrading payroll software, educating your team, and often enlisting expert help to ensure everything goes off without a hitch.

Employee training takes centre stage in this transition. With STP reshaping payroll processes, it’s vital for your team, especially those handling payroll, to get up to speed. 

They’ll need to become adept at using your chosen STP-compatible software, grasp the new reporting mandates, and embed these processes into their routine to guarantee precise and timely STP-reporting to the ATO.

Why is getting STP right so important? Non-compliance isn’t just a minor misstep; it can lead to penalties if repeated and disrupt your business’s smooth operation. Accurate STP reporting ensures your business stays on the right side of ATO regulations, maintaining your reputation and avoiding potential fines.

Turning to professionals like Shoebox Books & Tax for assistance can be a game-changer. Expert guidance can illuminate the nuances of STP, from selecting the ideal payroll software to comprehensive employee training.

These specialists can steer you through any challenges that arise during the transition, securing a seamless and effective shift to STP reporting. With their support, you’re not just complying with a regulation – you’re setting your business up for streamlined operations and long-term success.

Single Touch Payroll for Employees

The switch to STP revolutionises payroll reporting not just for businesses but also for employees. STP allows employees to:

  • View their tax and super information through their myGov account
  • Have access to up-to-date information; updated every pay cycle
  • Have instant access to their payroll data without a traditional payment summary

Under STP, employers are required to report a pay event to the ATO before or one the same day as their pay run. As a result, employees no longer receive payment summaries. Instead, they can access their payroll data, including their income, tax withheld, and superannuation contributions, through their myGov account or directly contacting the ATO.

At the end of the financial year, when employers finalise their STP data, the income statements in the ATO’s online services are marked as ‘tax ready’. This indicates that the data is complete and accurate, and employees can use it to lodge their tax returns. This process ensures that employees have access to the most up-to-date and accurate payroll information for their tax filing.

What are the Benefits of Single Touch Payroll?

STP adoption brings a host of benefits for businesses; refining reporting processes, mitigating manual data entry errors, and increasing payroll data visibility through automated reporting.

  • Streamlined Reporting: STP-Enabled Payroll Software automates ATO reporting, integrating accurate data and reducing manual errors.
  • Efficiency in Compliance: Simplifies pre-filled PAYG sections of BAS, ensuring employers meet their obligations efficiently.
  • Error Reduction: Minimises mistakes that can result from manual data entry, outdated systems, or misinterpretation of reporting guidelines.
  • Real-Time Data Accuracy: Keeps payroll information current and precise.
  • Reduced Non-Compliance Risks: Lowers the likelihood of penalties due to reporting errors.
  • Visibility and Transparency: Offers employees direct access to their payroll data through myGov, improving financial awareness and employer-employee engagement.

STP’s implementation streamlines a lot of business management processes, while also providing greater transparency and financial management tools for employees.

Exceptions and Alternative Reporting

Concessional Reporting Options in STP

STP offers concessional reporting options for specific types of employers. For instance, micro employers and businesses with closely held payees have different reporting concessions. These concessions are designed to ease the transition to STP for smaller businesses or those with unique employment arrangements. This means that businesses with a more direct relationship with their employees, like family-run companies, have tailored reporting options under STP​​.

Reporting Deferrals

Businesses may apply for STP deferrals in several circumstances. This includes needing more time to start STP reporting or to lodge particular STP reports. If you’re facing issues like unreliable internet connection or other operational challenges, you can seek an operational deferral. This type of deferral grants additional time for each STP report, ensuring compliance without undue pressure. There are specific processes to request a deferral, whether directly with the ATO or through a registered tax or BAS agent like Shoebox Books​​​​​​.

Exemptions from STP Reporting

Certain employers may qualify for exemptions from STP reporting. For example, employers with a withholding payer number (WPN) were exempt until 30 June 2023. Additionally, small employers with limited digital capability or those operating in areas without reliable internet services may apply for an exemption. The exemption application involves providing details like the number of employees and the specific reasons for inability to report through STP, ensuring that the ATO understands the business’s unique circumstances​.

Shoebox Books & Tax: Your STP Partner

At Shoebox Books & Tax, we understand the challenges of payroll management and how vital it is to have a reliable partner by your side. Specialising in payroll, STP, and leading payroll software like MYOB, Xero, and Quickbooks, our team comes with years of experience in bookkeeping, tax & accounting and payroll management. We’re here to offer custom support tailored to your business needs.

Our local branches are well-equipped to guide you through every aspect of STP, from initial setup to ongoing management. We provide comprehensive payroll management services, including setting up your payroll system and offering training on software usage. Our aim is to simplify the STP process for you, ensuring your business stays compliant and runs efficiently.

Whether you’re taking your first steps with STP or seeking ways to enhance your current payroll processes, we’re here to help. Find your Shoebox Books & Tax expert for all things payroll and STP, and see how our personalised approach can help your business thrive.

The Final Tally

As of 2023, the implementation of Single Touch Payroll (STP) has been a game-changer in Australian business payroll management. Offering real-time, accurate payroll reporting, it enhances efficiency and compliance, ensuring fairness in tax practices. Since its rollout in 2019, all businesses are now part of this digital shift, embracing the benefits of streamlined processes and increased transparency.

Navigating STP’s intricacies can be complex, but with Shoebox Books & Tax, it doesn’t have to be. Our expertise in STP and payroll management ensures a seamless transition, allowing you to focus on growing your business with confidence. Trust Shoebox to guide you through every step of STP compliance.