This morning I presented (via video link) to 23 executives of the Australian Taxation Office. All 23 are high powered decision makers who where wondering about my views on the Accounting profession and that of their Entrepreneurial clients.

They were particularly interested in my thoughts on the impact of cloud computing. I had 4 main points to make;

  1.  Cloud technology – how it is a major friend to the business community and both friend and foe to the Accounting profession. They like this idea and although they asked some pretty inane questions they know it is inevitable.
  2. Globalisation – how access to labour in developing countries is helping businesses but not helping the tax department for revenue. They seemed a bit ambivalent about this one. No questions asked at all.  Bizarre.
  3. Hyper growth – how many entrepreneurs are growing and want to grow yet government agencies are not supporting the growth. In fact the opposite is happening by incurring taxes (payroll tax) on us for hiring people and making it difficult to access grants – or the grants are drying up. The government want us to pay more tax yet are not helping us do so. I had a go at them about supporting foreign companies with massive subsidies (like the car industry that is not owned locally) and not supporting small business. They agreed but I don’t think they know how to do anything about it.
  4. Simplification of tax and red tape – I had a whinge about the volume of paperwork and poor service we receive when we interact with the ATO. They agreed.

Most of the time was spent on item # 1. We had a robust discussion around security, why cloud makes things more efficient and the appetite for businesses owners to do ‘one click lodgement’ (that was my term BTW.) This task force has been set up to improve dramatically the ‘service’ provided to the customer (us in Business) and to simplify the data transfer.

What was really exciting was the discussion about a standard ‘chart of accounts’ for industry types and ‘standard business reporting’ for all businesses. Basically what the ATO are talking about is enabling businesses to use cloud technology and link real time with the tax department when ever we want to lodge it. I said we should pay tax like wages – every 2 weeks. Better on everyone’s cashflow! This is on their agenda.

What ‘one click lodgement’ means is that businesses will bypass the Accountant for this service. It’s going to happen. Is the profession ready for this? More reason to add value, add value, add value. Compliance is commodotised and soon the intermediary Accountant / book keeper will be bypassed as we go straight to the ATO.

Great for business. Not great for Accountants.