The Federal Government will spend more than $200 million over the next three years to develop a system to make it easier for business to lodge statements such as BAS online.
The Standard Business Reporting program, scheduled to be in place by 2010, should allow business owners to use accounting software such as MYOB to automatically pre-fill government reports such as business activity statements, company income tax returns, TFN declarations and the quarterly business indicators survey.
Announcing the funding yesterday, Treasurer Peter Costello said SMEs should be the main beneficiaries of the voluntary program.
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“Small and medium business will stand to benefit, with significant reductions expected in time spent preparing and submitting reports, and lower costs for those who assist them such as tax agents and accountants,” Costello said.
But Sue Prestney, Insitute of Chartered Accountants in Australia SME business issue spokeswoman, and a principal of MGI Boyd Accountants, says it will be important that easy online lodgement doesn’t lull business owners into spending less time ensuring the accuracy of information submitted.
“Anything that saves time is great. Where the danger might come in is if the process was automatic that last review process or final check may just not happen, so in the first instance there will need to be a degree of understanding from the tax office as business owners become accustomed with how this will work,” Prestney says.
Privacy could also be a big issue for many business owners, who will want to be assured that information submitted isn’t used for unauthorised purposes.
“A key issue will be to ensure confidentially from all of these different government places where the information is going. It’s a little bit frightening, once you press a button, how can you be sure that information doesn’t find its way somewhere it wasn’t intended,” Prestney says.