Tax

Bookkeepers could flee industry under new registration rules

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One of Australia’s peak bodies representing bookkeepers is concerned that new rules requiring bookkeepers preparing BAS statements to become registered and obtain professional indemnity insurance could force many out of the industry.

One of Australia’s peak bodies representing bookkeepers is concerned that new rules requiring bookkeepers preparing BAS statements to become registered and obtain professional indemnity insurance could force many out of the industry.

Matthew Addison, executive director of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, estimates the total cost to bookkeepers (including registration, education costs and insurance) could be as high as $3000 per year.

This will be passed on to clients, with Addison predicting bookkeepers fees could rise by 47% from $34 an hour to $50 an hour.

Addision is very positive about the introduction of registration and says it means bookkeepers will finally be recognised for their valuable contribution. But he worries the extra costs will lead to many bookkeepers leaving the industry.

“The amount of regulation and the cost factor is going to put a burden on bookkeepers. I’ve spoken to many bookkeepers who are throwing their hands up and saying ‘no way, I’m out’.”

Under the laws, expected to come into effect on 1 January 2010, bookkeepers who “legally and competently” have relevant experience in preparing BAS statements will become “transitional bookkeepers”. They will have two years to obtain initial registration, although this will not require them to achieve a higher level of education and certification.

This initial registration will last three years, potentially allowing bookkeepers to carry on without extra formal training until the start of 2015. But bookkeepers wishing to continue to be registered will need to undertake further training. Addison expects many bookkeepers will time their retirement for this date.

“I think you’ll see some fallout on day one, you’ll see some leave in two year’s time and plenty will time their retirement for 2015.”

Given that 55% of tax agents are aged 60 and over and retiring at a rapid rate, this could leave Australian business horribly short of professionals who can prepared BAS statements.

Addison says regulators need to be particularly careful to ensure the insurance burden on bookkeepers is not too great.

His other tip? “The best answer would be for the GST and BAS forms to by made simpler.”

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