Both Xero managing director Chris Ridd and ATO second commissioner Geoff Leeper have recently warned accountants that compliance revenues will largely disappear as technology such as SBR streamlines compliance processes. However, Mr Hayes told AccountantsDaily that automation will never impact compliance revenues to such a degree since business owners simply do not trust the tax office.
“Compliance has, does, is going to represent a significant part of the demand for accounting services,” Mr Hayes said.
“The reality is the market doesn’t trust the ATO and that’s one of the reasons the market engages professionals. You have a regulator and the regulator is there to do a job, that’s fine; you have business owners who run their businesses; and you have professionals who stand between the regulator and business owners.
“When that business owner says, I’m not sure whether this expense is deductible or not deductible, the accountant is there to say 'I do know that, and maybe I know a way that you do it this way rather than that way'.”
Accountants have always been, and continue to be, the business owners' trusted adviser, said Mr Hayes.
“You can’t automate relationships and you can’t automate trust.”
According to Mr Hayes, the Australian taxation system is too complex for business owners to forego the advice of accountants and to expect the best outcome.
“Our whole system is weighted towards putting pressure on the tax payer and their advisers to get it right. Nobody in their right mind is going to say, I will take a short cut method on this.”
“We have such a complex tax system that for the commissioner, or the commissioner’s representative, to come out and say we can automate our way to ease of operation ... well you can’t do that unless you address some of the complexities in the tax system.
“Technology of itself will not address these complexities and while there are these sorts of complexities inside the system, then we are going to need accountants to work their way through them,” Mr Hayes said.