Marcus Leonard, BDO’s partner in charge – tax said he fears a decline in the quality of accounting and bookkeeping work, given the steady increase in compliance and documentation work placed on these professionals from the regulators.
Further, Australia’s federal and state-based tax system has become increasingly complex, with little hope of tax reform in the mid to long term.
“General practitioner-type accountants need to be across all the state tax rules, stamp duty and land tax rules, as well as the superannuation regulations and legislation,” Mr Leonard said.
“Because the taxation regime and requirements have become so complex, it’s extremely difficult to be across everything and there have been unfortunate oversights.”
Mr Leonard said there have been a number of recent tax cases at the AAT where it is evident that the taxpayer has been let down by an accountant “due to lack of knowledge, not lack of care”.
He fears these instances will only increase, particularly if the revenue authorities continue to shift the burden of certain compliance functions back onto professionals and taxpayers.
“For example, the task of data-gathering has been pushed back to the taxpayer. If, for instance, the ATO does a review, historically they would come out and look at source documents themselves,” Mr Leonard said.
“Now, they send out a very detailed questionnaire, all collated by the professional and the taxpayer. The revenue authorities are getting their data and information by the profession, which is another burden.”
Accountants are also working longer hours, particularly around key deadlines such as the end of the financial year. Mr Leonard fears this will add to the “burnout” of the current generation of accountants, and make the industry less desirable for new talent.
“The concern is if you have a profession that is not looked at as favourable and enjoyable, the next generation doesn’t see this as a desirable profession to move into, and then we end up with a shortage,” he said.