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Or is it just BAS Agents who are losing out?
The burden on Australian small businesses to stay compliant with the ATO is immense. A lot of that is to do with the government not distinguishing between a small business with upwards of twenty staff, and a micro business which may have five or fewer staff — sometimes even no staff.
All of this compliance — bookkeeping, activity statements, payroll, superannuation, and so on — is costly and time consuming, so most business owners outsource this work to a professional contractor. Before the government changed the tax laws, bookkeepers used to be the ones a small or micro business would turn to.
Prior to 2010, a bookkeeper could complete and lodge your BAS and tax returns without needing any formal qualifications – that’s since changed.
Accountants kill two birds with one stone
Even though few small or micro businesses actually need the services a financial accountant provides — financial planning, say — a lot of tax accountants are picking up clients that would have, prior to the law change, gone to a bookkeeper, and it’s usually because they are scared of getting something wrong and then getting slapped on the wrist about it.
Small businesses (SME’s) want the cheapest and easiest way to stay compliant, and dealing with one person is easier than dealing with multiple people, especially if there are any issues with how one person has worked, and the business owner winds up stuck in the middle. If a business is large enough a Finance Manager can be employed to systemise the work and then manage the low cost junior bookkeeper and the accountant and provide the business owner with the results and reports they need and want.
BAS agents and accountants charge the same
If you’re only hiring an accountant to complete and lodge your activity statements, they’ll only charge you to do that. This rate is similar to what most BAS agents charge, only BAS agents generally charge a lot less for bookkeeping tasks, while in my experience accountants charge BAS service rates for more junior bookkeeping tasks.
Junior bookkeepers can win business they’d normally lose to an accountant by becoming a qualified BAS agent, or going to work for an accountant where they’re allowed to perform all of the bookkeeping and BAS work because they’re being “supervised” by an accountant.
Finding the middle ground
The middle ground for people who want to start their own bookkeeping business and become a contract bookkeeper is often to perform bookkeeping tasks that involve more than just data entry, but less than the tasks covered under the tax act as a BAS Service, like credit management. This involves data entry and accessing customer information but also communicating with late payers, difficult customers and problem solving for complex sales transactions. This work requires a bit more bookkeeping experience AND life experience and it’s very important to the financial health of the business.
To learn more about the kind of accounting professional your business needs, visit the National Bookkeeping website. They work with a number of professionals — from bookkeepers to BAS agents to chief financial officers — who can provide the right accounting services for your business.-- Did you like what you read? Want to receive these posts via email when they are published? Subscribe below.