Accountants' roles as tax professionals are changing - and so is the ATO

Digital roadmap

Accountants’ roles as tax professionals are changing, and so is the ATO, says the Commissioner for Taxation.

 By Chris Jordan

Our environment is changing and it is changing rapidly.

Since 2005, we’ve seen the introduction of countless innovations that have revolutionised our daily lives. We are now able to access the information and services that we need whenever we want and wherever we are.

In this time of rapid change, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is working closely with the accounting profession to ensure relevant information is available and support is there if you need it.

Changing expectations

Clients’ expectations and demands are changing rapidly, and this is having an impact on the way accountancy practices operate.

Key changes include: 

More digital interactions:

Your clients want to
  • Work with you without physically being in your office
  • Receive and send information instantaneously and digitally
  • Lodge their forms and meet their tax and super obligations with your assistance but without needing to physically visit you 

More cloud-based computing:

Your clients want to

  • Simplify their tax and super obligations 
  • Integrate their obligations and record-keeping into their natural systems 
  • Have access to their information instantaneously 
  • Avoid rekeying or relaying information or keeping paper records

More self-service:

Your clients want to
  • Have access to their information at all times
  • Do simple things themselves while seeking your advice for more complex matters
  • Access their own information at a time and place that is suitable for them 

Now is the time to change

We are already seeing new initiatives and projects from the government, which will bring services into the digital environment. 

As a part of this modernisation, we are working hard to improve the way you and your clients interact with the tax and super systems. To ensure they can deliver the experience that you expect, we are reinventing ourselves to become more relevant to the community.

To do this, we are putting you at the centre of everything we do and delivering the experience that accountants and their clients require.

These changes within government, coupled with the improved software available to everyone, make the present the ideal time to seriously consider making the move to a more digitised, agile and online business model, if you have not done so already. 

Some of the key changes that you will need to make to ensure your practice is ready for the future include:

  • Working with your software provider to ensure your practice management software is ready for Standard Business Reporting 
  • Integrating your systems and processes to increase information sharing within your practice and reduce manual data entry
  • Working in the cloud and storing your information and records remotely 
  • Keeping electronic records 
  • Communicating and doing business with your clients electronically
These changes will allow you to focus on taking advantage of new technology to improve your practice’s systems and provide better services to your clients.

How we are helping you

The ATO is committed to helping you through this time of change. We have published the Roadmap for Change for Tax Professionals (available online at bit.ly/ato_roadmap) which details what is happening from now until 2020, and the support provided by the ATO to the profession.

The ATO’s Future of the Tax Professional Working Group is actively discussing how we manage both short-term and long-term changes and what we can do to support accountants through this period.

We are also working closely with software providers to ensure digital services and systems are integrated with government systems and your clients’ software. 

Although the environment is changing and becoming more digital and automated, this does not mean the end of personalised service or a reduction of your role. Instead, it is the exact opposite. The ATO’s reinvention is paving the way for a more contemporary, digitised and personalised experience.

We want to have strong, ongoing partnerships with the tax profession that help the tax system to work to an optimum. Together, we can deliver a client experience for taxpayers that supports their willing participation in the tax system.

This article is from the November issue of INPRACTICE

Learn more: Taxation training