Making the effort to specialise reaps rewards
BECOMING A REGISTERED BAS agent means you are permitted to lodge a client’s business activity statements (BAS) on their behalf, each month or quarter, or as determined by the ATO.
BAS agents are really bookkeepers; but they’re ones who have done some extra training and applied to the Tax Practitioner’s Board (TPB) for a BAS agent’s accreditation.
Not every bookkeeper has to register as a BAS agent, but those who do typically earn more as a registered BAS agent than a straightforward, no-frills bookkeeper does. That’s largely due to the way cloud-based software, like Xero and Quickbooks, has made it a lot easier for businesses to manage their own bookkeeping. But even just speaking generally, bookkeepers who have specialised skills always tend to earn more.
So when don’t you need to register?
You don’t need to register as a BAS agent if:
- You’re an employee of a registered BAS agent, who pays you wages to help them with BAS services
- You’re an employee of a business doing its BAS
- You do the books for your own business – you prepare the activity statements for your own virtual assistant business
- You don’t receive a fee or reward for the BAS services you provide – you’re helping a relative or in-law prepare their activity statements.
You may still need to register, however, even if the client lodges their own activity statements, simply because they relied on your advice or work relating to their BAS.
Who needs to register, then?
In a nutshell, if you provide BAS services that you are paid for – that is, you receive a fee or reward – then you need to register with the TPB.
Even if you’re being paid for your BAS work as part of other types of work (like a freelance office manager whose duties include providing BAS services, along with other duties, like customer service and general administrative tasks), you still need to register.
You’ll also need to register if you’re a contractor, providing BAS services to another registered agent. This applies even if you work at the registered agent’s office or premises and you’re not considered an employee of that agent (for further info, see the ATO’s guide to determining when someone is a contractor and not an employee).
Why register to be a BAS agent?
As we’ve said, there’s the legal requirement to register to be a BAS agent if you’re deriving an income, or some other form of remuneration, for providing BAS services to another business. But there are other reasons why a person with the knowledge and know-how of BAS should register as an agent.
Say you’re someone who doesn’t need to register, but you’d like to pick up extra work as a contract or freelance bookkeeper, being a registered BAS agent makes you more valuable to businesses; not just because you can complete and lodge their activity statements, but because you can also advise them on their BAS.
As noted above, even if you don’t lodge the activity statement because your client does, you may still need to register if they relied on any part of your work or advice. For your services to be clearly delineated from your client’s BAS, you’re only able to provide very basic data entry services.
If you don’t register, it means you can’t:
- Work out the codes for GST or FBT collection
- Provide reconciliation, because it involves deciding on the tax codes to apply
- Manage your client’s payroll
You wouldn’t even be able to set up a client’s accounting software for their business.
If you don’t register as a BAS agent
A bookkeeper that’s only able to provide very basic data entry services – which isn’t even a huge component of the bookkeeping job now that most accounting packages have the bank feeds feature – isn’t very valuable to a business, simply because they don’t add any value to their client’s business.
When people hire a freelancer or a contractor, they tend to hire someone who can fit one of two criteria; either they’re:
- Highly skilled in their particular field; or
If they want someone highly skilled, it’s usually because the project they’ll be working on is very important to them; if they hire someone inexpensive, it’s because the project isn’t particularly important, but does need to be done nevertheless.
You can probably see where we’re heading here. We happen to think bookkeeping is extremely important, because it indisputably has many far and wide ranging implications for all of our businesses.
How and with whom you need to register
First you need to have completed, as a minimum, a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping at a TAFE or another registered training organisation. Then you need to register with the TPB, which requires registrants to meet a certain criterion before they can be accredited as BAS agents.
Although it’s not a requirement, you’ll also need to know how to use some of the most popular accounting packages. At the moment, the three most popular accounting packages with both accountants and most business owners, are QuickBooks, MYOB and Xero, of which we offer online training courses in. All of these packages have pros and cons.
We say it’s not a requirement to know each of the above, because a Cert IV in Bookkeeping trains you in the intricacies of Australian tax law, but doesn’t teach you how to apply that in any accounting software; that’s something you have to learn yourself if you’re going to put your education into practice.
To read more about becoming a bookkeeper, and in particular how to start a bookkeeping business, continue reading or subscribe to our blog. Alternatively, to learn how to use MYOB or Xero, you can enrol in one of our many training courses online.
Read more about being a BAS agent
Starting your own bookkeeping business can provide a lucrative and flexible career option. As a BAS agent you can lodge Taxable Payments Annual Reports (TPARs) which are used in the construction industry. Also, don’t fear that you should automatically choose to affiliate with one accounting software application over another — oftentimes having a qualified BAS agent is far more valuable to a business than a certified consultant or advisor.