If you work for an Australian business with 20 or more employees, then by now you have probably received a note from your employer’s payroll or human resources department informing you that they will not give you a PAYG Payment Summary (sometimes still called by the outdated term “Group Certificate” by some people) at the end of the financial year, and you will have to go to MyGov to obtain it. If you work in a smaller business, you will hear all about this during the next financial year.
So, what is going on and why do you have to talk to the government to obtain a paper that used to come from your employer?
Well, briefly, the Australian Taxation Office now requires businesses to report payroll information after each payrun using an electronic system called Single Touch Payroll  (which is a dumb name as there is nothing “single touch” about payroll unless all of your employees are on a fixed salary, never take any leave, and never leave the business) as opposed to the old annual reporting by a variety of methods. Ostensibly this is to simplify processes at the ATO’s end and make the information they receive more reliable as it now comes directly from the payroll software in use by each business and can’t be manually compiled by the business. For some very small businesses it means starting to use payroll software, but given the complexities of income tax and industrial awards, it is almost a form of madness to not use payroll software.
For employees this also means that information about their pay (such as year-to-date totals) are frequently updated and available through MyGov. Combined with ATO regulations which have changed how and when superannuation must be paid by employers, it also allows employees to see if all of their superannuation has been paid and if not, how much longer it may take for payments to be made. It also means that employers no longer have to provide a Payment Summary, although they can if they choose to.
In the case of my two employers, both of which are large enough to be forced on to the Single Touch Payroll system, one has stated that they will not provide payment summaries and employees should go to MyGov, while the other is still providing payment summaries this year with no word on what they will do next year.
The one downside to this is that it almost forces people through the federal government’s MyGov system. For most people this isn’t a problem as they already lodge tax returns through MyGov or deal with other government agencies such as Medicare or Centrelink through MyGov. However for some people the login system just never seems to behave, and for others (primarily the poor, some people with disabilities, the aged, and people who just don’t trust government websites to remain secure) they just don’t want to use MyGov or have no easy way to access it. This poses a problem when people are being pushed to use MyGov to obtain documentation which is critical to completing the mandatory annual process of completing and submitting an income tax return.
The ATO’s website has almost entirely unhelpful information on how to obtain your payment summary  which basically boils down to “login to MyGov, click here, here, and here”. It also adds the handy note that if you use a tax agent, they can obtain the payment summary on your behalf (so don’t worry if you can’t print it out for them as you don’t need to hand it to them). It says nothing about what to do if you do not wish to lodge a tax return through MyGov and don’t use a tax agent. However the page I linked to earlier in this post describing what Single Touch Payroll is does add a single line stating:
You’ll be able to contact us for a copy of your income statement.
While also noting
You can continue to lodge your tax return as you do now.
Thus, if you want to get your PAYG Payment Summary on paper for whatever reason, you can contact the ATO and they will send it to you. It doesn’t state anywhere else that I can find how exactly to contact the ATO for a paper copy of your PAYG Payment Summary (Update: An ATO Spokesperson says you can call the “Individuals Line” 13 28 61 (within Australia) or +61 2 6216 1111 from overseas to request a paper copy of your income statement, which used to be known as a payment summary or group certificate), but working on the assumption that if you want it on paper and can’t or don’t want to obtain it from MyGov, you will probably also be submitting your tax return on paper, and there is a phone number on the ATO’s website for obtaining a paper copy of Tax Pack 
and you would expect that the people answering that line will be able to either arrange your paper PAYG Payment Summary or put you in touch with someone who can do that. That number is 1300 720 092. (Update: The ATO spokesperson advises this number is only for publications, not for obtaining a paper income statement) (Long gone, sadly, are the days of every newsagent stocking Tax Pack. I have fond memories of childhood when Dad would get two extra copies of Tax Pack, one in case he made too many mistakes and had to start again, and one so that I could have fun preparing my own pretend tax return…who needs video games when you can have hours of fun and calculations on paper?). That number is only able to be dialled from within Australia, so your guess is as good as mine as to what number you dial if you’re trying to do this from overseas. That said, I will be contacting the ATO for clarification of this point, and also to see if they have a preferred phone number for people to call to obtain their PAYG Payment Summary.
Update: As mentioned above, and repeating here to make it clear, an ATO Spokesperson tells me the number to obtain an income statement (previously known as a payment summary or group certificate) is 13 28 61 (within Australia) or our international line on +61 2 6216 1111.
So, to summarise, your options for obtaining your income statement, previously known as a PAYG payment summary or group certificate are:
- Login to MyGov, link your ATO account, and get it from there
- Ask your employer for a copy. They are not obliged to provide you with one, but might be in a generous mood
- Use a tax agent. They can obtain your income statement on your behalf
- Ring the Australian Taxation Office on the “Individuals Line” 13 28 61 (within Australia) or +61 2 6216 1111 from overseas and ask for a copy
- If you also need a paper copy of Tax Pack to submit your tax return on paper, that can be requested from the ATO’s publications line: 1300 720 092
If I hear back with clarification of contact points for any of this, I will update the post accordingly.
Update: An ATO Spokesperson has kindly replied to my request with the following information (the post above has been updated with the key details from this).
While it’s not compulsory to have a myGov account, with the introduction of Single Touch Payroll, myGov will provide employees with access to their tax and super information at any time.
Setting up an ATO Online account in myGov is easy. Just go to my.gov.au and follow the instructions.
Employees who have trouble interacting online and don’t use a tax agent can contact the ATO to get a copy of their income statement (formerly payment summary) after 31 July (most employers have until 31 July to finalise the income statement).
Employees can call the individuals line on 13 28 61 (within Australia) or our international line on +61 2 6216 1111.
By calling this line, individuals can order a paper tax return form and their income statement at the same time.
Paper tax return forms can also be ordered on our dedicated publication ordering line 1300 720 092. Income statements are not available through this phone number.