Australia's first SBR lodgment solution

Embracing The Transition of ELS to SBR

Posted on 28 March 2013

GovReports in Focus

The era of software applications is rapidly growing as the increasing demand for better solution to manage & access of information: Love them, hate them, many of us cannot do without them in one form or another, and possibly would not want to do without them. For tax professionals, accounting and tax software can take the pain of managing, storing of financial data to generate reports, tax return completion and tax liability calculations, freeing up the time to deal with more rewarding work such as tax or business planning and other financial advisory work.

Various areas of expertise in the accounting industry give rise to new roles and responsibilities for tax professionals that exist in a rapidly changing and regulated environment. Methods of working and software solutions that were adequate a few years ago now need to be examined. Like many businesses, if a practitioner do not take the risk of changing the software in order to reap the rewards of new technology, they could face the risk of business failure or worse not meeting compliance.

For many accounting practices, often working methods, software and or system have not changed for 5 or more years. If that is the case for a business client, usually it is in a tax practitioner's point of view and advice to justifiably expressing concern about the survival of the business, yet many advisers/tax practitioners fall into the same trap without realising it.

Understandably smaller firms tend to take more risks as they do not have the resources to implement processing systems while managing the risk personally or using staff to manage and mitigate the issue.

All that will change as government is now progressing towards the new era of reporting online via Standard Business Reporting (SBR). Electronic Lodgment Service (ELS) tax related software although has been a successful and outstanding program electronically lodging millions of income tax returns per year via registered tax agents' computers, will now need to progressively incorporate and enable their software users the channel to transmit reports via SBR.

SBR is an Australian Government initiative to reduce the business-to-government reporting burden. Lead by Treasury, with participating agencies including ATO, APRA, ABS, ASIC, all States and Territories Revenue offices.

The program commences in July 2010 on a voluntary basis, changing the concept of ONE to ONE [Tax agent to ATO] to ONE to MANY [Tax agent to ATO, ASIC, SROs] using AUSkey, a single login credential that enable online lodgment with most participating online services including ATO, ABR, ASIC and OSRs.

Software companies are encouraged to develop SBR lodgment capabilities, but the cost of research and development have yet to be quantifiable as an investment as most accounting and payroll software currently do not have lodgment capability and users submit reports the conventional ways via paper lodgment or direct via ATO portals. Whilst the release of SBR forms for ELS software is incomplete and without the individual tax return component, leaving ELS software providers in limbo as they cannot commit to research & development and offer both lodgment solutions to their clients.

Filling in the gap is the new service provider - GovReports which has successfully merged ELS technology with SBR, designed and developed as an independent lodgment portal for users to submit statutory reports including individual or corporation returns to ATO or multiple government agencies from the one single dashboard using AUSkey.

As a SaaS application, not only does GovReports provide all the ELS features for tax agents, it also offers services as ATO portals with cloud benefits for tax payers and their advisers. Advanced prefilling features with incorporated workflow process to highlight and control risk such as tracking system, dashboard, managing staff , tasks and lodgements.

GovReports has an edge with an advanced effective communication feature such as validation at various processes and beyond lodgment capability enabling users to save and resume the work at their convenience or simply lodging an amendment to earlier reports... Once lodged, users get instant lodgment receipts, and any updates are automatically available to users without having to wait for the conventional dispatch.

ATO has in 2012 released the implementation plan for ELS to SBR program from July 2015, making the desktop attached ELS program phasing out from tax agents business work centre. Work from anywhere, any time and any tax preparer, interacting with the tax payer as well as tax agent would be a real advantage to quantify the estimated saving of $500 million to the businesses from SBR implementation.

Option to review the tagged tax returns and lodge all completed tax returns along with other forms like activity statements, ASIC financial reports... would be highly desirable for the tax advisers as information is less likely overlooked, thus a more effective compliance process.

All business requirements of a tax practitioner are streamlined and allowing them to set up their secure workstation in cloud to meet lodgment obligations such as:

Many larger practices integrate different software solutions particularly individual tax, corporation tax and final accounts to enhance the flexibility and efficiency, as is GovReports providing links between practice management and all tax and accounting software with lodgment and prefilling and reuse data for different and subsequent reporting obligations or government agency.

As the compliance process stringent requiring tax practitioner to lodge 85% of their clients reporting obligation online from July 2013, and the introduction of online SBR lodgment service, cloud service provider such as GovReports add benefits to accounting practices the desirable flexibility and efficient ways of managing clients and their reporting obligations.

While GovReports is seemingly the first SBR enabled solution to go to market with such beneficial features for the accounting professions, what will come next when SBR is fully implemented from other service providers will be an interesting space to watch.