Bookkeeper fees set to rise 47%

Fees charge by bookkeepers are set to rise after legislation was introduced to Parliament requiring bookkeepers who lodge BAS statements to be registered by a new national body.

Fees charge by bookkeepers are set to rise after legislation was introduced to Parliament requiring bookkeepers who lodge BAS statements to be registered by a new national body.

The legalisation, which was introduced to Parliament this week, is expected to become law in early 2009. After a transitional period, bookkeepers are expected to need to be registered by January 2010.

Under current laws, external bookkeepers are allows to prepare BAS statements provided they worked under the supervision of a tax agent or were a member of a specified professional body. But the law does not work effectively and many bookkeepers do not pass the test to be legally allowed to lodge BAS statements.

On top of the costs of becoming registered, bookkeepers will also be forced to take professional indemnity insurance.

Matthew Addision, executive director of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, says he supports the changes but admits they will bring extra costs for bookkeepers and their clients. He estimates average fees will jump from $34 an hour to $50 an hour – a rise of 47%.

Robert Hutt, technical and education manager at the Association of Accounting Technicians, argues the establishment of a professional standard will provide some benefits to SME clients.

“It is an impost that has to be paid for improving reliability of the people who are preparing these important reports.

“The upside is that they have greater reliance on their compliance with BAS and the general tax regime because the person engaged is confident and competent to do the work.”

Another benefit for SMEs is the fact that the tax office will offer a safe harbour to clients of registered bookkeepers – if a registered bookkeeper does your BAS and makes a genuine error, the tax office will waive penalties and interest.

“You’ve got two assurances then, both with the safe harbour and the fact you can be confident that you’ve engaged a competent bookkeeper,” Hutt says.

He believes the processes of accrediting bookkeepers should run smoothly.

“For the people who are out there who are legitimate bookkeepers and have a high degree of competence, there is no difficulty.”

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