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Myth busting: Uber, bookkeepers and BAS agent registration


Don’t get caught up in the myths that circulate online and in the industry, and don't let yourself be pigeonholed as a GST preparer. There is so much more on offer.

By Steve Major, The Revolutionary Firm 14 minute read

In Australia recently there has been a number of posts on Facebook and LinkedIn about BAS agent registration and related topics. The statements have reminded me of the taxi drivers v Uber debate.

Some recent statements that have been made in these articles include:

“All people working in a bookkeeping business need a BAS agent registration!”


“Data going overseas should not be allowed.”

“Business owners should not be using bookkeepers or bookkeeping firms who are based outside of Australia!”

The ATO chose to implement the BAS agent registration system to improve compliance with the Code (found in the explanatory memorandum to the legislation) by service providers. The system of regulating the industry rather than relying on audits of small business was seen as a more cost-effective method to ensure the greatest collection of revenue. Nowhere in the explanatory memorandum was it intended to be a system to protect Australian bookkeepers.

However, many practitioners are seeing the BAS agent system as valuable, important to small business, and something to protect at all costs. Taxis, who’ve had to pay serious money for their registration, see their registration as equally valuable, important to consumers and something to protect at all costs. We have the system of BAS agent registration in this country and those residing here must operate by the rules. It is a necessary registration, just like the registration needed for a workplace. But it is nothing more than that. It is not a point of differentiation.

Let’s deal with the myths and then why this conversation is important for the bookkeeper of the future.

Myth number one: “Data going overseas should not be allowed!”

Let’s deal with the data issue. The above comment was made on Facebook. There is so much private and personal data put on Facebook which is going offshore. All of the major financial institutions have offshore operations, which means all of your customers’ data is already being held offshore. Telstra has offshore process centres. Many people are using cloud operations which means the data is offshore. I could keep going on with numerous examples where the data is offshore already.

Importantly, the small business people of Australia are quite comfortable with this arrangement. That is not to say to be complacent with data, but rather understand that we are in a global business and storing data offshore is practically unavoidable. One must be careful and vigilant, yet not sacrifice the power of technology within business.

Myth number two: “All people working in a bookkeeping business have to have BAS agent registration.”

For Australian bookkeeping firms, they need to have the work supervised or reviewed by a registered agent, but there is no need that all the people in the business are themselves registered. Firms should be harnessing the global workforce to provide great value to their clients. Technology has allowed us to be able to use the skills of fantastic people from around the world, and progressive bookkeeping firms are doing just that.

Myth number three: “Business owners should not be using bookkeepers or bookkeeping firms who are based outside of Australia.”

This brings me to the key issue. Business owners want to choose their service provider because the provider can solve their problems in the most effective manner. From their perspective, if that firm is in Canada, USA, Philippines, India or Australia then so be it. Why should they not be allowed to do that? I know a number of businesses who are seeking providers in the USA because the US bookkeeping firms are specialised in an industry and can solve their issues for them.

There is an opportunity for Australian bookkeeping firms to provide services to clients internationally. This is where the statements start sounding very much like the taxi drivers v Uber drivers debate. Taxi drivers were/are adamant that the customer should not be allowed to choose. They marched on Parliament houses making this case. Also, the taxi industry had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for this protection of their industry. Their registration allowed them to gain the monopoly. They grew comfortable, knowing they had this insurance, when they should have been concerned with delivering great service. But I am sure there are many readers who have chosen Uber over the taxi industry.

Often, the reason given is because of the level of customer service you get from Uber. Yes, I am a regular user of Uber.

So why is this important? Business owners will make their decision on a service provider based on value. Bookkeepers need to harness the power of technology, the global workforce and clearly define who they want to serve and what value they are going to deliver. The BAS agent registration is a necessary document but it should not define bookkeepers. So many bookkeepers are relying on the the BAS agent registration as a crutch, when their main focus should be delivering great value to their customers.

Bookkeepers have a fantastic opportunity to transform small business. They enjoy a close relationship with small business. Preparing business activity statements and payroll is just such a small part of what they can do.

The revolutionary firm of today is one which is:

● Moving from data verification to data interpretation

● Harnessing the power of technology

● Utilising the global workforce and

● Becoming a global business

Steve Major, co-founder, The Revolutionary Firm

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