Parliament has now passed legislation – the Treasury Laws Amendment (2018 Measures No 4) Bill 2018 

– to bring in Single Touch Payroll (STP) reporting for all small employers (that is, employers with fewer than 20 employees) from 1 July 2019. STP is a payday reporting arrangement where employers need to send tax and superannuation information to the ATO from their payroll or accounting software each time they pay their employees. For large employers (with 20 or more employees), STP reporting started gradually from 1 July 2018, and until now it has been optional for small employers. 

The basics of STP reporting

  • Each employer needs to report their employees' tax and super information to the ATO on or before each payday, or authorise a third party such as a registered agent or payroll service provider to report on their behalf. They need to send the information from STP-enabled payroll software.
  • When STP reporting is in place, employers no longer need to provide payment summaries to their employees for the payments reported and finalised through STP. Payments not reported through STP, such as employee share scheme (ESS) amounts, still need to be reported on a payment summary.
  • Employers no longer need to provide payment summary annual report (PSARs) to the ATO at the end of the financial year for payments reported through STP.
  • Employees can view their year-to-date payment information using the ATO's online services, accessible through their myGov account. They can also request a copy of this information from the ATO.
  • Employers need to complete a finalisation declaration at the end of each financial year. The information reported through STP will not be tax-ready for employees or their tax agents until the employer makes this declaration.
  • Employers need to report employees' superannuation liability information – as usually provided to the employees on their payslips – for the first time through STP. Super funds will then report to the ATO when the employer pays the super amounts to employees' funds.
  • From 2020, the ATO will pre-fill activity statement labels W1 and W2 for small to medium withholders with the information reported through STP. Employers that currently lodge an activity statement will continue to do so.

ATO offers support during the transition

ATO Commissioner Chris Gordon has said he wants to "reassure small business and give my personal guarantee that our approach to extending Single Touch Payroll will be flexible, reasonable and pragmatic". The ATO understands that many small businesses and other small employers don't currently use commercial payroll software and "they will not be required to purchase such software to report under STP". The ATO is working with software providers to develop low- and no-cost reporting solutions including simple payroll solutions, portals and mobile apps, and will publish a list of providers at

In particular, the ATO understands there will be circumstances where small businesses need more time to implement STP or lodge reports. Small employers can start reporting any time from the 1 July start date to 30 September 2019. The ATO will grant deferrals to any small employer who requests additional time to start STP reporting.

There will be help available for micro employers (with one to four employees) transitioning to STP, and the ATO will offer a number of alternative options – such as allowing those who rely on a registered tax or BAS agent to report quarterly for the first two years, rather than each time payroll is run.

There will be no penalties for mistakes, or missed or late reports, for the first year, and employers experiencing hardship or who are in areas with intermittent or no internet connection will be able to access exemptions.