Business reporting moves to the next level

Up until recently, the lack of standardised reporting processes and requirements across multiple government agencies meant that businesses often had to interpret the terms used and the type of information required for different government reporting needs.

The solution, “Standard Business Reporting” (SBR), was launched in 2010 with the intention to streamline how businesses report and lodge mandated requirements to government, including to the Tax Office. Businesses that sign on can use SBR-enabled software to prepare and lodge key government forms and electronic reports directly from their own

computer systems, and to do so use a single secure log on called AUSkey when sending reports to agencies via SBR. AUSkey does away with the need to have different passwords or log-in details for each government agency, and is the responsibility of the Australian Business Register (see www.auskey.abr.gov.au).

The SBR program is a long-term project, with an intention to extend the same standards and reporting tools to not just business-to-government dealings but eventually business-to-business. The initial focus of SBR was for tax reporting and company compliance, with super the next area to be given the SBR treatment.

Now the government is set to move SBR to the next level with the announcement that the platform is moving from a proprietary interface to an open- source solution, and one that adopts international e-commerce standards. The Tax Office move to an open- source environment may shape future applications of the program.

Taking the program into open-source territory will also open the door to improvements and add-ons being developed by the wider software developer community, with the justified hope that more and easier applications will encourage more businesses to take up electronic reporting and related commerce solutions. The same open-source standard is being widely adopted in Europe, where several countries are mandating schemes similar to Australia’s SBR.

The new SBR standard should also shape how superannuation regulatory and administration requirements are handled, and will thus inform and contribute to the government’s SuperStream program (which has the stated aim of streamlining the industry’s “back office”).

Under this initiative, employers of more than 20 staff will, from July 2014, be required to adopt the SuperStream standards for their superannuation obligations.

After that the business reporting standard will be applied to employer reporting obligations for the Department of Human Services, with reporting to the Insolvency and Trustee Service the next organisation to adopt SBR, before moving progressively to every other government agency.

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