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All Australian employers are affected by Single Touch Payroll (STP), although the mandatory start date depends on the number of employees:

  • For employers with 20 or more employees, the deadline is 1 July 2018
  • For employers with 19 or less employees, the deadline is 1 July 2019 

To streamline their ATO reporting, employers of any size can choose to opt in to Single Touch Payroll prior to the mandatory start dates.

The employee headcount is as at 1 April 2018 (see below) or visit the ATO website for information on how to count your employees.  


Single Touch Payroll headcount on 1 April 2018

The date stipulated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to count the employees on your payroll was 1 April 2018 in your diary. If you had 20 or more employees on 1 April, you are required to start Single Touch Payroll (STP) reporting from 1 July 2018. If you had 19 or less employees, your deadline is 1 July 2019.

The headcount is a self-assessment. You do not need to notify the ATO of your employee numbers.

 Read more

How to do the headcount

  • Count each employee, not the full-time equivalent
  • The headcount is a bit like the census. You can do it after 1 April but you need to count the employees who were on your payroll on 1 April
  • If you do have 20 or more employees, you will need to continue reporting through STP even if your employee numbers drop to 19 or less – unless you apply for and are granted an exemption
  • The headcount is a self-assessment. You do not need to notify the ATO of your employee numbers
  • If you are part of a company group, you must include the total number of employees employed by all member companies of the wholly-owned group.

Include in your headcount

  • Full-time employees
  • Part-time employees
  • Casual employees who are on the payroll on 1 April and worked at any time in March
  • Employees based overseas
  • Any employee who is absent or on leave (paid or unpaid)
  • Seasonal employees (staff who are engaged short term to meet a regular peak workload, for example, harvest workers).

Do not include in your headcount

  • Any employees who ceased work before 1 April
  • Casual employees who did not work in March
  • Independent contractors
  • Staff provided by a third-party labour hire organisation
  • Company directors
  • Office holders
  • Religious practitioners

Directors, office holders and religious practitioners are not included in the headcount. They are not considered employees within the common law meaning of the term. However, when you start reporting through STP you will need to report their payment information. This is because the payments are subject to withholding and are currently reported in the Individual non-business payment summary.

Using Attaché Payroll to assist with your headcount 

For most businesses, completing your headcount should be relatively simple. As your starting point, use the Employee Details report, selecting the appropriate Employment Status and Print Short List. You will need to discount any staff who fall under the ATO’s “do not include” list, and ensure you only include casuals who worked in March. If you have a lot of casuals, you might like to run the Pay Totals History report for March to see how many casuals worked during the month. 

Alternatively, if your employee situation is more complex, use the List Wizard with the appropriate data fields selected and export the report to Excel. You can then remove any "do not include" employees, add any that are not recorded in Attaché Payroll and combine employees from multiple companies.

ATO resources

You can also visit the ATO's Single Touch Payroll information for employers including Get Ready for Single Touch Payroll, which includes information on which employees to include in your headcount.

See also How employees are affected by Single Touch Payroll and download our employee fact sheet to share with your staff.