For many small businesses, the arrival of Single Touch Payroll (STP) on 1 July meant their first conversation with an accountant or bookkeeper about how they could tap into technology to run their business smarter. For accountants and bookkeepers, ensuring small businesses were ready to be STP-compliant was a great reason to get in touch and either establish or reignite a relationship.
Around 460,000 businesses — just over 50 per cent — are now in compliance with STP, which came into effect on 1 July. So, there’s still a whole lot more talking to do. Both for those who are still yet to become STP-compliant, and even for those who are.
We’ve long said that STP represents not just a compliance obligation but an opportunity for small businesses. With STP legislation now in force, thousands of businesses who would have previously used Excel or paper-based processes (picture a shoebox, shopping bag or glovebox full of receipts) will now be using a professional accounting system. In many cases, one which not only helps them organise their finances but enables them to share their information in real time with an accountant or bookkeeper.
Accountants and bookkeepers should take this opportunity to provide proactive advice to their small business clients. By reviewing their clients’ real-time data they now have access to, accounting professionals can showcase their advisory skills by offering insights and more proactive, timely advice. This in turn enables accountants and bookkeepers to have more valued conversations with their clients and form deeper relationships.
With this guidance comes a renewed confidence in using an accounting professional for business advice, with many small businesses telling us they would rather pay for this type of guidance as opposed to retrospective advice typically provided by delivering compliance outcomes. With more and more small businesses becoming STP-compliant, accounting professionals are now in a better position to provide more informed business guidance than ever before. Rather than providing advice based on out-of-date data, their accountant or bookkeeper has the potential to become their virtual CFO, and play a more proactive role to help them run their business.
Sadly, this synergy won’t happen on its own. It takes initiative on both sides. For accountants and bookkeepers who have not actively provided advisory services in the past, building that muscle to play a proactive, advisory role in your clients’ business can be daunting. But the payoff is having the opportunity to use the skills you have a qualification for and making a tangible difference to your clients.
It also represents an opportunity to grow your business — if that’s a business goal. With STP compliance resulting in more small businesses using an online accounting solution, their data and insights will be accessible to you from anywhere. This in turn means you can open up your total addressable market to clients who are based further than a 50km radius of your office. In addition, this STP opportunity enables you to have more flexibility in the way you work — like the accountant who told me recently he holidayed in Europe and was able to remain connected to his office and clients at all times.
I’m excited about the opportunity STP continues to provide, and I’m meeting more and more accountants and bookkeepers who are too. After all, Australia’s economy is driven by small businesses and Intuit research shows that small businesses say they are more successful when working with an accountant or bookkeeper. For this reason, we will continue to introduce as many small businesses as we can to advisers.
Our vision and hope is that more small businesses will start tapping into professional accounting advice at an earlier stage of the business journey, and as a result, more will stay in business. That will positively impact them, the accounting profession and the Australian economy as a whole.
The introduction of STP gave accountants and bookkeepers a new lens for their clients to see them through. It’s provided the catalyst to take their client relationships to the next level. Rather than a compliance obligation, think of STP as a conversation starter. It’s time to pick up the phone and Start Talking, People.
Meagan Wood, group marketing manager, Intuit Australia