The End of Free STP Reporting? How to Find the Best Value STP Software
When the ATO promised in 2018 that small businesses wouldn't need to buy payroll software, business owners breathed a sigh of relief. But sadly, those days are over...
Farewell to Free STP
With the introduction of Single Touch Payroll (STP), the ATO promised business owners this:
"You won’t need to buy payroll software [...] we’re not saying for STP that you need to go out and buy a product to do STP."
John Shepherd, Assistant Commissioner & STP Lead, ATO. October 2018 [source]
However, since the introduction of STP in 2019, and with the rollout of STP Phase 2 from 2022 onwards, the number of providers offering a free STP solution has steadily declined. The last company to offer an entirely free STP solution to employing businesses (those with 2 or more employees) was Payroller, who just announced this week the removal of their free plan for any business with more than one employee.
And the ATO no longer maintain a "free and low-cost register of STP providers" any more, with the register removed entirely earlier this week (December, 2023). Presumably, because there are vanishingly few low-cost providers remaining. It perhaps doesn't hurt the ATO to remove attention from this fact, given their previous comments too...
But what has actually caused this?
What happened to all the free STP apps?
STP reporting is surprisingly complicated, because payroll itself is complicated. Software that can handle all the elements of payroll (standard pay, overtime, leave, entitlements, deductions, allowances, super, bonuses etc...) for employees in many different tax situations (resident, non-resident, SDLC deductions, Working Holiday Maker etc...) is not easy to build and maintain. And communicating those figures to the ATO can be complicated too.
Trust us, we know. We have spent tens of thousands of hours over the last five years designing, testing, tweaking and updating Easy Payslip to ensure our Single Touch Payroll reporting is perfect for Australian small businesses.
Not unreasonably, our design and development team do actually want to be paid for their efforts on this. We'd love to pay them purely in the satisfaction of helping out small businesses, but apparently they can't feed their families with that.
And on top of the huge time investment, we have ongoing costs around cloud infrastructure, security, third-party integrations, compliance and support.
It's actually surprising that so many free apps held out so long!
A Payroller Alternative?
With Payroller now charging a minimum of $11.99/month for their mobile+web plan (and $16.99 for their mobile-only plan[source]) on a monthly contract, is there a better value alternative for businesses with more than one employee?
Yes, there is.
Look, we're obviously a little biased here, but using Easy Business App to handle your payroll and STP is cheaper, easier and better supported.
|Easy Business App
|Monthly price for 2-4 employees. Billed via App Store/Play Store.
|Local Australian telephone, email and live-chat support
|Every feature available on both web and apps
|Price rises with little notice
The Perils of Free Software
We believe in being up-front with our customers. That's why Easy Payslip has never been free. We believe it's always been an unsustainable business model for there to be an entirely free STP lodgement option.
"If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold." [source]
Which is why some parts of Easy Business App (generally, the simpler, easier-to-maintain bits) are free, whereas the more complex bits are decidedly not. Because when you get things for free, you're the product. And we hate that as much as you do.
It's the same reason a plumber might not charge a neighbour who lives four doors down to fix a leaking tap, but they're definitely charging Woolworths for a full fit-out!
R.I.P. Free Single Touch Payroll
So, as the era of free STP software for employing businesses comes to a close, small business owners with employees will have to face another additional cost. But all is not lost — with the right product (and the right company) you can at least get some security in knowing that you'll get support when you need it and sleep soundly knowing that the money you're paying represents great value and is giving you well-maintained, up-to-date, secure software.
And, as a bonus, we get to pay our staff in more than vibes. So, thank you!