The professional accounting bodies have now called for the government to lean on its advice before deciding to implement large-scale measures that flow through the tax system, pointing towards the speedily legislated JobKeeper and cash-flow boost measures as examples of implementation flaws where consultation is not undertaken.
Highlighting the immense burden borne by tax practitioners in getting up to speed with the new measures and assisting clients, the government has now been urged to learn from its COVID-19 response for future measures and changes.
“Given the reliance on the tax system to deliver a major part of the stimulus expenditure, there appeared to be a lack of consultation which could have mitigated a lot of implementation issues experienced by practitioners and advisers,” said the Institute of Public Accountants in its submission to a Senate inquiry on the government’s response to COVID-19.
“We are mindful of the speed in which the government had to respond to the looming crisis; notwithstanding this constraint, the government could have utilised some of the existing consultation infrastructure for input into the legislative agenda.
“While consultation would not have mitigated all the implementation issues due to the short time available for consultation, nonetheless it would have assisted a smoother pathway for practitioners to navigate the short implementation window.”
Likewise, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand believes the government should consider practitioners ahead of future changes, particularly as the government hints at incoming changes to the JobKeeper scheme.
“We highlighted the enormous workload borne by CAs and urged officials to be more cognisant of the implementation risks associated with adjusting current stimulus measures and any reforms,” said CA ANZ tax leader Michael Croker.
“Adequate lead times must be provided so that we and the clients we serve have an opportunity to plan and adapt.”
CPA Australia has also recognised the crucial role that accountants have played during the crisis, and will call on the government to consider “critical intermediaries” such as tax practitioners when developing policies to ensure that measures are rolled out seamlessly.
Its submission will also detail the significant impacts of the stimulus implementation process on clients and practices.
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Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.