Friday, July 16, 2010

Dispelling some SBR software myths

Last week was a busy week for the GovDirect team culminating in a presentation I made to the Public Practice Advisory Committee from the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

This group represents the public practitioners who are 'would be' adopters of SBR enabled software. And even though I was there to provide an update on what is happening in SBR, I couldn't help myself and threw in a plug for GovDirect. When I took the audience through both the SBR and GovDirect websites I got a sense of cautious optimism in terms of the value that solutions like GovDirect can deliver to advisors and their clients. But as with adoption of any new technology there is a little confusion over what the practicalities of SBR are....

For advisors:

AusKey replaces the ATO's digital certificate you need to sign on to the Tax Agent Portal and indeed how you verify your identity when lodging information via ELS. AusKey becomes the credential advisors and their clients need to verify their identify for participating government agencies and replaces the need to keep separate usernames and passwords for each agency.

SBR is not another government web portal. SBR uses a standard message format that all participating government agencies can read from your SBR enabled software. Practically what this means for tax agents is there will be nothing different to the way in which you prepare a form for lodgement; only the way in which that form is transformed into a message to be sent to the receiving agent, the same as ELS does with existing software.

Solutions like GovDirect offer an alternative to tax agent's existing software by offering more forms (i.e. all the payroll tax forms and employment forms such as the TFN Declaration Form, ETP and annual payment forms) and the ability to connect you (as the agent) to your clients via the form being lodged; i.e. your clients can prepare the form from their accounting system (such as MYOB or QuickBooks) and you can review and comment on the accuracy of the information in the form without having to ask for the file. Once you're satisfied the form is complete, you or your client can lodge the form direct to government using an AusKey as the means to identify who submitted what and when.

For business:

Many of the forms you submit to government today will be paper based. However using SBR enabled software you will now be able to submit these electronically direct from your accounting or payroll system. For example, where you employ someone new in your business you will have to:
  1. Request a TFN Declaration Form from the ATO, then once you've received the form,
  2. Have the employee complete their details and provided these details are correct,
  3. Complete the payer section and post the form to the ATO.
Using GovDirect, there is no need to request the form and then most of the fields within the form are pre-filled with information from your accounting system and then validated to ensure the form's accuracy before you lodge. The same principle applies for all the forms in scope of SBR, allowing you and/or your advisor to spend less time collating the information to be lodged and more time analysing what it means to your business.

For the techies:

On its own, tagging financial information using the SBR Taxonomy in an XBRL format will not meet the requirements of SBR. You still need to use the web services to transport the required information from your system to SBR Core Services. At the very least this will require you to become familiar with the information available on the SBR website under the Developers section. GovDirect uses these web services and can be configured to either query accounting system databases or transform the mapped XBRL instance into the appropriate message. To reporting businesses and their advisors it should make no difference.

The key to adoption of SBR is all of the above groups working together towards a harmonised vision, i.e. to reduce the reporting burden for business.


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