The Australian Taxation Office is on a mission to establish uniform standards governing the way businesses communicate with one another and report their activity to government.
Under the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) program it will replace its current proprietary interface with the open standard ebMS 3.0 profile used widely by other Australian industries and abroad.
The ATO believes it will make it easier for developers to build SBR-enabled tools for administering tax and managing super funds, and also to sell them overseas.
The standard will also shape how superannuation contributions are processed, and will feed into the government’s $467 million SuperStream program aimed at making the industry more efficient though ‘back-office’ improvements.
From 1 July 2014, employers of more than 20 staff will have to adopt the standards for their super contributions, transforming a system that Pauline Vamos from the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia said is plagued by dodgy data.
“The issue for some time has been the quality of data provided by employers,” she said. “Some of the stories are legendary. Funds can receive cheques with no member information attached, electronic payments with no identification, even notes on the backs of napkins. Funds then spend oodles of time and resources trying to verify this data.”
Business reporting to government will also be supported by a new modern eCommerce platform to be supplied to the ATO by IBM under a $42 million deal inked in June.
The new platform will replace the ATO’s 20 year-old Electronic Lodgement System, and will give businesses greater access to prefilled information and real-time services when meeting their reporting obligations.
Kevin Bungard, chief operating officer at Class Super, a software vendor to self-managed super funds, said even though the move to the new standard will cost companies like his, the reforms were worthwhile
“It is always going to come at a cost in terms of implementation, but I think that overall industry appreciates that they have to make that investment. We are generally in favour of what the ATO and Treasury are doing because it improves the standard of technology industry-wide,” he said.